mardi, juin 27, 2006

At war with liberty

WASHINGTON, June 26 — President Bush on Monday condemned as "disgraceful" the disclosure last week by The New York Times and other newspapers of a secret program to investigate and track terrorists that relies on a vast international database that includes Americans' banking transactions.
The remarks were the first in public by Mr. Bush on the issue, and they came as the administration intensified its attacks on newspapers' handling of it. In a speech in Nebraska on Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly criticized The Times by name, while Treasury Secretary John W. Snow dismissed as "incorrect and offensive" the rationale offered by the newspaper's executive editor for the decision to publish.
"Congress was briefed," Mr. Bush said. "And what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America."
The New York Times, followed by The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, began publishing accounts of the program on Thursday evening. New York Times

Remember Henry II's famous words about his former friend and Archbishop, the soon to be martyred Thomas Becket- "will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest"? As far as I can tell, nobody at the New York Times qualifies for martyrdom (yet), but if the Administration succeeds in its attack upon the "Grey Lady" then the editors and reporters who broke this story do deserve a special place in pantheon of First Amendment champions. In a democratic system, there is a tendency, when one element is completely out of whack, to try to find homeostasis, or balance. In prosecuting a "war on terror" (with no end), the Bush Administration apparently thinks that it is completely above the law. There are legitimate legal questions about the NSA eavesdropping program. That's probably the more frightening one. Given that the details are only now emerging, who knows if the program to survey the banking records of millions of Americans was legal? George and Dick and their colleagues have tried, with an activist way of governing that puts the Warren Court to shame, to create new legal fictions that allow them unquestioned freedom. What seems most infuriating to them is that they were discovered. One delicious irony in the banking case is that the Wall Street Journal, the bastion of conservative editorial thought, also broke the story. If the Times goes down, the Journal will be up there in the dock with it. Apparently some legal scholars don't think the administration, and its fanatical cronies on Capitol Hill, can make a good case for prosecution under the Espionage Act. It would almost be worth it to see them try, so that we can begin strengthening the boundaries around a group of compulsive men who act as though they were despots, not democrats.

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