[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. [...]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.
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.
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.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).
“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.
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).