Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cheney on Unauthorized Wiretaps

Yesterday at the Heritage Foundation, the VP continued to attempt to sell the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program to the American public. His overarching theme was that, with such wiretaps, we may have been able to prevent 9-11. Yikes!

Typically, his arguments were incomplete:

Cheney: Without the warrantless taps, ..."we didn't know they were here plotting until it was too late."

The complete story: Actually, we did know they were here, and we knew they were bad, and they were on lists saying the shouldn't be here. As the WaPo explains, "...the government had compiled significant information on the two suspects before the attacks and ... bureaucratic problems -- not a lack of information -- were primary reasons for the security breakdown, according to congressional investigators and the Sept. 11 commission."

Cheney: If the administration had the power "before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon."

The complete story: Actually, we did have the power - just get the warrant. Or, through the FISA court, place the tap, then get the warrant. Again, the Post: "...the administration had the power to eavesdrop on their calls and e-mails, as long as it sought permission from a secret court that oversees clandestine surveillance in the United States."

Cheney: "This wartime measure is limited in scope to surveillance associated with terrorists," so just trust us.

The complete story: Unchecked executive and intelligence powers are a frightening thing and a dangerous precedent. As much as their sincere aim is to protect us and focus only on terrorists, mistakes will - and have - happened. Recall the example of Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen who was wrongly kidnapped by the CIA and spent several months in one of our prisons in Afghanistan.

According to a CIA source, the local CIA station chief “believed he was someone else”. The official added: “She didn’t really know. She just had a hunch.”

And we should trust these guys to operate without the checks and balances our Founders intended?

Sorry, Dick, but I don't.

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