Newsweek reports that President Bush pulled out all the stops as he tried to talk the New York Times into killing the story on domestic spying:
The president was so desperate to kill the New York Times’ eavesdropping story, he summoned the paper’s editor and publisher to the Oval Office. But it wasn’t just out of concern about national security.”
Jonathan Alter raises important concerns in his commentary on the meeting and the president’s insistence that the story hurts national security.
The big question is: How?
It’s pretty obvious that if you’re a terrorist operating in the US, you’re likely to be the target of snoops and spies. Terrorists expect that to happen. How does being able to spy on them without a warrant change our tactics? It doesn’t. How does exposing the fact that the obvious spying is being done without warrants threaten national security? It doesn’t.
Next. The FISA court that issues warrants in national-security cases – and issued 1228 of 1228 requests in 2002 – when President Bush issed the domestic spying order. This leads us to the next question:
If you’re getting all the warrants you want, why do you suddenly go off the reservation and start spying without warrants?
If you think like a lawyer or a cop, the obvious answer is that the administration is spying on people whom they know the court would never let them spy on.
We’ve seen the NBC report on the Pentagon spying on Quakers and peace groups. You have to wonder if there are other non-terrorists in the feds’ sights. And if you think like a politician, you think of Nixon’s enemy lists and Clinton’s FBI-file scandal, and wonder if this administration is also using government resources to keep tabs on political opponents.
Which leads us to the question that ties these two together:
If exposing warrantless spying can’t possibly affect national security, why is the administration so worried about it being exposed?
Answer: Political damage in 2005, a Democratic majority elected in 2006, and articles of impeachment in 2007.
Crossposted at WatchingWashington.com
Photo Credit: The White House