Thursday, June 05, 2008

Foreign Threats


Wired reports on the possibility that McCain would continue Bush's domestic wiretapping operations, despite prior straight talk to the contrary. Here's McCain spokesman Doug Holtz-Eakin:

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. [...]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.
Holtz-Eakin, by the way, was previously GWB's chief economic adviser. And his use of the term "foreign threats" is almost as ideologically telling as his reference to "the ACLU and the trial lawyers" and his laborious demonstration that he knows the precise date of 9/11. Perhaps there really is something to all this talk of a third Bush term.

Dave Neiwert recently posted an entire chapter of his essential book In God's Country. It deals with the Phineas Priesthood, a violent Christian Identity movement that typifies the 4GW concept of leaderless resistance, and whose motives and methods are not entirely unlike those of Al-Qaeda. (Indeed, the movement's leading theorist claims that "As the Kamikazee is to the Japanese/As the Shiite is to Islam/As the Zionist is to the Jew/So the Phineas Priest is to Christendom.")

What's striking about Neiwert's account of the Phineas Priesthood is the claim that its inter-cell communication is not about violence, but through violence:
The crimes themselves become a way of communicating, especially among the believers dedicated to taking action.

“The real twist to leaderless resistance is that there doesn't have to be a coherent network for the action cells,” observes researcher Paul deArmond of Bellingham’s Public Good Research. “The use of the term `phantom cell’ is very revealing, since one of the premises of leaderless resistance is the creation of a `virtual’ network of terrorists who communicate with each other by their actions and the reports of those actions through the media.
After a certain amount of this hieroglyphic carnage, phantom cells (and governments, for that matter) can enjoy the benefits of phantom violence. As Osama bin Laden has reportedly noted, it's convenient to be able to strike against the enemy with nothing more tangible or expensive than rumors. I don't think I have to spell out how easily a warrantless wiretapping system could be exploited to precisely this end; what may be less obvious is the remote possibility that phantom threats are something this system is intended to generate (cf. my idle speculation on torture).

At any rate, Neiwert's post describes how a number of Phineas Priests ended up in jail, and wonder of wonders, it doesn't seem to have involved the wholesale extralegal acquisition of millions of American citizens' private phone conversations. To paraphrase something I said earlier about torture, if the United States were to repudiate warrantless wiretapping, and to punish the transient officeholders who authorized it, it would be a more impressive blow against terrorist ideology than BushCo has attempted, let alone accomplished.

In the meantime, watch out for photographers.

(Illustration: "Christ Kills Two, Injures Seven In Abortion-Clinic Attack," from The Onion, Nov. 25, 1998).

11 comments:

sbvor said...

Phila,

1) Can you show me one example where any American citizen has had their civil rights abused through The Patriot Act?

The last I heard:

“Senator Biden called criticism of the Patriot Act ‘ill-informed and overblown’ ”

“Senator Feinstein, who actually did her homework [said]: ‘I have never had a single abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me. My staff e-mailed the ACLU and asked them for instances of actual abuses. They e-mailed back and said they had none.’ ”


2) Did FDR’s Presidential Proclamation No. 2525 infringe just a tad bit more on civil liberties during World War II? Did he even bother talking to the Congress before issuing that Presidential Proclamation?

3) Even if it may have done an international end run around FISA, was President Clinton wrong to endorse a far more sweeping NSA intrusion at a time when we were not even at war?

Do you even pretend to be an impartial assessor of what is factual? Do you even pretend to place current events into historical context?

Phila said...

Can you show me one example where any American citizen has had their civil rights abused through The Patriot Act?

First, even if no abuse had occurred, intelligent citizens judge the powers they grant their government on the basis of their potential for abuse. I'm old enough to remember a time when many conservatives actually understood this.

Second, my understanding of the Act is that if a couple of agents come to your local library and demand records of the books you checked out, the librarians would be breaking the law if they informed you. In that case, you'd have no way of knowing whether your privacy had been violated or not. So your question is a bit silly.

Also, although it may shock you, I don't put any great value on the opinions of Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein, both of whom have been wrong many, many times about many, many things.

Did FDR’s Presidential Proclamation No. 2525 infringe just a tad bit more on civil liberties during World War II? Did he even bother talking to the Congress before issuing that Presidential Proclamation?

Certainly it did. And FDR was absolutely wrong to do that, legally and morally, as most Americans who aren't fearmongering authoritarians recognize nowadays.

Segregation used to be legal, too, for reasons that seemed compelling at the time. What's your point?

Even if it may have done an international end run around FISA, was President Clinton wrong to endorse a far more sweeping NSA intrusion at a time when we were not even at war?

Yep.


Do you even pretend to be an impartial assessor of what is factual?


Nope. Never claimed to be, and in fact don't believe that such a thing exists in any strict sense.

Do you even pretend to place current events into historical context?

Yes. And as you can see, my stance on civil liberties, constitutionality, privacy, and small government is pretty consistent, regardless of whether we're at war, and regardless of whether there's a D or an R in the White House.

The only people who can literally destroy America are Americans who don't care about the rule of law.

sbvor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sbvor said...

Phila sez:

“my understanding of the [Patriot] Act is that if a couple of agents come to your local library and demand records of the books you checked out, the librarians would be breaking the law if they informed you”

The facts say:

Myth: The ACLU has claimed that "Many [people] are unaware that their library habits could become the target of government surveillance. In a free society, such monitoring is odious and unnecessary. . . The secrecy that surrounds section 215 leads us to a society where the 'thought police' can target us for what we choose to read or what Websites we visit." (ACLU, July 22, 2003)

Reality: The Patriot Act specifically protects Americans' First Amendment rights, and terrorism investigators have no interest in the library habits of ordinary Americans. Historically, terrorists and spies have used libraries to plan and carry out activities that threaten our national security. If terrorists or spies use libraries, we should not allow them to become safe havens for their terrorist or clandestine activities. The Patriot Act ensures that business records - whether from a library or any other business - can be obtained in national security investigations with the permission of a federal judge.
Examining business records often provides the key that investigators are looking for to solve a wide range of crimes. Investigators might seek select records from hardware stores or chemical plants, for example, to find out who bought materials to make a bomb, or bank records to see who's sending money to terrorists. Law enforcement authorities have always been able to obtain business records in criminal cases through grand jury subpoenas, and continue to do so in national security cases where appropriate. In a recent domestic terrorism case, for example, a grand jury served a subpoena on a bookseller to obtain records showing that a suspect had purchased a book giving instructions on how to build a particularly unusual detonator that had been used in several bombings. This was important evidence identifying the suspect as the bomber.
In national security cases where use of the grand jury process was not appropriate, investigators previously had limited tools at their disposal to obtain certain business records. Under the Patriot Act, the government can now ask a federal court (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), if needed to aid an investigation, to order production of the same type of records available through grand jury subpoenas. This federal court, however, can issue these orders only after the government demonstrates the records concerned are sought for an authorized investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a U.S. person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a U.S. person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment.
Congress reviews the government's use of business records under the Act. Every six months, the Attorney General must "fully inform" Congress on how it has been implemented. On October 17, 2002, the House Judiciary Committee issued a press release indicating it is satisfied with the Department's use of section 215: "The Committee's review of classified information related to FISA orders for tangible records, such as library records, has not given rise to any concern that the authority is being misused or abused."

Phila said...


The last I heard:


Was in 2004.

In March of 2005, the ACLU wrote a ten-page letter to Feinstein, detailing multiple abuses of the Patriot Act.

Here are some other things you missed during your four-year nap.

3/09/07:The FBI evaded limits on, and sometimes illegally issued, orders for phone, email and financial information on American citizens and underreported the use of these self-issued orders to Congress, according to an internal audit by the Justice Department released Friday.

9/7/07:A federal judge struck down controversial portions of the USA Patriot Act in a ruling that declared them unconstitutional....

The ruling follows reports this year by Justice Department and FBI auditors that the FBI potentially violated privacy laws or bureau rules more than a thousand times while issuing NSLs in recent years -- violations that did not come to light quickly, partly because of the Patriot Act's secrecy rules.


9/26/07:A federal court on Wednesday struck down two provisions of the Patriot Act dealing with searches and intelligence gathering, saying they violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures with regard to criminal prosecutions....

The ruling was a response to a lawsuit filed against the federal government by Brandon Mayfield, a Portland, Oregon, attorney who was wrongly arrested for alleged involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

The federal government later apologized to Mayfield and settled part of Mayfield's lawsuit for $2 million. But Mayfield was permitted to keep pursuing the portions of his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act.


Note that Mayfield's case was one of those detailed in the ACLU's letter.

Phila said...

The facts say:

That serious abuses of NSLs have occurred, and that the gag rule on recipients of NSLs has been deemed unconstitutional.

The idea that you'd use government boilerplate to rebut charges of governmental overreaching is pretty bizarre. So much for "historical context," eh?

Still, if Barack Obama becomes president, and is accused of abusing his power, I'm sure you'll run straight to an administration website in order to find feel-good quotes with which to defend him. Right?

Moron.

sbvor said...

Phila,

1) What happened to allowing all sides to state their case? Or, do you only believe so-called “journalists” and other activists for the so-called “Liberal” cause?

2) Okay:

A) Give me a count of US citizens whose civil liberties have allegedly been violated through abuse of The Patriot Act. Bear in mind that abuses of powers provided by other legislation are alleged all the time. Some are even judged, in a court of law, to have actually occurred. That’s what the courts are there for. Ain’t our Constitution grand?

B) Give me a count of the allegations from “A”, which have been judged, in a court of law, to have actually occurred.

C) If you even get this far, select what you consider to be the single most egregious example from “B” and let’s examine it in some detail.

3) Did you, during the Clinton years, get even more worked up over the even more invasive Echelon program?

Or, do you always allow so-called “journalists” to lead you around by the nose? After all, under Clinton, the Old York Times, buried deep in their “Technology” section, regarded the far more intrusive Echelon program as a necessity (during peacetime).

Here is everything Google can find where the Old York Times referenced Echelon, NSA and Clinton. I defy you to find even one example of The Old York Times criticizing Clinton in the least for this far more invasive program.

By contrast, here is a “slightly” larger list of stories the Old York Times ran referencing the more narrow search for Bush, NSA and wiretapping.

Remember, Clinton engaged in a far more invasive program during peacetime. Bush engaged in a far less intrusive program during wartime.

Is it just remotely possible that all your hysteria on this topic (and every other) is influenced, just a tad, by utterly biased “reporting” from so-called “journalists”?

Anonymous said...

utterly off topic, i have a phila-type question:

i've never been able to find out the identity of the jazz tune that anna may wong plays on her victrola in shanghai express. any idea?

-Tacitus Voltaire

lp8141954@aol.com

.

Anonymous said...

"Still, if Barack Obama becomes president, and is accused of abusing his power, I'm sure you'll run straight to an administration website in order to find feel-good quotes with which to defend him. Right?"

a rhetorical fallacy very popular with right wing commentators who are frustrated by the failure of their other arguments: 'well, i'll accuse you in advance and without evidence or justification of being as craven as me. so there.'

trool

-Tacitus Voltaire

.

Phila said...

OK, sbvor...I've allowed you to have your fun for over a week. But I'm afraid it's time for us to part ways. I don't make a habit of banning people, but having gotten a pretty good idea of your style of argument, I think I'm justified in pulling the plug.

Let's review some of the highlights, almost any one of which is enough to justify ignoring you.

1. Claiming to have been "formally trained in environmental science" without providing any evidence, let alone any proof. (I could make the same claim, as it happens, but I'd never do so in order to prop up my arguments re AGW, because my "formal training" was not in climate science.) You get bonus demerits for making this claim while saying "don't believe what I say; believe what I can prove."

2. Complaining about ad hominem while wallowing in it...not just in the popular sense of name-calling, but also in the classic sense of basing your arguments on your assumptions about other people's character.

3. Attacking me for beliefs I don't hold and arguments I either haven't made or have explicitly rejected, on the assumption that since I'm a "liberal" (which I'm not), I must believe what "liberals" believe. Examples:

a) Accusing me of "apocalyptic" thinking on AGW, despite the fact that I've explicitly attacked such thinking more than once.

b) Accusing me of trying to frighten people with "a threat to children," which I haven't done and which tactic I've explicitly rejected more than once.

4. Illogical arguments a-plenty. Examples:

a) Claiming that I don't understand climate science, and am therefore reduced to having a "quasi-religious" faith in AGW, while demanding that I assent, quasi-religiously, to sbvor-approved climate science that, according to the terms of your own argument, I'm just as incapable of understanding.

b) Trying to rebut claims of government overreaching by posting the government's own claim not to be overreaching. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't...but that's not the way you settle the debate, for obvious reasons.

c) Bringing up past examples of government overreaching to justify or relativize current ones, as though tales of past wrongdoing should somehow assuage fears about the potential for present or future wrongdoing. Bonus demerits for the worn-out "Clinton did it too!" tactic, which assumes incorrectly that I supported or admired Clinton; and for ignoring a pertinent recent example of expanded wartime surveillance, which would be the Nixon administration. (And yes, I was firmly opposed to the Echelon program during the Clinton years. In fact, I was opposed to many of Clinton's actions, from Kosovo to NAFTA. And don't even get me started on the New York Times.)

5. Attacking me for failing to be properly "impartial," while praising Charles Krauthammer as "brilliant" and posting links to NRO and the Conservative Book Club.

6. Absurdly selective quoting. The best example is above: You say "the last I heard," and link to an NRO article from 2004, in order to give the impression that the ACLU has never offered a list of abuses. In fact, they've offered a list since then. You may not agree with the list, but that's quite different from claiming that they have no list at all. Which brings us to:

7. Goalpost-moving: Your claims about the ACLU's lack of a list of abuses not working out? No need to worry...just switch gears and claim that there's something wrong with the list, or that the abuses on it aren't really abuses or didn't really happen! It's easy! It's fun!

8. Poor reading comprehension. One example will have to serve for many: I claimed that while there may be logical arguments for drilling in ANWR, Mona Charen's argument was not logical, because it was based on the false claim that vegetation doesn't grow above permafrost. You responded by claiming that we should drill in ANWR and that it's environmentally safe to do so. Which ignored my point entirely, and provided further evidence that you're going to have the argument you want to have, regardless of what I say or don't say.

And last, while it's not grounds in itself for booting you, there's also the little matter of....

8. Being a drab and humorless bore. That's in the eye of the beholder, of course, and there's no accounting for taste; in your circles, gruelingly arch references to the Old York Times may be the acme of sophisticated wit. But I find it grating and I see no reason to tolerate much more of it, especially given the substantive complaints I've listed above. Bonus demerits for calling Tammi Terrell "depressing."

That's not everything I could say, but it's more than enough.

On the bright side, you can rest assured that I'll be leaving all your past comments just as they are, in perpetuity, so that the world can see how your wise, measured, civil, and fair voice was stifled by an intolerant and irrational lefty extremist.

With that, I'll let you get back to all the other blogs you're currently spamming with links to your site.

Happy trails, pal.

Phila said...

i've never been able to find out the identity of the jazz tune that anna may wong plays on her victrola in shanghai express. any idea?

Not off the top of my head...I haven't seen that one in years! Once I'm done painting upstairs maybe I'll give it a look and see if I can figure it out. It may just have been a stock piece, though....