Friday, June 30, 2006

Secrets and Lies

I had wanted to discuss the latest relevations of government spying, with the reports of monitoring of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) banking transactions by the govenment. However, no sooner was the practice revealed in the media, when the Bush Administration managed to immediately change the subject by attacking the press for informing the public of this latest violation of our privacy rights.

There are two thoughtful, excellent essays on the Bush Administration's latest assault on the constitution and the press that should be read by anyone concerned with the future of this democracy of ours. Bloggers Once Upon a Time, penned A Press That Holds Itself in Contempt and Unclaimed Territory, wrote The Bush lynch mob against the nation's free press. Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory states it thus:

[O]ne of the most significant dangers our country faces is the all-out war now being waged on our nation's media -- and thereby on the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press -- by the Bush administration and its supporters, who are furious that the media continues to expose controversial government policies and thereby subject them to democratic debate. After the unlimited outpouring of venomous attacks on the Times this weekend, I believe these attacks on our free press have become the country's most pressing political issue.
Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post puts it in perspective in Nuke the Messenger:
It's a monstrous charge for the White House to suggest that the press is essentially aiding and abetting the enemy. But where's the evidence?

The White House first began leveling this kind of accusation immediately after a New York Times story revealed a massive, secret domestic spying program conducted without congressional or judicial oversight. See, for instance, Bush's December 17, 2005 radio address , in which he said the disclosure put "our citizens at risk."

But not once has the White House definitively answered this question: How are any of these disclosures actually impairing the pursuit of terrorists?

Terrorists already knew the government was trying to track them down through their finances, their phone calls and their e-mails. Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, for instance, Bush publicly declared open season on terrorist financing.

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

This column has documented, again and again , that when faced with a potentially damaging political problem, White House strategist Karl Rove's response is not to defend, but to attack.

The potentially damaging political problem here is that the evidence continues to grow that the Bush White House's exercise of unchecked authority in the war on terror poses a serious threat to American civil liberties and privacy rights. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that an American president used the mechanisms of national security to spy on his political enemies.

The sum total of the administration's defense against this charge appears to be: Trust us. Trust that we're only spying on terrorists, and not anyone else.

But what if the trust isn't there? And what if they're breaking the law?

That's why it's better to attack. It makes for great soundbites. It motivates the base. And perhaps most significantly, it takes attention away from Bush's own behavior.
Keith Olbermann also does a good job of exposing the fallacy of the Bush Administration's accusations in this Countdown piece, Secrets. Scarborough Country also weighs in, in Scarborough chooses Jefferson, warning:
You gotta admit-it’s frightening. More so to us who know how Washington works and know how power can corrupt and know how power can be abused. I believe friends, we are in dangerous times for those of us who believe like Thomas Jefferson-that Washington is not to be trusted with unlimited police power.
And for the last word, there's "The Word" from Colbert Report, The NY Times want you and your family dead!

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