January 2, 2006

''I can say that if somebody from al-Qaida is calling you, we'd like to know why."

Said President Bush this morning, aptly. Also: ''The fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States."

The article counters that last statement with this:
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., appearing on ''Fox News Sunday,'' said the Justice Department investigation should explore the motivation of the person who leaked the information.

''Was this somebody who had an ill purpose, trying to hurt the United States?'' Schumer asked. ''Or might it have been someone in the department who felt that this was wrong, legally wrong, that the law was being violated?''
So if they meant well, it would be fine? I assume whoever leaked meant well.

58 comments:

Meade said...

Yes, well, leakers are never mean and always mean well even when they don't mean to make the road to hell even slipperier with their well-meaning leaks.

Robin said...

I predict Schumer's comment will be the new democrat meme. "Motive" is what matters--this person was trying to help blah blah blah. It's the only way out of all their comments about heinous the Valerie Plame leak was--

SteveR said...

Funny that in every security briefing I've ever had, "motive" is never been given as a valid reason to violate the rules.

Mark said...

Bush's quote is totally disingenuos. Nobody is denying that "if somebody from Al Qaeda is calling you" the government has the right to know why. The issue is whether the government should have gotten a warrant before or within 72 hours of listening.

It is also relevant to any discussion about the NSA program that Deputy AG Comey refused to approve the program due to concerns about legality and oversight and the administration official had to go to Ashcroft who was recovering from gallbladder surgery to get his "reluctant" approval. I mean, if the Administration's own Deputy AG had legal concerns and even Ashcroft(!!) was reluctant to sign off, what more evidence do you need to be concerned about the program?

Amazing how people are giving a totally blind check to this president.

Mark said...

I tend to agree with the following comment from the thread at Volokh Conspiracy:

"There's an emotional investment in the President that doesn't seem terribly mature or politically wise. I suppose it's a reflex of the 9/11 attacks ... the need to believe that Daddy is taking care of us."

grumps said...

Why would you assume the leaker had good intentions? Karl and Scooter didn't when they were handing out the name of a US Agent.

Bruce Hayden said...

But are they the rules? Has the President actually broken them? Powerline has a blog entry on this subject, and cites 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1801(f) which defines Electronic Surveilance for FISA. And it has four categories:
(1) targetting a U.S. citizen w/o a warrant who is in the U.S.
(2) acquistion in the U.S. w/o a warrant if one party in U.S.
(3) both parties in the U.S.
(4) installation or use of a surveilance device in the U.S.

If this is indeed controlling, as it appears to me to be, evesdropping outside the U.S. when a party outside the U.S. is initiating a call here would seem to slide right between (1) and (2).

And, hence, the President's response a day or so ago: "If al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why. I think that's reasonable."

Bruce Hayden said...

Sorry, on my 50 USC 1801 (f) synopsis, it is considered "electronic surveilance" in (1) if the party being targetted is a United States person within the United States. A "United States Person" is defined later (i) in that statute as including aliens lawfully in the U.S. It is not limited to citizens, as I had previously indicated.

PatCA said...

An illegal leak is an illegal leak...isn't it?

The opposition seems to talk about motivations a lot. I can't figure out why escept maybe the actions themselves provide no platform for argument.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Bush is indeed the Spawn of Satan. If the net effect one day of the Iraq war is that the Middle East becomes more of a responsible world citizen, what does his (evil) motivation matter?

Ross said...

PatC,

An illegal leak is an illegal leak ... isn't it?

I think we all recognize the difference between letting your friend Abu Jihad know that the NSA's reading his e-mail and he should switch to carrier pigeon, and the disclosure that the government is (arguendo) illegally wiretapping without court authorization.

downtownlad said...

I fail to see how national security is put at risk. The Bush Administration could have easily monitored the call from Al-Qaida, within the confines of the law, and received a search-warrent from a secret court, 72 hours after the fact.

Does anyone really think that if someone was receiving a call from Al Qaida, that they DIDN'T think the call was being monitored???? Give me a break.

What offends me is that the Bush administration was not using the surveillance to monitor Al-Qaida. They were using it to monitor political enemies. They were using it to monitor campus groups that were against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Yes - I know that most Americans think that gay people are terrorists just through their very existence. But that doesn't make it right.

Whoever leaked this story are heros.

reader_iam said...

This non-lawyer bystander is less interested in whether the taps were legal etc. or not (though of course that's important) and more concerned about whether major players in various government branches or agencies even much care where the line is drawn.

And as squishy as this is going to sound (still thinking it through), I've come to believe that there's a fundamental difference between good motives that go bad, than bad motives that turn out good. I sort think the latter is far more insidious.

That said, I don't condone leakers. Generally, they're just tattle-tales writ large, (quite apart from the certainly relevant legal issues), and tend to be underhanded, odious sorts, IMHO, whether children or adults. On the other hand, in certain narrow situations they're irreplaceable sources of vital information. The devil is in discerning the difference.

Bonus: It's gotten to the point where I find Schumer so shudderingly grating, that I'd take a Sharpton pontification any day instead. Hell does sometimes freeze over, after all.

Jacques Cuze said...

Professor Althouse, imagine for the moment, that you were the leaker, and that you were discovered, found out, and charged?

What is your defense going to be?

Robin said...

Download Lad said

"They were using it to monitor political enemies."

There's the next mutation of the liberal meme appearing. Stated as fact, liberals will believe this regardless of a complete and utter lack of basis in reality because it fits their belief that Bush is evil and nothing he does is good.

Further, the reason this new meme is appearing is because the majority of Americans do not believe that listening to the conversations of terrorists is wrong. If however, we can convince the American people that Bush was targeting political enemies--well--Bush is cooked, conversation over.

If you slander the President in the aid of your anti-war movement, it's your "motive" that's important, right?

mcg said...

No matter what her defense may be, I will be happy to hear it from her while visiting her in prison.

downtownlad said...

There's the next mutation of the liberal meme appearing. Stated as fact, liberals will believe this regardless of a complete and utter lack of basis in reality because it fits their belief that Bush is evil and nothing he does is good.

Utter lack of basis in reality?

Sorry - Try this MSNBC report for one.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10454316/

I would you are the one who has an utter lack of basis in reality, because no matter how many reports come out like this in the future - you are certain to ignore them all.

Jacques Cuze said...

So if they meant well, it would be fine? I assume whoever leaked meant well.

Actually, Schumer was asked this in almost these words by Chris Wallace, and either you or the Times is taking Schumer out of context.

See the video! In a world, in a time....

The Fox News Sunday segment

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: I did go watch it after I wrote this post. I had it TiVo'd, I remembered. And I was going to update when I saw that Wallace followed up in just about the same terms as my post, and Schumer seemed as if he was going to admit the problem with his statement. Except he didn't:

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, you're certainly not going to say exasperation is an excuse for leaking classified information.

SCHUMER: No, no, no. I am saying the type of punishment, the type of investigation — there are differences between felons and whistleblowers, and we ought to wait till the investigation occurs to decide what happened.

But I will say one other thing, Chris. To simply divert this whole thing to just looking at the leaker, and saying everything else was fine, is typical of this administration. Instead of examining a problem and saying maybe there's a problem, let's come together and reason on it, they try to divert attention and blame somebody. And that, while it should be pursued, is not the main issue here.


Did he say something there? I don't think so. He just tried to make Wallace's question go away. Pure obfuscation.

D_Walters said...
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D_Walters said...
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D_Walters said...

The real investigation would have begun a year ago when the leak was first detected. This is just spin. After all, what new information was included in the NYT story? How does knowing that the president is authorizing investigations that are otherwise public knowledge under FISA help terrorist and “hurt America?” You can fool all of the people some of the time…

SteveR said...

Lets investigate the leaks. I think we'll find the leaker(s) are career government employees who have an axe to grind and did not pursue any of the established routes for whistle blowers. Sounds like a felon, Chuck.

APF said...

I don't find it persuasive to argue, in this specific context, that although the leak may have been illegal, it was warranted and therefore should be applauded. There is a direct and glaring irony in trying to assert such an argument IMO. The point that nothing has been damaged in terms of National Security, since we already presumed terrorists were being monitored, seems bizarre to me as well, unless one is to argue that all of our monitoring operations, procedures, etc might as well be out in the open (as opposed to classified secrets) in the first place; I don't think that's a serious position to take. The idea that the Administration is, in truth, not concerned with this leak, because otherwise they would have started an investigation a year ago, seems like a red herring as well, since presumably in order to perform such an investigation I would presume "the cat would be out of the bag," and the necessity of protecting the operation/etc would become moot; it seems to me that if the Administration felt the NYT would keep the info they got under wraps, they could deal with the economic calculation of letting the leak itself slide (in fact, I think this is likely to happen all the time, regardless of the Administration in question).

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I think we all recognize the difference between letting your friend Abu Jihad know that the NSA's reading his e-mail and he should switch to carrier pigeon, and the disclosure that the government is (arguendo) illegally wiretapping without court authorization.

I don't think Jonathan Pollard or Kim Philby got cut any particular slack because they thought their motives were pure.

Nor should they.

DaveG said...

I assume whoever leaked meant well.

Yes, all hail the Glorious Whistleblower, he who as annointed himself as judge and jury.

Or maybe rather meaning well, he was well compensated. Maybe not in this case, but I think it's just a matter of time before we find out that some of these anonymous sources have more than Truth, Justice, and The American Way as their motivation.

I've had my fill of these leaks. If the people believe that they are correct in the actions, let them come forth and have their day in court. There's no heroism in hiding in the shadows.

Drew said...

downtownlad Lad said

"They were using it to monitor political enemies."

I recommend that you re-read that MSNBC report. The article has nothing to do with the recent controversy surrounding NSA surveillance. The article challenges the long standing practices of the DOD to collect domestic threat information. This is a practice that spans many administrations (I'm not justifying it, just making the distinction).

The article does nothing to prove your point that the NSA was eaves dropping on "political enemies" of the Bush administration. If this were true, it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country, rather than just propaganda of the ultra left wing.

I agree: Utter lack of basis in reality.

PatCA said...

"I think we all recognize the difference between letting your friend Abu Jihad know that the NSA's reading his e-mail and he should switch to carrier pigeon, and the disclosure that the government is (arguendo) illegally wiretapping without court authorization."

What is the difference in outcome?

And Downtownload, puh-leeze: "I know that most Americans think that gay people are terrorists just through their very existence."

Gerry said...

"I assume whoever leaked meant well."

I am sure those who broke in to Watergate meant well too. Any partisan could rationalize any illegality aimed at harming the opposing party in this manner. Since (insert party here) is bad for America, I am justified in doing (insert illegal action aimed at harming said party here).

Feh.

Ann Althouse said...

I hope you're not reading my post to say meaning well makes it okay.

miklos rosza said...

"Meaning well" doesn't excuse anything. And no, Ann, I don't think you said otherwise.

Meade said...

"I hope you're not reading my post to say meaning well makes it okay."

Ahem... yes, with my renowned keen ear for irony, I thought I detected a subtle note of sarcasm.

Sloanasaurus said...

If the leaker leaked the program because of government abuse, then they should get whistle blower protection. "Abuse" would be something about the program that was not told to members of Congress or not told to the Justice department, such as listening to domestic persons with no reasonable connection to terrorists.

On the other hand if the program was leaked because of a disagreement in policy or an argument that Bush (with approval from the AG and Justice) might be breaking the law, then the leaker and leakers should be prosecuted (unless they were instructed to leak by higher ups).

Whistleblowing protections do not apply to those who have policy disagreements.

ChrisO said...

APF: "The point that nothing has been damaged in terms of National Security, since we already presumed terrorists were being monitored, seems bizarre to me as well, unless one is to argue that all of our monitoring operations, procedures, etc might as well be out in the open (as opposed to classified secrets) in the first place;"

I don't follow the logic here. What has been revealed is quite limited, primarily that the Admiistration has been intercepting communications between suspected terrorists and other persons, perhaps US citizens, without obtaining warrants through FISA. The Administration contends that this information helps the terrorists. Are you saying that because I say the Administration's stance isn't logical, I'm somehow suggesting that none of our surveillance methods or activities should be classified? How did you make that leap?

John CO said...

As I understand it, there is a whistleblower protocol/option already established. I don't believe that the NYT is a part of that. Either the leaker did not have faith that the program would be sufficient to address the concerns, or a "bigger" reaction was desired, probably with a political motive.
Schumer stated:
''Or might it have been someone in the department who felt that this was wrong, legally wrong, that the law was being violated?''
Constitutional scholars postulate on various scenarios for the NSA program and how they affect its legality, without knowing enough about it specifically to get it nailed down, and the reasonable sounding ones are still in disagreement. At worst its in the grey, and anyone being intellectually honest cannot unequivocally state that the monitoring program was illegal or that Bush broke the law.
But someone took it upon himself to make that call and betray classified info to the press. No grey there. There were other options and the leaker opted for the illegal recourse and all the consequences that should entail.

Ann Althouse said...

Sloan: I'm not an expert on whistleblower laws but I don't see how they can authorize leaking classified information. Aren't they just supposed to protect a person from retaliation in the job?

michael a litscher said...

downtownlad: What offends me is that the Bush administration was not using the surveillance to monitor Al-Qaida. They were using it to monitor political enemies. They were using it to monitor campus groups that were against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

If these campus groups you write of were receiving communications from overseas Al-Qaida operatives, then yes. But if that's the case, then these campus groups are much more than just politial enemies - they'd be traitors.

But then, I think the kool-aid has affected your judgement, as the MSNBC report you cited didn't support any of the assertions you've made in this thread.

Sloanasaurus said...

Althouse, you may be right about the actual laws, however it would be bad politics to defend a leaker based on only "politics." I think in this case the politics will determine the vigor of any prosecution.

The leaker will be in real trouble if the congressional hearings do not find any abuses with the program.

Sloanasaurus said...

After looking into the matter it seems clear that there would never be a defense to leaking information to the NY times, even if the leaker is trying to report an abuse. Instead, the leaker should be leaking to other places in the gov with the same clearance (such as members of congress).

This seems to be a good rule, because a leaker can always be mistaken even if they have good intentions.

F15C said...

Two things. First, Mark wrote: "Deputy AG Comey refused to approve the program due to concerns about legality and oversight".

Comey approved the program after his concerns were addressed.

Second, providing classified information to the NY Times for publication is not being a whistleblower. There is a process for whistleblowing that involves the inspector general - not the press. That process protects both the national interests involved as well as the whistleblower.

Anyone truly caring about the national interest would utilize that process instead of going to the NY Times.

ToadLady said...

"Comey approved the program after his concerns were addressed."

Reference?

SteveR said...

Toadlady" Pete Williams on Hardball, look it up

F15C said...

Toadlady. Comey's approval (like the fact that the sun rises in the morning) is public knowledge. I suggest a tool called Google.

The point is context. When Mark writes that Comey did not approve the request without providing the context that after Comey's objections were addressed, he did approve, it is clear that Mark is either ill informed or stupidly disingenous. I'll opt for merely ill-informed.

However, Mark's attempt at setting a pejorative context around what was the execution of a thorough, deliberate, and to-be-expected approval process is somewhat suspect.

Had Comey and Ashcroft not deliberated on the request, raising issues to be addressed while doing so, then the left would be accusing them of slathering synchophantic allegiance to bushitler's agenda to take over the world.

A reasonable person sees two highly capable legal minds performing due dilligence over what we all know to be a significant request. That they did so is a very good thing - yet you'd never know it by listening to bush-is-the-root-of-all-evil crowd.

ChrisO said...

Hey SteveR

I actually spend a lot of time online trying to check my facts and not make unfounded assumptions when I comment. I spent some time on the Hardball site and can't find what you're talking about. Since you made the assertion, how about if you back it up? Telling others to do the research to support what you say is ridiculous.

SteveR said...

Chriso, you can link to a download of the video here.

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004202.htm

It actually happened, the fact that you couldn't find is ridiculous

michael a litscher said...

ChrisO: I spent some time on the Hardball site and can't find what you're talking about.

Williams schools Matthews

F15C said...

re: Hardball/Comey approval. First, I for one am shocked, just shocked that Hardball has not put Pete Williams straightening out of Chris Matthews front and center on their web page...

Anyway, here is the pertinent quote taken from Hardball video linked below (Pete Williams responding to Chris Matthews). One thing to look for on the video is the look on Matthews face and the pregnant pause by Matthews after Williams response - that alone is worth the 10MB download:

"There does appear to be something here where both deputy AG Comey and AG Ashcroft were concerned about technical aspects of it and concerned about how it was being carried out--the sort of pretext that the NSA needed to start monitoring someone.
But once those things were worked out, my understanding is from talking to current and former Justice Department officials that they then agreed to the program and one former associate of the deputy attorney general's said today that at one point Comey was among those officials urging the NY Times not to run the story, that he ultimately accepted the legal basis for the program after his initial objections were resolved."

http://www.streamload.com/michellemalkin/EL/JRRMRLX9E7/Matthews010206.wmv

F15C said...

Chriso: "I actually spend a lot of time online trying to check my facts and not make unfounded assumptions when I comment. I spent some time on the Hardball site and can't find what you're talking about. Since you made the assertion, how about if you back it up? Telling others to do the research to support what you say is ridiculous."

1. I, not SteveR, made the assertion - SteveR was kind enough to respond on my behalf in a concise and accurate manner.

2. You may need just a weensy bit more training on Internet based research. A quote and video was way too easy to find.

3. The irony of your post needs no reasearch.

Again though, the point is that the left is spewing half-truths and the facts about Ashcroft's and Comey's decision making process when considered in context and without bias does not show them 'reluctant' to support the request, merely that they did not make their decisions lightly. A reasonable person would believe that the two men's deliberation on the matter to be a good thing for the rule of law in this nation. They did their jobs and did them well from what I can tell.

ToadLady said...

"Toadlady. Comey's approval (like the fact that the sun rises in the morning) is public knowledge. I suggest a tool called Google."

Well, no, it isn't public knowledge, as I'm part of the public, and didn't know about it. I searched on Google several different ways and couldn't find the reference. I don't frequent Michelle Malkin, for reasons that are (to me) obvious.

Thank you for the video link of Pete Williams, but you could have posted it without being a prick.

ToadLady said...

Furthermore, that's Pete Williams' "understanding" of the situation from interviews with DOJ people. It's not a known fact, but you stateed it as such until I asked you for a reference.

So "liberals" are wrong for spewing half-truths, but it's OK for you to put something out there as fact that Pete Williams says we may learn is true?

ToadLady said...

P.S. the sun doesn't actually "rise". On that, liberals, conservatives and moderates can agree, no?

ChrisO said...

Hey f15c:

You are a condescending jerk. I know full well how to do Internet research. As I made very clear, I went to the Hardball website, spent a couple of minutes looking for it, then I was done, because I don't believe in spending my time researching points idiots like you make. I spend time substantiating my points, I'm not going to do your work for you. And since when is a statement by Pete Williams as sure a thing as the sun rising in the morning? You were being fundamentally dishonest by portraying the opinion of one person as incontrovertible fact, which is why you didn't want to provide a source.

What a dick.

F15C said...

Toadlady. Sorry if I ruffled your scales, I did not intend the statement to be hostile, just blunt. Honestly.

The 'public knowledge' reference is accurate in that I believe that to be the case, and clearly, I am not the only person with that knowledge. The information comes from easily found sources that are at least as reliable as any other in the matter at hand. Nothing personal, but I am not going to do your homework for you. If what I stated is untrue, show me and others here who might agree with me about Comey's approval, how that is so. But I did not cite, simply because I did not think it necessary.

Oh, yeh - about calling me a 'prick'. I haven't been called that since sixth grade. I find it kind of entertaining, in a 'blast-from-the-past', elementary school kind of way.

F15C said...

Chriso... You wrote (referring to yours truly): "You are a condescending jerk" and "...I don't believe in spending my time researching points idiots like you make. I spend time substantiating my points..." and last but not least, "What a dick".

Oh, how you do go on - but I'm afraid that flattery will get you nowhere...

You also go on about how wonderfully wonderful you are: "I know full well how to do Internet research. As I made very clear, I went to the Hardball website, spent a couple of minutes looking for it, then I was done,...".

And yes, even more from you, about you: "I actually spend a lot of time online trying to check my facts and not make unfounded assumptions when I comment".

So, it was your near god-like research skills that led you to call me a condescending jerk, an idiot, and a dick. Hmmm. Silly me. I thought that said name calling was just another example of that highly respected debate tactic, the ad hominem attack - a weak example yes - but still clearly ad hominem. "Unfounded assumptions" indeed.

One has to wonder though, just how long did you spend researching those particular names anyway? I hope it was more than the two whole minutes you spent on the Hardball website unsuccessfullly looking for the Matthews/Williams snippet...

Chriso, you go on and on and on (and on some more) about how skilled you are at research. Yet, bizarrely, you failed to even cite correctly from this very thread (ie. assigning to SteveR something I wrote), and compounding the damage, you tell us in clear terms of your inability to find a high traffic quote that is very cogent to the thread.

That, Chriso, is comical irony at its near-best. It is, in a word, hilarious.

At least have the brass to admit it because until you do, the comic irony will continue unabated - and my sides can't take much more.

ToadLady said...

That's weird, f15c - I just looked around for information on Comey and I found a boatload of evidence to support your position. But I won't spend a calorie to post the link, 'cause, you know - I don't want to do your homework for you.

F15C said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
F15C said...

Toadlady -- Glad to see you found the information on your own. You realize of course that had you simply done that in the first place, we could have avoided this entire little bit o' fun.

My point was, and is, I don't expect you to do my homework - nor am I going to do yours. The information was easily found and in my opinion, simply not a point of controversy. My posting the info I found would have - in my opinion - been like posting links showing that the sun rises.

So, your not posting the boatload of information you found is just swell. I could not possibly care less.

All this adds nothing to the issue here that Comey and his boss both seemed to perform their jobs well and did the right thing for the nation. I see no evidence otherwise. My original post was about Mark's post attempting to manipulate Comey's supposed "disapproval" to make a point. Mark's point was simply wrong and easily proven so.

ChrisO said...

f15c

I responded to stever because he's the one who posted that it was on Hardball, followed by the comment "look it up." Since my comment was about how the onus wasn't on toadlady or me to "look it up" I directed my comment to him. It's called reading comprehension. You should try it.

And my only comment about my research skills was to say that I know how to do Internet research. Seeing you portray my comments as crediting myself with "God-like" research skills makes it even clearer that your posts are to be taken with a grain of salt unless accompanied by cites. It's totally illogical to make a statement without attribution, then claim it's the job of your audience to prove it's not true. I guess that frees you up to make more condescending posts.

And by the way, if you read the current issue of Newsweek, they report that Comey did indeed refuse to go along with the plan, only agreeing after a prolonged battle and his being insulted by the President. Your statement that "his concerns were addressed" is hardly the whole story. But I forgot, your dissembling is for others to determine. You're above all that.

It's interesting that the only source that was pointed to for the Pete Williams story was Michelle Malkin's blog. I guess my mistake is that I tend to rely on fact-based sources for my research, so I don't spend a lot of time there.

And I'm sorry, but anyone who says "I suggest a tool called Google" is a dick.

ToadLady said...

F15C - oops, my mistake. The boatload of info actually proves that the "face on Mars" is authentic.

Back to the ole' grind. Sigh.