dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Stonewalling (Not) Suspect

January 3rd, 2006 by dk

We never knew my uncle was a drunk until one night he came home sober. Likewise, what are we to make of President Bush’s sudden forthrightness about wiretapping Americans without warrants? Has he ever fessed up to anything so quickly? Remember how he couldn’t name a single mistake he had made at his final presidential debate? This is a man who refuses to answer questions about “ongoing investigations,” not considering that “completed investigations” are the only ones with no questions left to answer.

On December 16, The New York Times reported that President Bush had authorized the super-secret NSA to listen in on phone and e-mail conversations — without easily-attainable warrants from a secret court created for this very purpose. (One of the judges on this panel has since resigned in protest.) The very next day, President Bush stated publicly that yes, he had authorized wire taps.

In Washington, they say it’s never the crime; it’s the cover-up. What are we to make of such a flagrant non-cover-up?

You might believe that Bush’s advisers thanked their lucky stars (and Times Executive Editor Bill Keller) for the timing of the bombshell. It was a week before Christmas, and even New York was more concerned about a looming transit strike than any sneaky snooping. Lawmakers were rushing out of Washington, D.C. Every news outlet’s A-team was taking their vacation. Nobody was watching TV except for football or Jimmy Stewart reruns. What better time to come clean on national television? (Remember the memo from an alert PR company, suggesting any clients with bad news might want to put it out on September 12, 2001, because it wouldn’t get noticed?)

So maybe they rushed their admissions into the news quickly, hoping it would be “yesterday’s news” before anybody noticed. Except that the crime, if that’s what it is, is ongoing. President Bush didn’t say he did it. He said, and has continued to say, that he’s doing it.

Some claim that this is part of a new communications strategy, recognizing the president’s low approval rating and that stonewalling was no longer helping him. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart dubbed this “Plan F.” But they could have rolled out their new tone with less important issues first. They could have explained straightforwardly who chose to strike “Merry Christmas” from the Bush family holiday card mailed to their 1.4 million close personal friends.

President Bush might have decided that changing the rules on wiretaps is important and he needs Americans’ support on the issue. But this would be the first time. This president hasn’t used public opinion to sway votes in Congress much. He’s chosen back channel strong-arming instead. No need for a bully pulpit when a few well-paced pit bulls can do the job.

One explanation remains for President Bush’s willingness to explain his surveillance directives that lay somewhere between innovative and impeachable: he believes Americans want them. Americans want to be protected.

Irony alert: All people yearn to be free, until they are. Then they want security, so they can keep what they got. The march of freedom can lead to the goose-step of conformity.

This president clearly enjoys being a wartime leader. He doesn’t like to be told “no.” Retired Admiral John Poindexter’s discredited “Total Information Awareness” program has returned with a new name, or with no name at all.

Data-mining is the brave new world of information awareness. Rightly or not, our government wants to be at the forefront of the technology that gives us credit ratings, google searches, and frequent buyer programs.

Most of us do not understand how this technology works. Simply put, aggregated data in sufficient quantities can better predict a single person’s actions than a detailed profile of that person. You can sell Lysol to people who buy dog food and diapers without knowing their names. Late mortgage payments lead to lucrative late fees on credit cards almost every time.

This administration believes it can use these predictive algorithms to lessen the threat of terrorists. But what defines a terrorist? Roadside bombs in Iraq? Anti-American leafletting in Paris? Firebombed SUVs in Eugene?

Who decides? The president? Or a complicated and sometimes cumbersome system of executive, legislative, and judicial powers, shaped and girded by our Constitution?

The president has offered in his defense that he’s taken a pledge to protect the American people. That’s not true. The presidential pledge is to “protect, defend and uphold” the Constitution of the United States of America. It is that Constitution that promises to protect each of us. Not the army. And not its commander-in-chief.

Can a free people continue to choose freedom over security? The profile of courage required is in the mirror.

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.