Bush tried his best today to change the subject on the NSA spying scandal. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. If he tried to get his message across unpersuasively and unconvincingly he just changes the rationale a bit and comes back with more baloney. So the new baloney is–the domestic spying program wasn’t that at all. It was a “terrorist surveillance” program.
This is rich in light of the New York Times recent story quoting FBI and other intelligence sources as saying that of the hundreds or thousands of leads developed by NSA through this program, no source could remember a single one that flushed out a terror suspect. In other words, this is how many terrorists were “surveilled” and discovered by the program: zero, zip nada, nuthin’. Bush claims that Iyman Faris’ alleged plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches (I always love writing that phrase because the concept itself is so preposterous–and keep in mind that Faris himself abandoned the plan telling his Al Qaeda connections that it was unlikely to succeed). But the Times story raised questions about whether the NSA wiretapping played a significant role in the case:
By the administration’s account, the NSA eavesdropping helped lead investigators to Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver and friend of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Faris spoke of toppling the Brooklyn Bridge by taking a torch to its suspension cables, but concluded that it would not work. He is now serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison.
But as in the London fertilizer bomb case, some officials with direct knowledge of the Faris case dispute that the N.S.A. information played a significant role.
Given Bush’s fraudulent and deceitful campaign to gin up support for the war in Iraq, would you prefer to believe him or the “officials with direct knowledge of the Faris case” referenced above? Keep in mind that these are probably senior FBI intelligence officials who are directly refuting their president and vice-president.
Here’s the kicker, though, of Bush’s speech (NPR story–audio) today at Kansas State University:
I’m mindful of civil liberties–so I had all kinds a lawyers review the process. We briefed members of United States Congress, one of whom was Senator Pat Roberts, about this program. You know it’s amazing to me people will say to me: “You know he’s just breakin’ the law.” If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefin’ Congress?
I do understand that at a Bush event in Kansas his threshold of credibility is going to be pretty low. He’s not going to feel he needs to do a whole helluva lot to persuade his audience of his argument. But even at Kansas State, the ones he used were outrageously pathetic. Vetting the NSA with “all kinds of” government lawyers guarantees–what? That you’ve received a full, candid and unbiased legal opinion? Horsecrap.
And his last sentence really takes the cake. Because Dick Cheney snarled at a few members of Congress for a few minutes at a so-called briefing without revealing any significant information about the NSA program–that’s consulting Congress? We all know from those briefed themselves (some of whom complained to Cheney directly) that they felt they could make no judgments about the program based on the paltry information provided by Cheney and his spooks. I view those briefings as a form of plausible deniability. They had them precisely in the event of this type of scandal erupting so they could defend themselves by saying they did the right thing. When in reality, the briefing was an empty shell.
Try again, Mr. President/Energizer Bunny. This attempt fell flat on its face.