Sunday, December 18, 2005

Operation Flabbergasted: Let's Watergate Bush

Over at DailyKos, smintheus has a diary which, unlike my normal practice, I will post in its entirety:

This cannot stand. In ordering the NSA to spy secretly on America, George Bush has: overturned United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which prohibits domestic spying by the NSA; violated the federal act which created the FISA court to oversee covert domestic investigations; and trampled upon the Fourth Amendment guarantee against warrantless searches. It cannot stand for a day, much less a month while Congress is in recess.

On Friday, when Sen. Specter said he'd make investigating the allegations a top priority in January, it was barely possible to pretend that they might be false. But by Saturday's radio address, when Bush defended his policy and insisted it would continue, we had entered a full-blown constitutional crisis. George Bush would love for Congress to back down from a fight next week, to go home grumbling "Wait until next year."

Operation Flabbergasted We cannot let that happen. We have to ensure that by Monday, all hell has broken loose in D.C.

Every Senator needs to know there'll be jolly hell back home if they don't demand Bush stop it now. The MSM needs to be discussing the `constitutional crisis.' There has to be a plan immediately to make this happen. I've got one.

We know that domestic spying by the NSA is Orwellian. We don't need to wait for panels of experts to declare the obvious, that Bush's policies violate the Fourth Amendment in the most fundamental way. Further, it is clear that the White House is panicking over the implications of this leak, very much as the Reagan White House panicked when the Iran Contra story broke and they thought impeachment might be looming. Bush's radio address manages to be both offensive and defensive at one and the same time (it reminds one of the cornered Richard Nixon).

We also know that significant numbers of Senators and journalists are utterly fed up with the Bush administration's record on civil liberties. Some are positively spoiling for a fight (if you don't believe me, check out the grilling Terry Moran gave Alberto Gonzales about torture on Nightline Thursday). So we also know that it's entirely possible for us, at this moment, to drive this issue home once and for all, if we can mount a worthy campaign.

The only campaign that would be worthy of this issue, in my opinion, will be one that produces the biggest fire-storm that Washington has ever seen. If we do not attempt to take back our country now, then when?

We need both coherent goals and effective methods to make this happen. There is little time to lose. Fortunately, as we've shown in the past with internet-based campaigns, things can be organized extremely quickly if people are willing to do their part.


As far as possible, our declared goals must be as clear, straightforward, plausible, and uncontroversial as possible. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve these goals; George Bush and friends stonewall almost as a matter of course. But our declared goals must throw into stark relief the illegality of the administration's policies and the nature of the constitutional crisis.

I propose that we ask each U.S. Senator to demand that President Bush:

* immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying

* promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans

* cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy

* release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on

* identify to the Senate all residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional spying


The most important things that need to be done are to

* build an ad hoc network to promote this campaign, to include blogs, activist groups, grassroot organizations, local and state Democratic Party organizations, and some media darlings like Randi Rhodes

* contact Senators to make the above requests

* contact journalists covering Washington to alert them to the campaign and to request full coverage of the constitutional crisis that the President has provoked

I've arranged them in the order that they need to be addressed. We will want to have the main outlines of a network in place by late Sunday, if we are to get the word out far and wide on Monday to inundate Senate offices with calls, emails, and faxes demanding action. We can easily wait until Sunday to begin advancing along the second and third prongs of this strategy. I'll post another diary Sunday afternoon on those subjects (and a third on Monday morning), once this one gets off the ground.

I'm dedicating this first diary to the issue of developing an internet-based network of support for this campaign. When I conceived my "Awaken the Mainstream Media" campaign back in May, it took me days of writing emails and phoning around to create such a network. It worked, but it took more time than we have in this instance. If Kosmopolitans want to see this work, then they'll have to step forward to volunteer to post about this on their own blogs, and to help to contact others who can be roped in to support us.

To reiterate: In this first diary, I'm asking people to step forward to take charge of some part of the bigger problem of getting the word out quickly and connecting people into the effort. You can do that in many ways. For example, start a thread (or a separate diary, linked in a thread) asking people to identify which blogs they'll contact; or which radio hosts; or local grassroots organizations; etc. Identify something that nobody has spoken for, and take charge of it. Above all, we need to make the jump beyond the internet to organized groups with their own membership lists.

I'll have a lot more to say in the second and third diaries about what kinds of arguments and evidence would be useful in calling/writing Senators and journalists.

So who do you know? Who do you read, or listen to? Whose email lists are you on? What local mailing/phone lists can you enlist to get the word out to put pressure on the Senate? What part of this can you help to organize by Sunday afternoon?

Seem like a lot of work? It is. Now keep your eye on the prize.

UPDATE: Read this editorial at the NYT on Bush and the Fourth Amendment

{President Bush] secretly and recklessly expanded the government's powers in dangerous and unnecessary ways that eroded civil liberties and may also have violated the law.

In Friday's Times, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported that sometime in 2002, President Bush signed a secret executive order scrapping a painfully reached, 25-year-old national consensus: spying on Americans by their government should generally be prohibited, and when it is allowed, it should be regulated and supervised by the courts. The laws and executive orders governing electronic eavesdropping by the intelligence agency were specifically devised to uphold the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

But Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror....

Let's be clear about this: illegal government spying on Americans is a violation of individual liberties, whether conditions are troubled or not. Nobody with a real regard for the rule of law and the Constitution would have difficulty seeing that. The law governing the National Security Agency was written after the Vietnam War because the government had made lists of people it considered national security threats and spied on them. All the same empty points about effective intelligence gathering were offered then, just as they are now, and the Congress, the courts and the American people rejected them.

This particular end run around civil liberties is also unnecessary. The intelligence agency already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests.

The special court can act in hours, but administration officials say that they sometimes need to start monitoring large batches of telephone numbers even faster than that, and that those numbers might include some of American citizens. That is supposed to justify Mr. Bush's order, and that is nonsense. The existing law already recognizes that American citizens' communications may be intercepted by chance. It says that those records may be retained and used if they amount to actual foreign intelligence or counterintelligence material. Otherwise, they must be thrown out.

President Bush defended the program yesterday, saying it was saving lives, hotly insisting that he was working within the Constitution and the law, and denouncing The Times for disclosing the program's existence. We don't know if he was right on the first count; this White House has cried wolf so many times on the urgency of national security threats that it has lost all credibility. But we have learned the hard way that Mr. Bush's team cannot be trusted to find the boundaries of the law, much less respect them.

Mr. Bush said he would not retract his secret directive or halt the illegal spying, so Congress should find a way to force him to do it. Perhaps the Congressional leaders who were told about the program could get the ball rolling.

This is fairly tough, coming from the NYT: "cannot be trusted to find the boundaries of the law, much less respect them." This is going to get rougher.

I don't care what party you're in, or what your political beliefs are, you have to get in on this. If you think that the President can set aside the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law upon a whim, then you are not a patriot no matter how many American flags you have on your site.

Here's a point for conservatives: would you sit back and let President Hillary Clinton do this?

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