An Annotated NY Times Editorial- Feb 2.
The March of the Straw Soldiers
President Bush is not giving up the battle over domestic spying. He's fighting it with an army of straw men and a fleet of red herrings.
In his State of the Union address and in a follow-up speech at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville yesterday, Mr. Bush threw out a dizzying array of misleading analogies, propaganda slogans and false choices: Congress authorized the president to spy on Americans and knew all about it ... 9/11 could have been prevented by warrantless spying ... you can't fight terrorism and also obey the law ... and Democrats are not just soft on national defense, they actually don't want to beat Al Qaeda.
"Let me put it to you in Texan," Mr. Bush drawled at the Grand Ole Opry House yesterday. "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know."
First of all, there is no language called "Texan."
Secondly, Bush's spying is not limited to 'al Qaida calling' into the United States. It included hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans calling friends and relatives outside the country, including Canada and Mexico. It includes tapping the private lines of people like CNN correspondent Christianne Amanpour, who obviously poses no threat to our national security.
Yes, and so does every American. But that has nothing to do with Mr. Bush's decision to toss out the Constitution and judicial process by authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant. Let's be clear: the president and his team had the ability to monitor calls by Qaeda operatives into and out of the United States before 9/11 and got even more authority to do it after the attacks. They never needed to resort to extralegal and probably unconstitutional methods.
They simply ignored existing laws because that's been Bush's modus operandi since 2000. He's special. He believes that laws don't apply to him.
Mr. Bush said the warrantless spying was vetted by lawyers in the Justice Department, which is cold comfort. They also endorsed the abuse of prisoners and the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" without charges or trials.
The president also said the spying is reviewed by N.S.A. lawyers. That's nice, but the law was written specifically to bring that agency, and the president, under control. And there already is a branch of government assigned to decide what's legal. It's called the judiciary. The law itself is clear: spying on Americans without a warrant is illegal.
And whatever spin the neo-cons put on it, the president is not above the law.
One of the oddest moments in Mr. Bush's defense of domestic spying came when he told his audience in Nashville, "If I was trying to pull a fast one on the American people, why did I brief Congress?" He did not mention that some lawmakers protested the spying at the briefings, or that they found them inadequate. The audience members who laughed and applauded Mr. Bush's version of the truth may have forgot that he said he briefed Congress fully on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We know how that turned out.
When Bush has to take his smarmy message to the Hee-Haw crowd at the Grand Ole Opry, you know he must be desperate. I guess hillbillies are the only remaining constituents he has who are still too stupid to get that Americans are being bamboozled.