Monday, December 26, 2005
This Ain't the Summer of Love
There ain't no angels above
And things ain't what they used to be
And this ain't the summer of love
- Blue Oyster Cult, Agents of Fortune
“Hippies rejected many of the assumptions that are the foundation of Western materialistic society. They believed that working hard in an unfulfilling job to acquire enough money to live in a culture that values conformity over creativity and individuality was not a well-spent life. They believed that the competitive capitalist paradigm was outmoded and noxious, destined to be replaced by cooperative community. Further, they believed that the widespread expansion of consciousness through drugs or other means- meditation, yoga, music, art of any kind – was the only way the Earth was going to survive what appeared to be a certain apocalypse, caused either by war or by the destruction of the planet’s natural resources. There had never been such a public flaunting of out-and-out lawlessness and morally seditious behavior in this country before. And that scared the hell out of people.”
- referring to the emergence of the San Francisco counterculture around 1967 – Blair Jackson, Garcia: An American Life.
“[T]he elites were badly frightened by the 1960’s upsurge and were asking basic questions such as, Is democracy really the way to go? As one troubled CEO in a meeting of tycoons put it, ‘One man, one vote has undermined the power of business in all capitalist countries since World War II….
The early Seventies found a substantial section of America’s corporate, political and academic elites profoundly alarmed by the seeming collapse of normal controlling mechanisms and values. Vietnam externally, and Watergate internally, symbolized the crisis.
To business, the press was the enemy, indecently reveling in corporate malfeasance during the Watergate affair, poisoned by the radicalism of the 1960’s.
In 1974 and 1975, the Conference Board arranged a series of meetings of top corporate officials who brooded jointly about the future for business. The assembled CEO’s believed that it was crucial to win over the press….
Behind the media’s violent swing was an expensive, carefully planned corporate campaign to recapture the culture….Profit margins were down; corporate debt was up. The rules of the game needed to change in favor of business. Business Week put the matter squarely in a mid-1970’s issue: ‘It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow – the idea of doing with less so that business can have more….Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares in difficulty with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept the new reality….’
Today, the final vestiges of critical thought in the press have been all but extinguished, and mainstream journalists are as much a part of the ruling class as the political and business elite….”
- Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein, Washington Babylon.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
More On PNAC and the War on Terror
The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-based
think tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one
thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all
nations. They chafe at the idea that the United States, the last remaining
superpower, does not do more by way of economic and military force to bring the
rest of the world under the umbrella of a new socio-economic Pax Americana. The
fundamental essence of PNAC's ideology can be found in a White Paper produced in
September of 2000 entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and
Resources for a New Century." In it, PNAC outlineswhat is required of America to
create the global empire they envision. According to PNAC, America
* Reposition permanently based forces to Southern Europe, Southeast Asiaand
the Middle East;
* Modernize U.S. forces, including enhancing our fighter aircraft, submarine
and surface fleet capabilities;
* Develop and deploy a global missile defense system, and develop
a strategic dominance of space;
* Control the "International Commons" of cyberspace;
* Increase defense spending to a minimum of 3.8 percent of gross
domestic product, up from the 3 percent currently spent.
Most ominously, this PNAC document described four "Core Missions" for
the American military. The two central requirements are for American forces
to"fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars," and to
"perform the 'constabulary' duties associated with shaping the security
environment in critical regions." Note well that PNAC does not want America to
be prepared to fight simultaneous major wars. That is old school. In order to
bring this plan to fruition, the military must fight these wars one way or the
other to establish American dominance for all to see.
Why is this important? After all, wacky think tanks are a cottage industry
in Washington, DC. They are a dime a dozen. In what way does PNAC stand above
the other groups that would set American foreign policy if they could? Two
events brought PNAC into the mainstream of American government: the disputed
election of George W. Bush, and the attacks of September 11th. When Bush
assumed the Presidency, the men who created and nurtured the imperial dreams of
PNAC became the men who run the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the White
House. When the Towers came down, these men saw, at long last, their chance to
turn their White Papers into substantive policy. Vice President Dick Cheney is a
founding member of PNAC, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz is the ideological father of the group. Bruce Jackson, a PNAC
director, served as a Pentagon official for Ronald Reagan before leaving
government service to take a leading position with the weapons manufacturer
PNAC is staffed by men who previously served with groups
like Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America, which supported
America's bloody gamesmanship in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and with groups like
The Committee for the Present Danger, which spent years advocating that a
nuclear war with the Soviet Union was "winnable."
PNAC has recently given birth to a new group, The Committee for the
Liberation of Iraq, which met with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in
order to formulate a plan to "educate" the American populace about the need for
war in Iraq. CLI has funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to support the Iraqi
National Congress and the Iraqi heir presumptive, Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi was
sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court in 1992 to 22 years in prison for
bank fraud after the collapse of Petra Bank, which he founded in 1977. Chalabi
has not set foot in Iraq since 1956, but his Enron-like business credentials
apparently make him a good match for the Bush administration's plans.
PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" report is the
institutionalization of plans and ideologies that have been formulated for
decades by the men currently running American government. The PNAC Statement of
Principles is signed by Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, as well as by Eliot
Abrams, Jeb Bush, Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, and many
others. William Kristol, famed conservative writer for the Weekly Standard, is
also a co-founder of the group. The Weekly Standard is owned by Ruppert Murdoch, who also owns international media giant Fox News.
The desire for these freshly empowered PNAC men to extend American
hegemony by force of arms across the globe has been there since day one of the
Bush administration, and is in no small part a central reason for the Florida
electoral battle in 2000. Note that while many have said that Gore and Bush are
ideologically identical, Mr. Gore had no ties whatsoever to the fellows at PNAC.
George W. Bush had to win that election by any means necessary, and PNAC
signatory Jeb Bush was in the perfect position to ensure the rise to prominence
of his fellow imperialists. Desire for such action, however, is by no means
translatable into workable policy. Americans enjoy their comforts, but don't
cotton to the idea of being some sort of Neo-Rome. On September 11th, the
fellows from PNAC saw a door of opportunity openwide before them, and stormed
right through it.
Bush released on September 20th 2001 the "National Security Strategy of
the United States of America." It is an ideological match to PNAC's
"Rebuilding America's Defenses" report issued a year earlier. In many places, it
uses exactly the same language to describe America's new place in the world.
Recall that PNAC demanded an increase in defense spending to at least 3.8% of
GDP. Bush's proposed budget for next year asks for $379 billion indefense
spending, almost exactly 3.8% of GDP.
In August of 2002, Defense Policy Board chairman and PNAC member
Richard Perle heard a policy briefing from a think tank associated with the Rand
Corporation. According to the Washington Post and The Nation, the final slide of
this presentation described "Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the
strategic pivot, and Egypt as the prize" in a war that would purportedly be
about ridding the world of Saddam Hussein's weapons. Bush has deployed massive
forces into the Mideast region, while simultaneously engaging American forces in
the Philippines and playing nuclear chicken with North Korea. Somewhere in all
this lurks at least one of the "major theater wars" desired by the September
2000 PNAC report.
Iraq is but the beginning, a pretense for a wider conflict. Donald
Kagan, a central member of PNAC, sees America establishing permanent military
bases in Iraq after the war. This is purportedly a measure to defend the peace
in the Middle East, and to make sure the oil flows. The nations in that region,
however, will see this for what it is: a jump-off point for American forces to
invade any nation in that region they choose to. The American people, anxiously
awaiting some sort of exit plan after America defeats Iraq, will see too late
that no exit is planned.
All of the horses are traveling together at speed here. The defense
contractors who sup on American tax revenue will be handsomely paid for arming
this new American empire. The corporations that own the news media will sell
this eternal war at a profit, as viewership goes through the stratosphere when
there is combat to be shown. Those within the administration who believe that
the defense of Israel is contingent upon laying waste to every possible
aggressor in the region will have their dreams fulfilled. The PNAC men who wish
for a global Pax Americana at gunpoint will see their plans unfold. Through it
all, the bankrollers from the WTO and the IMF will be able to dictate financial
terms to the entire planet. This last aspect of the plan is pivotal, and is best
described in the newly revised version of Greg Palast's masterpiece, "The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy."
There will be adverse side effects. The siege mentality average
Americans are suffering as they smother behind yards of plastic sheeting and
duct tape will increase by orders of magnitude as our aggressions bring forth
new terrorist attacks against the homeland. These attacks will require the
implementation of the newly drafted Patriot Act II, an augmentation of the
previous Act that has profoundly sharper teeth. The sun will set on the
Constitution and Bill of Rights. The American economy will be ravaged by the
need for increased defense spending, and by the aforementioned "constabulary"
duties in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Former allies will turn on us.
Germany, France and the other nations resisting this Iraq war are fully aware of
this gameplan. They are not acting out of cowardice or because they love Saddam
Hussein, but because they mean to resist this rising American empire, lest they
face economic and military serfdom at the hands of George W. Bush. Richard Perle
has already stated that France is no longer an American ally. As the eagle
spreads its wings, our rhetoric and their resistance will become more agitated
Many people, of course, will die. They will die from war and from
want, from famine and disease. At home, the social fabric will be torn in ways
that make the Reagan nightmares of crack addiction, homelessness and AIDS seem
tame by comparison.
This is the price to be paid for empire, and the men of PNAC who now
control the fate and future of America are more than willing to pay it. For
them, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities.
War on Terror: The Big Picture
Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the
surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society….
From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all
thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great
extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used
deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could
be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any
such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process -- by producing wealth which it
was sometimes impossible not to distribute -- the machine did raise the living
standards of the average human being very greatly over a period of about fifty
years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth
But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the
destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical
society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat,
lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car
or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of
inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth
would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in
which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be
evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged
caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if
leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings
who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to
think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or
later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep
it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of
poverty and ignorance. To return to the agricultural past, as some thinkers
about the beginning of the twentieth century dreamed of doing, was not a
practicable solution. It conflicted with the tendency towards mechanization
which had become quasi-instinctive throughout almost the whole world, and
moreover, any country which remained industrially backward was helpless in a
military sense and was bound to be dominated, directly or indirectly, by its
more advanced rivals. Nor was it a satisfactory solution to keep the masses in
poverty by restricting the output of goods. This happened to a great extent
during the final phase of capitalism, roughly between 1920 and 1940. The economy
of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital
equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from
working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military
weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it
made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry
turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced,
but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this
was by continuous warfare. The essential act of war is destruction, not
necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of
shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths
of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too
comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of
war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of
expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A
Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build
several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having
brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours
another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so
planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs
of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always
underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the
necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate
policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship,
because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges
and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another….
War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in
a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste
the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging
holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods
and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not
the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not
the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept
steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party
member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within
narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and
ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and
orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the
mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is
actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not
matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a
state of war should exist.
- George Orwell, 1984, Part 2, Chapter 9.
Fast forward to the spring of 1997 when a “non-profit, educational organization” called The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was formed by so-called neo-conservatives including William Kristol, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby (former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney) and Paul Wolfowitz (former Deputy Secretary of Defense to President George W. Bush and now President of the World Bank). In September 2000, PNAC issued a report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century.” This report outlined what were to become key elements of President George W. Bush’s defense and foreign policies, similar to the manner in which Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” telegraphed his plans for what became Nazi Germany.
Here are some important and telling excerpts from the PNAC report, with certain passages underlined for added emphasis:
The United States is the world’s only superpower, combining preeminent military
power, global technological leadership, and the world’s largest economy.
Moreover, America stands at the head of a system of alliances which includes the
world’s other leading democratic powers. At present the United States faces no
global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this
advantageous position as far into the future as possible….
Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the
America’s strategic goal used to be containment of the Soviet Union; today the task is to preserve an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals. The military’s job during the Cold War was to deter Soviet expansionism. Today its task is to secure and expand the “zones of democratic peace;” to deter the rise of a new great-power competitor;
defend key regions of Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; and to preserve
American preeminence through the coming transformation of war made possible by
If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence….
America’s global leadership, and its role as the guarantor of the current great-power peace, relies upon the safety of the American homeland; the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East and surrounding energy-producing region, and East Asia; and the general stability of the international system of nation-states relative to terrorists, organized crime, and other “non-state” actors….
The presence of American forces in critical regions around the world is the visible
expression of the extent of America’s status as a superpower and as the
guarantor of liberty, peace and stability….it will be difficult, if not
impossible, to sustain the role of global guarantor without a substantial
overseas presence….Whether established in permanent bases or on rotational
deployments, the operations of U.S. and allied forces abroad provide the first
line of defense of what may be described as the “American security
In the Persian Gulf region, the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semi-permanent fact of life. Though the immediate mission of those forces is to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, they represent the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance. [What is so vitally important about this region? Could it perhaps be the oil?] Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American
force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein
[because of the oil?].
To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs. Information technologies, in particular, are becoming more prevalent and significant
components of modern military systems…. [Hmm…perhaps like new and more
efficient methods of electronic surveillance to monitor possible communications
Further, the process of transformation [i.e., the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some
catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor….
Fast forward to September 11, 2001: What an awful, awful tragedy! But what a fortuitous circumstance for the Bush Administration and the neo-conservatives. One year after issuance of the PNAC Report, here is the very catastophic and catalyzing event they needed to remove from the public mind any further discussions as to the legitimacy of President Bush's "election," as well as to not only accelerate the policy outcomes they desired, but also to ensure their policies would be adopted immediately with virtually no political opposition!
Fast forward to the present: We now have a "War on Terror" that has been fought since September 11, 2001, with no end in sight, against a slippery, sort of ephemeral enemy in the form of loosely-knit terror organizations such as Al Qaeda. Who is Osama Bin Laden? How could this one guy manage to elude the combined military might of the United States and its major allies for so long? Do the "powers-that-be" really want him caught? Isn't it better for them to have this sort of reverse Big Brother in the form of an enemy that is always on the loose somewhere? Will Osama Bin Laden ever die? And we now have a president who has openly admitted to ordering spying on American citizens in violation of Federal law, and he and his propaganda machine have millions of Americans congratulating him for placing "national security" before civil liberties and millions of others too afraid to object for fear of being branded as unpatriotic or "enemies of the State." Wonderful!
Even State Government Tramples on Civil Liberties in Name of Homeland Security
The danger inherent in the government’s arrogant assertion that it has the power to trample American citizen’s civil liberties in the name of “homeland security” is illustrated by a seemingly minor incident that occurred in early 2004. An American citizen was threatened with arrest and imprisonment by a State of Florida law enforcement official simply for walking on a public beach in the Fort Lauderdale area because the State law enforcement officials were doing the federal government’s bidding in the name of “homeland security,” even though State law enforcement officials had no legal authority to do so. The following is an excerpt from the citizen’s rebuttal to the report issued by the State of Florida official who investigated the incident:
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
- Hermann Goering (1893-1946)
There can be no doubt that Capt. Schmidt’s so-called investigation and her Report were designed, from their inception, to clear the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Department of Law Enforcement [FDEP DLE] of any wrongdoing or unprofessional conduct. It is certainly easier for everyone involved in a minor incident involving a young man protesting the closure of a public beach to nonchalantly sweep it under the carpet.
However, the statements and conduct of Officer Jones and Lieutenant Bergholm, as well as the findings and conclusions of the Report, reveal an arrogant, contemptuous, and condescending attitude on the part of the law enforcement officials involved toward anyone who would have the temerity to question law enforcement authority or attempt to invoke their constitutional rights as United States citizens. In this instance, FDEP officials, from Officer Jones to FDEP attorneys in the General Counsel’s Office, have consistently been haughtily dismissive of Mr. [Citizen]’s concerns, and have attempted to disclaim any responsibility for the events of January 26, 2004 by invoking the totemic incantation that this was a “homeland security” matter, as if the mere mention of “homeland security” would be a talisman against anyone questioning the conduct of law enforcement officers. Not only were FDEP officials dismissive of Mr. [Citizen]’s concerns, some also tried to intimidate Mr. [Citizen] from seeking answers to his questions. For example, FDEP Senior Attorney Tracey Hartman blatantly attempted to obstruct and discourage Mr. [Citizen] from seeking public records by attempting to impose unlawful and unjustified fees and charges on Mr. [Citizen] as a condition to obtaining the records he requested.
Amazingly, the State of Florida has no written documentation concerning the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) request for assistance to FDEP in enforcing a federal security zone on January 26, 2004 around Port Everglades. (Despite repeated FOIA requests by Mr. [Citizen] since January 26, 2004, USCG has failed to produce any records documenting or confirming the alleged USCG request for assistance to FDEP. Public records requests to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), whom Lieut. Bergholm claimed was involved in coordinating local law enforcement response to the alleged request by USCG, were similarly unavailing. BSO claims to have no records concerning this matter.)
Consequently, there is no way of knowing to whom at FDEP the USCG submitted its request, whom at FDEP reviewed the request and authorized compliance with the request, and whether anyone at FDEP even considered whether state law enforcement officials were legally authorized by Florida law to enforce a federal security zone. Capt. Schmidt could not have cared less about finding the answers to these questions. From the little evidence that is available, it appears the FDEP officials involved simply assumed, without any question, that they were legally authorized because, after all, this is “homeland security.” In making this assumption, they were no doubt supported by what appears to be their institutional inclination that, as law enforcement officers, they are above the law, and may act at their whim, answering only to their paramilitary organizational leadership whose orders must not be questioned.
We now know that FDEP DLE did not have the legal right to enforce a federal security zone on January 26, 2004. Officer Jones was not legally authorized to arrest anyone for violating a federal security zone. Thus, on the morning of January 26, 2004, there was a armed man on the beach, with a uniform and a badge, who was harassing and intimidating people, threatening to arrest and imprison people, blatantly violating citizens’ constitutional rights, and curtailing their liberty. Officer Jones may have had a good faith belief that what he was doing was legal, but citizens’ liberties were aggressed upon nonetheless. In truth, on the morning of January 26, 2004, the only difference between Officer Jones and a criminal was which one of them had the gun and the badge.
President's Inherent Authority to Break the Law?
The Administration is claiming not simply that the President has some "inherent" authority to surveille the enemy in times of war -- a proposition that is undoubtedly correct -- but instead the much broader, more audacious claim that the President has an unregulable authority, such that he may ignore FISA's constraints. That is to say, their claim is that FISA itself is unconstitutional.
NSA Scrupulously Protects Americans' Civil Liberties?
Testifying before a Senate committee last April, Gen. Michael V. Hayden,
then head of the National Security Agency, emphasized how scrupulously the
agency was protecting Americans from its electronic snooping....As a
PowerPoint presentation posted on the agency's Web site puts it, for an
American to be a target, "Court Order Required in the United States."
So, in other words, he lied. A Bush administration official lied to the
American people? What a shock!
Had the agency openly sought the increased power in the immediate aftermath of
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "I'm sure Congress would have approved,"
said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel of both the N.S.A. and
the Central Intelligence Agency.
In other words, if publicly passing the Patriot Act was considered not to be a national security risk, then simultaneously amending FISA would not have been either.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
President George W. Bush, Domestic Spying, and the Rule of Law
Instead, the President and his aides have claimed the President’s legal authority to order warrantless domestic spying by the NSA resides in the Constitution, the president’s “inherent power” as commander-in-chief, congressional approval of the use of military force following the 9/11 attacks, or is justified by administration officials secretly informing certain members of Congress. However, none of these claimed legal authorities appear to allow the President to, in effect, ignore the FISA provisions that specifically address the procedures that must be followed before spying on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals within the United States is permitted. In sum, it appears President Bush may have broken the law.
No group should be more troubled by President Bush’s apparent violations of federal law than the Republicans who sanctimoniously impeached and tried President Clinton on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying under oath about and trying to cover up his private sexual conduct. The Republicans insisted that the impeachment and trial of President Clinton was not about sex, but rather about upholding the Rule of Law. Their lofty and eloquent arguments about the Rule of Law are instructive in considering President Bush’s conduct.
During the Senate trial of President Clinton on the Articles of Impeachment, then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.) vehemently argued:
Let us be clear: The vote that you are asked to cast is, in the final analysis,
a vote about the rule of law. The rule of law is one of the great achievements
of our civilization. For the alternative to the rule of law is the rule of raw
power... The ‘rule of law’ is no pious aspiration from a civics textbook, The
rule of law is what stands between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power
by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law
is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others
while strengthening the common good.
House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Ed Bryant (R.-Tenn.) argued to the Senate:
As the head of the Executive Branch, the president has the constitutional duty
to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’… In view of the enormous
trust and responsibility attendant to his high office, the president has the
manifest duty to ensure that his conduct at all times complies with the law of
In the House debate resulting in the impeachment of President Clinton, House Judiciary Committee member Rep. James Rogan (R.-Calif.) made this particularly pertinent argument:
There is no business of government more important than upholding the rule of
law. A sound economy amounts to nothing beside it, because without the rule of
law, all contracts are placed in doubt and all rights to property become
conditional. National security is not more important than the rule
of law, because without it, there can be no security and there is little left defending.... (emphasis supplied).
Equally relevant to President Bush’s authorization of warrantless domestic spying, and his administration’s justifications for it, is the argument presented to the Senate during President Clinton’s impeachment trial by House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Steve Buyer (R.-Ind.):
The president has a constitutional role of Commander in Chief.…[A]s the ‘single
hand’ that guides the actions of the armed services, it is incumbent that the
president exhibit sound, responsible leadership and set a proper example... In
order to be an effective...effective military leader, the president must exhibit
the traits that inspire those who must risk their lives at his command. These
traits include honor, integrity, and accountability…. America, again, is a
Government of laws, not of men. What protects us from that knock on the door in
the middle of the night is the law.
President Bush may believe FISA is unconstitutional. He may believe FISA’s procedures too cumbersome to adequately protect the American people. Nevertheless, FISA is the law of the land. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes the president to simply disregard, violate, or circumvent provisions of federal law he or she deems unconstitutional or impracticable. As long as FISA is the law of the land, President Bush must comply with it. If President Bush believes FISA must be changed in light of the exigencies of the “War on Terror,” our system of government mandates that he should try to get Congress to amend the law. Simply ignoring the law and violating the law are not permissible options for the president.
The righteous and high-minded members of Congress who sat in judgment of and prosecuted President Clinton believed they were articulating the standards by which all presidents should be judged. In assessing President Bush’s authorization of warrantless domestic spying in violation of FISA, the arguments leveled by the Republicans who impeached and tried President Clinton should not be overlooked or forgotten.