will the Bush scandals ever cease?

When the "Unclassified Report on the President's Surveillance Program"was released on Friday, I knew that many bloggers--myself included--were about to spend a good deal of time researching the latest news in the ongoing drama that was the Bush-era domestic spying imbroglio. Lichtblau and Risen wrote in "US Wiretapping of Limited Value, Officials Report" that Bush's spying program was "of limited value," and that its "effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear:"

The report found that the secrecy surrounding the program may have limited its effectiveness. At the C.I.A., it said, so few working-level officers were allowed to know about the program that the agency often did not make full use of the leads the wiretapping generated, and intelligence leads that came from the wiretapping operation were often "vague or without context," the report said.

The findings raise questions about assertions from Mr. Bush and his most senior advisers that the warrantless wiretapping program was essential in stopping terrorist attacks.

Jack Balkin summarized the Bushies' doctored-intelligence mentality in "The IG Report and the Horse That is Already Out of the Barn Door:"

...the Bush Administration used an illegal program that wasn't effective, and when the public found out, it repeatedly used this ineffective program to scare Congress into passing laws that legitimated many of its illegal practices and gave the intelligence agencies greater leeway with less oversight.

Marcy "emptywheel" Wheeler notes "FISA's 15-Day Exemption" at FDL, writing that the Bushies can't even keep their timeline of excuses straight:

Yoo's analysis is not just dead wrong because FISA clearly contemplates its application even during wartime. But it's even worse because during this particular wartime situation, the Administration had already used that 15-day exemption period as it debated what and how to implement its warrantless wiretap program.

The Administration showed, by its actions, that it knew the AUMF didn't trump FISA. But then it proceeded to base its entire wiretap program on that very assumption.

Wheeler also notes the curious use of the passive voice in the report's description of the sign-this-now visit to Ashcroft's hospital room:

According to notes from Ashcroft's FBI security detail, at 6:20 PM that evening Card called the hospital and spoke with an agent in Ashcroft's security detail, advising him that President Bush would be calling shortly to speak with Ashcroft. Ashcroft's wife told the agent that Ashcroft would not accept the call. Ten minutes later, the agent called Ashcroft's Chief of Staff David Ayres at DOJ to request that Ayres speak with Card about the President's intention to call Ashcroft. The agent conveyed to Ayres Mrs. Ashcroft's desire that no calls be made to Ashcroft for another day or two. However, at 6:5 PM, Card and the President called the hospital and, according to the agent's notes, "insisted on speaking [with Attorney General Ashcroft]." According to the agent's notes, Mrs. Ashcroft took the call from Card and the President and was informed that Gonzales and Card were coming to the hospital to see Ashcroft regarding a matter involving national security. [emphasis via emptywheel]

Evidently, they don't want to come right out and say that Bush ordered the visit--which, as the report mentions, took place three weeks before Ashcroft's doctor cleared him to return to the job. That point should also be investigated. Salon's Glenn Greenwald opined that "The new Report on illegal spying is not a real investigation." Greenwald decried the "rampant and blatant...lawlessness that pervaded the Bush administration," and continues that last year's FSA Amendments Act retroactively legalizing that lawlessness "remains the single most compelling evidence of how ludicrously broken and corrupt our political class is on a very bipartisan basis:"

George Bush gets caught red-handed breaking long-standing laws in how he spies on Americans. The "opposition party" which controls the Congress not only blocks any investigations and attempts to impose accountability. Far worse, they proceed to legalize the very criminal programs that were exposed and to vest even greater surveillance powers in the very administration that got caught deliberately breaking the law. [emphasis in original]

Obama deserves criticism for his part in this--conservatives will claim he's wrong because he's a Democrat, but liberals must be the principled ones who recognize crimes and abuses of authority no matter who commits them.

In addition to the report, the NYT's Scott Shane reported in "Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of CIA Project" that CIA Director Leon Panetta dropped a minor bombshell on the Senate and House intelligence committees: "The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney." In "Cheney Ordered Concealment," Washington Monthly's Steve Benen adds this note:

Postscript: As for the recent "debate" about Speaker Pelosi's not-so-scandalous suggestion that the CIA is not always forthcoming with lawmakers, Republicans can send their apologies to Office of the Speaker, H-232, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC 20515.

In more positive news, AG Eric Holder hinted that investigations in Bush's torture regime may be forthcoming. Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman reported in "Independent's Day" that "Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do:"

While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."

Glenn Greenwald suggested in "The Holder Trial Balloon: Abu Ghraib redux" that the Holder leak is "a 'trial balloon' to gauge public reaction," and that any investigation "targeting low-level interrogators while shielding high-level policy-makers from prosecution" would be worse than no investigation at all:

That's true not only because it would replicate the disgraceful whitewashing of the Abu Ghraib prosecutions. It would do that, but even worse, it would bolster the principal instrument of executive lawlessness -- the Beltway orthodoxy that any time a President can find a low-level DOJ functionary to authorize what he wants to do, then it is, by definition, "legal" and he's immune from prosecution when he does it, no matter how blatantly criminal it is.

In "Reluctantly Looking Backwards," Steve Benen notes the inconsistencies in Bush-protectors circling the wagons around his disastrous legacy:

America's image in the world was undermined by Bush/Cheney scandals. Holding officials responsible for abuses and possible crimes doesn't make the United States look worse; it makes us look better. Mature, credible, transparent democracies don't ignore official wrongdoing for fear of public embarrassment. [...] That some officials even find this basic concept controversial is depressing.


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