Posthumous America: Spies, Lies and a Republic in Ruins

Good story in the NYT today about the pathetic ineffectiveness of Bush's illegal wiretap program in fighting terrorism – the ostensible reason offered for the scheme. But the story completely ignores what has rapidly become the most important aspect of this scandal (aside from its inherent – and impeachable – illegality): the fact that Bush ordered the illegal, warrantless, widespread wiretapping of American citizens MONTHS BEFORE the September 11 attacks, as the ever-intrepid Jason Leopold revealed last week: Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11.

Leopold's bombshell has yet to penetrate the cotton-packed ears of the mainstream media – even though it gives the lie to Bush's only "defense": the threadbare falsehood that Congress' Sept. 14th authorization for him to deal with the Sept. 11 attackers was a blank check "Enabling Act" allowing him to circumvent any law that might conflict with this mandate. As any sentient being knows, this argument is a great big crock of Crawford cowflop – so naturally, we will soon have long, detailed and utterly pointless Senate hearings into the matter, which will doubtless end with a Congressional surrender to the dictator's whim, albeit with a bit of harrumphing and tut-tutting to save face.

But Leopold has the "smoking gun" evidence that Bush's spy program had nothing at all to do with 9/11 – since it began days after Bush took office in January 2001. It also demolishes Dick Cheney's shameless – and shameful – propaganda ploy: claiming that the program "could have prevented the attacks on 9/11" if only it had been in place beforehand. Well, now we know, Dick: it was in place beforehand, and it didn't prevent the attacks on 9/11, did it?

What's more, Leopold reveals that Bush did not tell Congressional leaders about the  program when it began: it was carried out, at his express order, without any judicial or legislative oversight whatsoever.

The evidence is irrefutable: Bush ordered and carried out a program of espionage against the citizens of the United States in defiance of the law, the Constitution, and the will of Congress. This is a high crime. This is, in fact, high treason. He should be impeached, indicted and brought to trial.

But you know and I know that this will never happen. The American Establishment – political, financial, journalistic – will, in the end, countenance this high crime, just as they have countenanced the horrific crimes of mass murder and international aggression in Iraq. Bush has called the Establishment's bluff – and whether this was an act of cool cunning by a high-riding tyrant or, as the estimable Steve Gilliard insists, a wild throw of desperation by a weak and stupid man, it doesn't really matter: it becomes more obvious every day that the Establishment has no stomach for a fight. The rot has gone too deep. The institutional elites will not stand up for the Republic; they have betrayed and abandoned it, content to hold on to their own pockets of power and privilege.

We are now a posthumous generation, living in the gutted, burned-out ruins of our ancestors' mansion. This is a new, unprecedented reality: a post-Revolutionary, post-democracy America. We're on our own now, "with no direction home;" we'll have to find some kind of different path, new ways of confronting and reshaping this dark reality. It would be much better, infinitely better, if it were not so; but it is so. "The weight of this sad time we must obey; speak what we feel, not what we ought to say."

Below are some excerpts from Leopold's sterling work:

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

James Risen, author of the book State of War and credited with first breaking the story about the NSA's domestic surveillance operations, said President Bush personally authorized a change in the agency's long-standing policies shortly after he was sworn in in 2001.

"The president personally and directly authorized new operations, like the NSA's domestic surveillance program, that almost certainly would never have been approved under normal circumstances and that raised serious legal or political questions," Risen wrote in the book. "Because of the fevered climate created throughout the government by the president and his senior advisers, Bush sent signals of what he wanted done, without explicit presidential orders" and "the most ambitious got the message."

The declassified report says that the "Director of the National Security Agency is obligated by law to keep Congress fully and currently formed of intelligence activities." But that didn't happen.