Friday, May 12, 2006

"There's probably no post more important in preserving our security and our values as a people than the head of the Central Intelligence Agency."
--Gen. Michael V. Hayden, nominated by President Bush for the position of C.I.A. Director, quoted in The New York Times, C.I.A. PICK NAMED AS WHITE HOUSE TAKES ON CRITICSby Elisabeth Bumiller and Carl Hulse, 5-9-06.

"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates."
--George W. Bush, quoted in The New York Times, BUSH IS PRESSED OVER NEW REPORT ON SURVEILLANCE by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, 5-12-06.

"Rather than allow our intelligence professionals to maintain a laser focus on the terrorists, we are once again mired in a debate about what our intelligence community may or may not be doing."
--Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), IBID.

I regard these quotes as highly revealing, although one might easily net other such bons mots like so many weak moths circling the dim candles of Grand Old Party gloom that now envelops us. How long before this gloom becomes night is anyone's guess.

Gen Hayden asserts that "our values as a people" depend on the Director of the C.I.A. A very odd thing to say for someone who claims to be a public servant committed to the preservation of constitutional democracy. Indeed, if one reads books like the recently published OVERTHROW by Stephen Kinzer, the C.I.A. has, in its short history, taken actions that in the long run have been detrimental to both our "values" and our "security." That isn't to say that a well-run C.I.A. would not be an important asset to the U.S. government. But I would also like to point out the obvious fact that the United States Constitution makes no mention of a Central Intelligence Agency.

And speaking of spooks, it was the current president's father who served as C.I.A. Director for about 14 months during the presidency of Gerald Ford. Perhaps young George learned from his father that secrecy is best. Bush the younger has more than once expressed his desire for dictatorial powers and has said that he "doesn't need to explain" why he does things and that he is "the decider." His denial that the government under control of his cronies (or what Jonathan Turley writing in the Chicago Tribune called "the made men of the Bush administration") is "mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of Americans" only reinforces the obvious truth that he is doing precisely that.

Rep. Hoekstra's reference to "a laser focus on the terrorists" also highlights the fact that no laser focus has been applied, but a broad saturation campaign of electronic ogling the likes of which the world has never seen. Bush says the NSA spying is "focused on links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates." Thus phone records of millions of Americans (and their billions of calls) become, in his twisted logic, infected with what--the heresy of doubt, the taint of traitorous inquiry, or the hidden conspiracy of Al Qaeda terror plots?

Hoekstra says we are "once again mired in debate," as if the country's biggest problem is the Hamlet-like nature of our pesky civilian and fourth-estate nervous Nellies. And all the while we sit as citizens of a country whose government has hastily entered two wars, is planning a third, and in the name of the constitution is that document afire like so many Vietnam-era draft cards.

No doubt we will soon discover that significant eavesdropping has and is taking place despite the fierce denials of those in charge. Nevertheless, it is now clear that a large-scale violation of Americans' constitutional rights has taken place, a fitting corollary to the holding of innocent cab drivers and old men on Guantanamo.