Thursday, December 22, 2005

Reasons not to Eavesdrop & Shades of COINTELPRO ...

Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post Media Notes blog kindly reminds us why there are serious problems with recent revelations on NSA eavesdropping:

Keep in mind that the 1978 foreign intelligence law that some Democrats say Bush violated with the eavesdropping program was passed in reaction to the FBI improperly investigating Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists, most famously Martin Luther King Jr.

Come on, Howard, say it. It won't hurt to repeat it ... that's right: CO-IN-TEL-PRO. Come on, now, wave your hands up in the air, and wave it like you just don't care!

Now, brothers in the back, we want you to yell "CO"
And Sisters in the front, scream "IN"
FBI cats on the roof with the listening devices, give us a "TEL"
And Republicans over there beating on the bouncers at the door, end it like "PRO"

Here we go, now ... CO
Hit it:

Nobody wants to talk about that. Moving on ...

Charles Hurt in this most recent Washington Times piece plays the "foreign intelligence" card and states a case in favor of continued eavesdropping:

Previous administrations, as well as the court that oversees national security cases, agreed with President Bush's position that a president legally may authorize searches without warrants in pursuit of foreign intelligence. "The Department of Justice believes -- and the case law supports -- that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general," Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Republicans and conservatives are funny like that. When all else seems to fail or you can't expect to convince anyone else, bite a rhyme off Clinton. They labeled the former President everything but the anti-Christ, now they want to turn to him for advice. Hurt's piece is hurting for context. Foreign intelligence really has nothing to do with it. It's when government can (and has) used that explanation to make farcical claims about activist groups with "overseas" connections or "communist" sympathies.

In the New York Times, Eric Lichtblau gives examples of G-Men Gone Wild:

Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

And then, Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak, Rich Gardella and the whole NBC Invesitgative Crew comes strong with the headline "Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?":

A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Guess we're in the "database," too. It must be crowded, because it's hot and sweaty up in here like a club with no fire exits.