Those who wouldn’t be bought couldn’t touch him because of his diplomatic status. They couldn’t even touch his men.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Holds a Hearing on Wartime Executive Power and the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Authority
Part II of IV is the transcript from the hearings, Glenn Greenwald is blogging the procedings and notes, A Catch-22 for the Administration

If there is one thing which Americans likely have ingested from the Administration’s defense of itself in this scandal, it is that the only calls subject to warrantless surveillance are international. It would be a huge blow to the Administration if it turns out, as Gonzales is clearly implying, that there are other programs which entail warrantless surveillance of purely domestic communications.

Glenn goes quite a bit into the doubletalk and carefully crafted sentax that says something without saying much of anything. It is pretty shocking that the administration seems to be saying that they are only scooping up intel on international communications in one program thus excluding domestic communications. This would imply that shockingly the administration is not putting any suspected domestic terrorists under watch or they have another program which they’re pretty sure is legal, but super secret and may or may not be legal, that they can’t talk about. They’ve backed themselves into a corner. In order to reassure their base if nothing else, they may end up to leaking details of any domestic program to ease concerns that Bush is putting domestic suspects under surveillance. It could well be that there isn’t much in the way domestic terrorist’s activities.

Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well.

That would dissappoint the exploit fear for electorial advantage crowd. It would also give quite a bit of credibility to those that think Bush’s efforts have been unfocused and unorganized, after all Iraq was partly sold as the front in the war on terror, super sized flypaper that would attract and snare all the world’s Islamic terrorists. Iraq turned out to be more like a tar pit that has had no impact on reducing terrorism so if it turns out that Bush’s program(s) turns out to be more fluff then substance, what kind of creative reality management do we have to look forward to.

Former CIA agent Larry Johnson asks:

And who is the person Bush has put in charge of finding Bin Laden? I don’t know and neither does the Administration. No one has been put in charge of this supposedly important task.

Bush’s preference to play politics with terrorism rather than achieve concrete results is underscored by the “news” released today of a 2002 plot to fly a plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. The White House is leaving the impression that this plot was uncovered thanks to the illegal domestic spying program. That is bunk.

If the United States did discover such a plot was underway thanks to listening in on conversations not covered by FISA—conversations in which specific terrorists met with Bin Laden in 2002—then I have one question. Why didn’t we get Bin Laden? He disappeared after escaping from Tora Bora in December 2001. Is President Bush now saying that we took people into custody through intercepts in 2002 who knew the whereabouts of Bin Laden? Or, are they saying, these guys met with Bin Laden in 2001, before we started our offensive in Afghanistan, and were later apprehended? If the domestic spying op was really generating “actionable” intelligence, then where are the terrorist scalps?

As you may remember James Comey, a Bush appointee to the DoJ, Palace Revolt – he was one of the principled conservatives that questioned the cult of Cheney-Bush that pushed for unbridled executive power,

These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president’s eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

Comey may be the one that knocks the nonresponse response strategy off its rails.

SPECTER: It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith and other people, but I sought to leave the record with the agreement of the attorney general to bring in former Attorney General Ashcroft.

SCHUMER: Mr. Chairman, I respect that. I think others are important as well.

But I want to get to the issue of privilege here.

SPECTER: I’m not saying they aren’t important. I’m just saying, what’s the best way to get them here?

SCHUMER: OK. Well, whatever way we can, I’d be all for.

On privilege — because that’s going to be the issue, even if they come here, as I’m sure you will acknowledge, Mr. Chairman — I take it you’d have no problem with them talking about their general views on the legality of this program, just as you are talking about those; not to go into the specific details of what happened back then, but their general views on the legality of these programs.

SCHUMER: Do you have any problem with that?

GONZALES: General views of the program that the president has confirmed, Senator, that’s — again, if we’re talking about the general views of the…

SCHUMER: I just want them to be able to testify as freely as you’ve testified here, because it wouldn’t be fair if you’re an advocate of administration policies, you have one set of rules and if you’re an opponent or a possible opponent of administration policies, you have another set of rules. That’s not unfair, is it?

If either Comey or Goldsmith say they were briefed about the surveillance program(s) and expressed reservations and the reasons for those reservations, Cheney-Bush have some real problems. Even conservatives that support the president will have a choice to make, either temper that support or imply they do not support the rule of law. Senate Bush supporters could say that Bush said he knew what he was doing, we trusted him, its not our fault he was in over his head yelling about about falling skies. One can look down the road at these Bush backers evisioning their re-election opponents political ads looped a dozen times a day saying this Senator stood up for President Loose Cannon at the expense of the founding principles of the nation.

via War and Piece, “Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classified Information.” and the Murray Wass link

You have to admit this doesn’t do much for the White House’s case that we should just trust them on the NSA warrantless domestic spying all going for a legitimate, non-politicized cause, you know?

Trust and issues of general character certainly enter into any discussion of national security. If these wankers were petty enough to start a vindictive campaign against an administration critic, then try and cover it up, should America just throw up its hands and give them unchecked authority to run any kind of domestic spying they want in any way they see fit. TalkLeft has more . While I was visiting I noticed this about the Patriot Act, Patriot Act Agreement: It’s Capitulation, Not a Deal

Issue secret intelligence orders for any tangible thing, including library or medical records, if the government can show only “relevance” to terrorism. The target does not have to be suspected of any wrongdoing;

Permanently gag Americans even after they have turned over their most personal information;

Search private homes and not give notice to the resident for a month, or even longer – all for the convenience of law enforcement;

Collect and keep personal data in databases indefinitely, including library, financial and medical records.

Has it begun to dawn on small government conservatives that their party has been hijacked by big government conservatives.

some good earth images, The Earth by way of Traveling Through The Wire

An acclaimed Spanish novelist offers quirky portraits of famous writers

It’s difficult to be moderate about the charm of these brief portraits of Rimbaud, Turgenev, Rilke, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Robert Louis Stevenson, Isak Dinesen, Djuna Barnes and a dozen other literary eminences. “The one thing that leaps out when you read about these authors,” writes the acclaimed Spanish novelist Javier Marías, “is that they were all fairly disastrous individuals; and although they were probably no more so than anyone else whose life we know about, their example is hardly likely to lure one along the path of letters.” That wry sense of amusement characterizes Marías’s approach. Though he acknowledges the artistic greatness of his chosen writers, he prefers to point out and relish their personal oddities, all those quirks, eccentricities and obsessions that make them neurotically and sometimes pitiably human.

“There’s somebody up there,” the fat man said. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from this face. “Pjotr. Nikita. Go get them.”

Vasya Varvarinski leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and sighed. He could handle the cops. They were no problem. Those who wouldn’t be bought couldn’t touch him because of his diplomatic status. They couldn’t even touch his men. He provided them with the same security. The occasional raid was no problem either. He had greased enough palms on the force to be forewarned most of the time. The rest were the usual calculated risk of doing business.

Until that damned Midnight Sentinel had decided to declare war on Vasya’s operation. The vigilante seemed to know exactly where to strike, and when. As if he had insider information.

And that message he always told his men to give to Vasya: “Be afraid of the dark.”

By now, he was.

He almost had a heart attack when a body crashed through the panorama window. Vasya didn’t immediately identify the unconscious body as Nikita, but he did recognize him just before the lights went out.

The dark-clad man was silhouetted by the moon. He stepped into the room, broken glass crunching under his feet.

Vasya reached under his coat. He felt the grip of his Glock and pulled it out of its holster. Before he could aim it at the intruder, the dark man slapped it out of his hand.

from Diplomatic Impunity
A Midnight Sentinel Adventure By Jens H. Altmann