Friday, January 04, 2008

A year to go....

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm basking in a warm glow of hopefulness today. The Pennsylvania primaries remain a long way off - eons in campaign time - but no matter who you support, last night's Iowa caucus served as a reminder that George Bush won't be president forever. (Unless of course you're like some paranoid individuals, who believe that we are one "state of emergency" away from the suspension of elections. But really, what's to be paranoid about?)

So as Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction, "Let's not go sucking ..." OK, you remember the line. And it ain't over yet.

Dan Froomkin reports in the Washington Post on President Bush's top priority for 2008. (Before you read any further, close your eyes and try to guess what that is.) Yup, you got it: "Permanent expansion of government spy powers, including retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that assisted in warrantless surveillance."

For a lame duck president, Bush certainly has lofty goals. As Froomkin says
In short, it's a historic battle over the future of the country as a surveillance state.

There are those who question the risk inherent in the Executive Branch's mission of expansion of powers and its ability to operate outside constitutionally established checks and balances. Those individuals should take a look at what the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes, an issue only recently revealed, meant to the 9/11 commission and the war on terrorism.

In a powerfully worded New York Times op-ed piece, the 9/11 commission's chairman and vice chairman on Wednesday blasted the White House and the CIA for hindering their investigation.

As Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton wrote
Our role was to investigate the history and evolution of Al Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. Beginning in June 2003, we requested all reports of intelligence information on these broad topics that had been gleaned from the interrogations of 118 named individuals, including both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two senior Qaeda operatives, portions of whose interrogations were apparently recorded and then destroyed.

The C.I.A. gave us many reports summarizing information gained in the interrogations. But the reports raised almost as many questions as they answered. Agency officials assured us that, if we posed specific questions, they would do all they could to answer them.

The op-ed further said that White House counsel rejected their attempts to directly interview detainees and never mentioned that videotapes existed.
As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.'s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.

Lauri in York

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