Weaving the "Why?" Strands: The Bushevik Tapestry
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
OK, let's try to puzzle out together some recent political events. The unifying
thread will appear; it always does because it's always there, even if sometimes
out of conscious reach.
1. Why would the Bush Administration deliberately break the law by engaging in
electronic surveillance of Americans without getting the required court
Since the rubber-stamp FISA court had turned down only five applications for
domestic spying warrants out of about 15,000 since its inception in 1979, why
wouldn't the Bush Administration automatically go to it for the required
warrants? One implication, certainly, is that even the amenable FISA court might
rebel when it found out the true motives and scope of the ongoing domestic
spying, for, you see, Bush's order to NSA to engage in massive communication
surveillance preceded 9/11. See "Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before
9/11" ( www.truthout.org/docs_2006
/011306Z.shtml ) and "How Cheney Used the NSA for Domestic Spying Prior
/leopold01202006.html ) .
The Busheviks say they decided not to use FISA because the government needs the
speed and flexibility to move quickly, and agents can't keep running to the
secret court each time. But the law has a built-in proviso that permits NSA to
move quickly in an emergency and fill out the required paperwork later, within
The technology is now much more advanced that it was in the old
"wire-tapping" days, when police agencies wanted to listen in on
someone's bedroom or office phone. Now humongous computer banks do data-mining
of millions of phone calls (land-line, cell, satellite) and email messages to
and from Americans; they sweep up, and government agents check out, masses of
"suspects," based on words or patterns unearthed by the data-mining
programs. Of course, the vast majority of those "clues" turn out to be
worthless; see "Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead
06/0117-01.htm ). Yet, regardless of that reality and the invasion of
ordinary citizens' privacy, the Bush Administration continues the massive
intercepts, and apparently will be proudly citing this
"national-security" program for the coming midterm elections.
Rather than stay within the law by going to Congress and saying "Look, the
technology now requires blanket court warrants, so please amend the FISA
bill," the Bush Administration simply chose to ignore all attempts to
remain legal. They deliberately did not go to go to FISA court for permission,
or to Congress for rewriting the authorization bill -- and they did (and are
still doing) everything possible to keep the issue from going into the federal
courts. In deepest secrecy, they made themselves the law and simply carried on,
all the while trying to get into place their Federalist Society-type judges, who
would rule in favor of the President, always.
The Bush Bunker crew wants the freedom desired by all authoritarian leaders: to
act on their own, free of restraints, especially those coming from the courts or
legislature. Arrogant and insecure, they need to know what everyone is thinking
and doing, as a means of enhancing and protecting their political power. If they
accidentally wind up getting some actionable intelligence about foreign
terrorists, all the better.
So the short answer to the question as to why they Bush Administration broke the
law is that they felt they could get away with this top-secret snooping on
American citizens without anyone ever finding out. Once the word leaked about
what they actually were doing, they hauled out the cockamamie "unitary
executive" theory that asserts the President can violate whatever laws he
wants, whenever he wants to, because he's "commander-in-chief" during
"wartime." (The "war," never declared by Congress, is Bush's
"war on terrorism," which, we're told, will last forever. Dictatorship
The Bush Administration utilized the same theory to justify Bush's authorization
of torture of prisoners in U.S. care. And, as political insurance, it added one
more rationale for the NSA spying: With a major leap in interpretation, Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales, for decades a Bush toady, claims that the post-9/11
resolution authorizing Bush to use "force" against al Qaida provides
even more justification to monitor U.S. citizens' communications. Even if this
interpretation were correct -- and most legal scholars think the opposite --
this war-authorization rationale does not explain away the pre-9/11 surveillance
of American citizens.
If I'm correct here, the reason the Bushies are fighting so hard to keep anyone,
including the FISA judges, from learning more about the real reason for their
massive domestic surveillance is that outsiders might discover that it has less
to do with foreign terrorists and more to do with collecting info on their
political enemies and thus creating conditions for more firm control of the
American populace in general.
THE NEW BIN LADEN AUDIOTAPE
2. Why the "new" Bin Laden audiotape now, warning of a coming attack
on the U.S.?
The CIA, rather than independent experts (as was the case in years past),
announced that this audiotape was indeed made by bin Laden. Most of the CIA's
"recalcitrant" analysts and agents were purged last year by Bush's
hand-picked new director, Porter Goss, another malleable Bush loyalist. Should
one automatically trust the CIA's claim that this is an authentic bin Laden
The timing of its release is unusually convenient for the Administration, when
Bush's favorable numbers are plummeting and so many scandals are exploding into
public consciousness that impeachment possibilities are being mentioned -- even
by Republicans! Let us not forget that just before the 2004 election, another
such audiotape alleged to be from bin Laden appeared, and was believed to have
helped Bush in the balloting.
If the Bush Administration takes seriously this Osama bin Laden threat to attack
America again, why has the color-coded threat-level not been raised? Remember
Tom Ridge admitting ( http://www.usatoday.com/news
-alerts_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA ), after he left the directorship of the Homeland
Security Department, that his White House superiors sent him out to issue
"terror-threat" warnings, with little or no evidence to back them up;
the clear implication is that political reasons were at play whenever Bush's
numbers started to tank or a new scandal erupted.
But even if the new "bin Laden tape" is genuine, it would merely
demonstrate that both religious/political extremists require each other, for
their own ends. In this theory, Bush needs bin Laden as the terrorist boogeyman,
to increase the fear quotient in the American citizenry and thus permit his
Administration to bend and twist the Constititution to aid his own political
agenda. And bin Laden needs Bush as the Western imperialist boogeyman, for
recruitment purposes and for solidfying the growing anti-American sentiment in
the Islamic world and his leading role in that revolt.
THE "DISAPPEARING" OF AL GORE
3. Why the virtual absence of mainstream-media coverage of Al Gore's amazingly
tough speech last week?
Whether or not one finds merit in Gore's toughest charges in his incendiary
speech, the former Vice President of the United States (who, don't forget,
received more votes nationwide than Bush in the 2000 election) practically
called the sitting President a lying crook whose policies approach police-state
status. He urged a Special Counsel to investigate this Administration's alleged
high crimes and misdemeanors, especially those having to do with the destruction
of the checks-and-balances system in our governmental system, as evidenced by
Bush's illegal behavior in the NSA spying scandal.
By any definition, a former Vice President saying that a sitting President is
violating the Constitution is news. But one would be hard-pressed to find any
signficant coverage, or even a mention, of it in the mainstream media. It was as
if it never happened.
In the so-called "liberal" media, PBS's The News Hour had no mention
Monday evening, even though the speech had been delivered around noontime, and
then no coverage Tuesday as well. The New York Times, the "newspaper of
record," buried a mention of Gore's speech in the final three paragraphs of
a long story about something else. ABC News had a quick mention toward the end
of its Monday broadcast, but no excerpts from the speech. Nothing on CBS or NBC
newscasts. (The entire speech was covered verbatim on CSPAN, but not a lot of
Americans watch that channel.)
One can only speculate why the mainstream media would freeze-out news of such
major import. It's easy enough to understand why the rightwing cable networks
and commentators would try to ignore or play down Gore's hard-hitting charges
against Bush, but the more serious journalists at CBS? NBC? ABC? True, these are
giant conglomerate-owned corporations, but they've covered big anti-Bush stories
before. (PBS was somewhat declawed by its right-wing then-overseer, Ken
Tomlinson, but usually the News Hour With Jim Lehrer is more even-handed.)
No, it's clear that Gore's frontal attack on Bush Administration mendacity and
police-state tactics hit a raw nerve and network execs decided, either after
having been warned by Bush officials or by self-censoring their own newscasts,
that discretion was the better part of valor.
The result, of course, reminds one of the old koan: If a huge tree falls in the
forest and nobody hears it, was there a sound? Millions of American citizens
were deprived of hearing that loud sound, and thus having more information
available to make intelligent choices in a democracy. Precisely what the
Rove/Bush/Cheney forces were hoping for.
FISHING IN THE SEARCH-ENGINE PONDS
4. Why the Bush Administration's demand that Google, Yahoo, AOL and other
search-engines provide them with a week's worth of data about search requests by
The Bush Administration says the aim is not to collect personal information,
only generic patterns that will help convince the courts to keep certain
anti-pornography laws in place. It's hard to imagine that any court would
authorize such wide-sweeping fishing expeditions on an unrelated matter with no
reasonable criminal reason for the search -- but, with Bush-appointed judges in
place throughout the appellate court system, who knows? (Note: Google says it
will go to court to resist the government's request for these archived, private
The additional dangers of permitting such immense data searches are three-fold:
1) The government's massive computer system may be capable of back-tracking the
data to email addresses of those seeking illegal porn on the 'net, with
harrassment and arrests to follow.
The Busheviks assert that they have no such intent. But who supervises what the
government will do with this raw information? In short, who polices the police?
Would you trust the Bush Administration to do the right thing? They've shown no
evidence of that before, and have displayed a willingness to hide the truth,
distort and lie, to keep the public from ever learning their dirty little
secrets. In general, it's not wise to trust ANY government with too much
information about what you're up to, but especially this government.
2) On the surface, the government's demanding to see all those millions of
searches focus on a subject designed to elicit support from the American people
-- stopping kiddie-porn. But feed that search-engine data into NSA's massive
computers and, voila, out comes whatever other info you want to look for. In
short, it's data-mining from another angle -- not through phone calls and emails
but through internet search-engines' databases. Once the precedent is
established with pornography, other "topics of interest" might not be
3) One aim of the Bush Administration is to make citizens suspicious of
information sources other than the government and its far-right media cohorts.
The Busheviks already have made many people doubt the so-called
"liberal" mainstream media; now the target is the internet, a
free-flowing, difficult-to-control information-delivery system. How to remove
some of the respectability of that source of non-official (and often anti-Bush)
information? One way would be to let folks know that everything they do on the
internet -- even logging onto a search-engine and surfing the web for
information -- may well be observed by the thought-police. More citizens might
then choose to retire into their individual data shells, and get their
informational fixes through more "official" channels.
THE ARROGANCE OF UNCHECKED POWER
So, we've done the news-analysis dance. Can you spot the unstated throughline in
all the items discussed above? Yes, of course, it's the reckless dangers
associated with the arrogance and abuse of power, be it corporate or
governmental. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts
We are living through one of America's darkest periods in its history, when
mendacity, the lust for power, and greed have corrupted even the best of our
institutions. There must be some way out of here, and right now the exits can be
found in stopping the worst actors from doing more damage (see: Alito, Sam),
starting impeachment hearings to learn the whole rotten truth, and
re-establishing electoral integrity by eschewing easily-manipulated
computer-voting systems and returning to paper ballots hand-counted. A fair and
honest election system certainly would help bring more light into this dark
So, friends, there are ways out of here, but it will take lots of hard work,
money, energy and extreme courage. Get ready: It's going to get even nastier.
Let the rumpus begin. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at
various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
To comment, write: >> [email protected]
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 1/24/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.