Sunday, January 14, 2007
Darkness at Noon - Attack on Civil Liberties
'L'etat, C'est Moi'
Dahlia Lithwick in the Post:
The Imperial Presidency
And why is President Bush still issuing grandiose and provocative signing statements, the latest of which claims that the executive branch has the power to open mail when it sees fit?
I once believed that the common thread here is presidential blindness -- an extreme executive-branch myopia that leads the chief executive to believe that these futile measures are integral to combating terrorism; a self-delusion that precludes Bush and his advisers from recognizing that Padilla is a chump and Guantanamo Bay is just a holding pen for a jumble of innocent or half-guilty wretches.
But it has finally become clear that the goal of these efforts isn't to win the war against terrorism; indeed, nothing about Padilla, Guantanamo Bay or signing statements moves the country an inch closer to eradicating terrorism. The object is a larger one: expanding executive power, for its own sake.
Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post:
Under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon expanded its collection of intelligence within the borders of the United States -- a development that stirred concern among members of Congress and prompted stern criticism and lawsuits from civil liberties advocates.
These efforts are overseen by the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity agency, or CIFA, which was established in September 2002 by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.
CIFA is charged with coordinating policy and overseeing the domestic counterintelligence activities of Pentagon agencies and the armed forces. The agency's size and budget are classified, but congressional sources have said that the agency spent more than $1 billion through October. One counterintelligence official recently estimated that CIFA has 400 full-time employees and 800 to 900 contractors working for it.
In written responses to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing last month, Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert M. Gates, pledged to look "in greater detail" at CIFA's activities.
The agency was criticized in December 2005 after it was revealed that a database managed by CIFA, called TALON, contained unverified, raw threat information about people who were peacefully protesting the Iraq war at defense facilities, including recruiting offices. In August, CIFA Director David A. Burtt II and his top deputy, Joseph Hefferon, resigned in the wake of a scandal involving CIFA contracts that went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade. Wade pleaded guilty last February to conspiring to bribe then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif).
What lies ahead? If the opposition to troop surge by Democrats and some Republican members of Congress holds then then there is something to hope for. Even a nonbinding resolution cannot fail to have an impact on the warmongers.
Opposition to Iraq Plan Leaves Bush Isolated
The White House has downscaled its goals and is playing for time. Advisers resign themselves to a nonbinding congressional resolution condemning the troop increase but want to avoid many Republicans voting for it. Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who lost reelection, called Bush's plan "a step in the right direction" and said Republicans do not want to walk away from Iraq but are "in full political survival mode" now. "It's very hard, particularly if you're on the ballot in two years, to run on the side of the president on anything to do with the war."
The more serious threat to the White House would be a Democratic attempt to restrict funds for more troops. Bush aides said that current funds are enough to get started, and they are counting on the notion that it will take two months until the supplemental appropriation bill providing more war funds comes to a vote. By then, they said, extra troops will be on the ground and it will be too late for Congress to stop them. And they hope for signs of progress that would let them argue that the plan is working.