That's the only way to describe the length and breadth of spin and outright dishonesty found in today's column by "National Security Correspondent" Jack Kelly.
I will do my best to point out the deceptions point-by-point. He starts out with this:
In an audiotape broadcast Thursday on al Jazeera, Osama bin Laden said al-Qaida is preparing to strike the United States again.First off, there are so many subtle insinuations to that last sentence that I barely know where to begin. The calls for impeachment are to stop Bush from stopping terrorism? Am I going too far a field to wonder whether in Commando Kelly's mind, he thinks that anyone who protests the administration's assault on the rule of law is helping out the terrorists? This is just too silly to contemplate. How long until the subtle covert accusations become loud and overt? Here, I'll start:
Last month Italian authorities arrested three Algerians with al-Qaida connections. They were plotting attacks on ships, railway stations and stadiums in the United States, said Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu.
Some Democrats think President Bush should be impeached for trying to keep them from succeeding.
Anyone criticizing Bush and/or the war on terror is doing nothing but helping the terrorists and anyone who helps the terrorists should be locked up as a traitor.But what of those three Algerians? Turns out that they are members of a group called GSPC. It's a terrorist which aims to overthrow the Algerian government. Recently it's expanded its terrorism to Europe. So no doubt these are nasty guys. But Kelly, by placing one sentence after the other, implies that the plans that bin laden describes are the plans that the three Algerians were arrested for. Is this true or is it another post hoc fallacy? Kelly is hoping you see the connection that he doesn't offer any real evidence for. Is Osama bin laden no longer using al-qaeda to attack the United States? Is he now directing the GSPC to do his dirty work? Kelly doesn't say.
But the implication is there. Bin laden says there are plans, these guys "with al-qaeda connections" were arrested while plotting, so therefore the GSPC plots must've been the plans that bin laden was talking about! And if only the traitorous Democrats would stop hounding Bush, he'd be able to win this war!
In any event, this is not Kelly's main argument - it's just the insulting teaser. Take a look at the next paragraph:
In a speech Monday remarkable (even for him) for its bombast and hypocrisy, former Vice President Al Gore accused the president of having violated the law when he authorized the National Security Agency to listen in, without warrants, on conversations between al-Qaida suspects abroad and people in the United States.Notice Kelly's description of the NSA program. It is to "listen in, without warrants, on conversations between al-Qaida suspects abroad and people in the United States."
Notice he used the word "people" and not the phrase "American citizens" or "U.S. persons" (the legal term). "People" can be anyone, from your Aunt Bertha to Charles Manson to the guy running across the Arizona desert from Mexico. Again, Kelly's spinning the program just a little to make it into something it's not.
In any event, the accusation is correct. Bush did violate the law when he authorized the NSA to listen in. But Kelly is just setting us up for another Clinton attack (you know, I used to count how many paragraphs it took Kelly to blame it all on Bill Clinton. In some columns Clinton never surfaces, this one only takes six paragraphs for it to happen). Here it is:
"A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government," Mr. Gore declared.And after the oblique reference to Clinton's perjury (where he was impeached for breaking the law), we get to the heart of Kelly's column: Echelon.
I don't recall him uttering such sentiments when President Clinton committed perjury.
Those were just "lies about sex." But I also don't recall Mr. Gore complaining about Echelon, a much broader electronic intercept program begun in the Clinton administration, when we were not at war.
Conservatives nation-wide have been playing the "Echelon card" for sometime now. Kelly even asserts that it's a program started in the Clinton Administration. But it isn't exactly what Kelly says it is. Let's take a look.
The Echelon story from the rightwing almost always references a piece done by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes in late February 2000. Here's a transcript. (For giggles, I want you to search for the part of the story about Margaret Newsham. She's quoted as saying that she heard Senator Strom Thurman's voice via Echelon. The piece also says she worked on the system in 1979. Message to Jack Kelly: If the system was in place in 1979, it wasn't started in the Clinton Administration.)
Back to Echelon. Too bad that Medal of Freedom recipient and former CIA director George Tenet had this to say to Congress in April of 2000 to current CIA head Porter Goss' congressional committee:
There have been recent allegations that the Intelligence Community through NSA has improperly directed our SIGINT capabilities against the private conversations of US persons. That is not the case.Did you catch that? He said they were adhering to the FISA statues. The Other Political Junkie mentioned this in a comment about a month ago. Too bad, if Jack Kelly actually read this blog more consistently, he would have saved himself the humiliation of looking like a right-wing idiot.
There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we—the CIA, the NSA and the FBI—scrupulously adhere to whenever the conversations of US persons are involved—directly or indirectly.
We do not collect against US persons unless they are agents of a foreign power, as that term is defined in law. We do not target their conversations for collection in the United States unless a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant has been obtained from the FISA court by the Justice Department. And we do not target their conversations for collection overseas unless Executive Order 12333 has been followed and the Attorney General has personally approved collection.
And then there's Michael V. Hayden's testimony on the same day. The Introduction:
The National Security Agency (NSA) performs electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information for the military and policymakers. As the Director of Central Intelligence noted, NSA provides valuable intelligence to U.S. government consumers on a wide range of issues of concern to all Americans, such as international terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. NSA’s electronic surveillance activities are subject to strict regulation by statute1 and Executive Order2 due to the potential intrusiveness and the implications for the privacy of U.S. persons3 of these activities. NSA’s electronic surveillance activities are also subject to oversight from multiple bodies within all three branches of the government. These safeguards have ensured that NSA is operating within its legal authority.The "strict regulation by statute" that Hayden mentions? The FISA statute.
Anyway, Hayden also referenced Excutive Order 12333 in 2000:
There are certain restrictions imposed by E.O. 12333 upon all intelligence collection activities engaged in by the Executive Branch agencies. Intelligence collection must be conducted in a manner “consistent with the Constitution and applicable law and respectful of the principles upon which the United States was founded.” (Sec. 2.1). These include the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Intelligence collection must not be undertaken to acquire information concerning the domestic activities of U.S. persons. (Sec. 2.3(b)). The least intrusive collection techniques feasible must be used in the United States or against U.S. persons located abroad. (Sec. 2.4). Finally, agencies in the Intelligence Community are prohibited from having other parties engage in activities forbidden by the Executive Order on their behalf. (Sec. 2.12) This means that NSA can not ask another country to illegally spy on U.S. persons on our behalf, and we do not.Hmm. So, unless Michael Hayden and George Tenet were lying to Congress about what their respective intelligence agencies were doing with Echelon, just about everything that Jack Kelly and other conservatives said about it is false.
But I found out this stuff in a few hours on my own. Jack Kelly has a computer (probably a better one than mine) and Internet access (again, probably faster than mine) so he should have been able to find this stuff. If he didn't bother, he's incompetent. If he did find it and omitted it from his column, he's as dishonest as the day is long.
Which do you think it is?