Eavesdropping order succeeded at saving lives

Published 10:24 am Monday, December 19, 2005

By Staff
President Bush confirmed Dec. 17 that he secretly ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans with suspected ties to terrorists as “critical to saving American lives.”
Noting failures to detect hijackers already in the United States before Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on New York and Washington, Bush said NSA domestic spying helped disrupt other plots, including the Ohio truck driver who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.
The program targets only those people with “a clear link to these terrorist networks,” Bush said in a statement during his live radio address.
Bush ripped the news media for disclosing the eavesdropping program and rebuked Senate Democrats for using the disclosure to block renewal of the USA Patriot Act, which enhanced FBI surveillance power after 9/11 and which expires Dec. 31.
The White House initially refused to even discuss the highly classified “vital tool in our war against the terrorists.”
Bush decided to confirm the program's existence and to couple it with a demand for reauthorization of the Patriot Act to put his critics on the defensive by framing the debate in terms of national security instead of civil liberties.
Yes, this contradicts domestic spying restrictions and subverts constitutional guarantees against unwarranted privacy invasions, but are you really surprised?
Or did you think the Bush administration has just been really lucky there hasn't been another spectacular deadly attack?
Responses were predictable.
This administration “seems to believe it is above the law,” groused Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Feingold called it a “shocking revelation” that “ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American,” and that was my initial reaction - especially with NBC News reporting that a classified Pentagon database listed activities of anti-war groups that pose no security threat.
But given our craving for security at war against a shadowy enemy, however, most Americans are likely to forgive a lot and to react more like Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana did on the House floor: “The liberal media and its liberal allies are attacking the president” for legitimate and legal spying tactics.
The New York Times Dec. 16 reported the order signed by Bush that empowered the NSA to monitor international telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and residents without a warrant. The October 2001 directive came weeks after 9/11.
The Times said some NSA officials refused to participate because of their concern about legality.
The Times said it delayed publishing the report for a year because the White House said it could alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny.
The newspaper also omitted information from the report that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.
Obits: Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Jack Anderson, once America's most widely read newspaper columnist with 45 million daily readers, died Dec. 17 at his Bethesda, Md., home. He was 83 and had Parkinson's disease. The muckraker won the Pulitzer in 1972. He retired in 2001. The CIA was ordered to spy on him. An aide to President Nixon ordered two cohorts to try to kill the journalist by poisoning, according to the Watergate tapes.
Brit Hume of Fox and Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post started their careers with Anderson.
John Spencer, the Emmy Award-winning actor who played Leo McGarry on NBC's “The West Wing,” died Dec. 16 of a heart attack in Los Angeles - four days before his 59th birthday. The New Yorker also played Tommy Mullaney on “L.A. Law.”