Dylan Cormack

Well, it’s happening again. Remember Ed Meese? Remember Ronald Regan? Fuck, man. The gall of the administration in power to lie to our faces is more and more unprecedented every day, and that’s not saying little. These guys lie and cheat and steal and rape and pillage at every turn, and statistically, even YOU can’t be bothered to care.

And that’s the way it is. Isn’t that nuts?

And that’s not even what irks me the most or what drives other, less-restrained lunatics to drive hammers through windshields or the offices of Comcast. No, no. It’s that they do it so tactlessly, blatantly, for the record. They’re not lying to get away with it; they know they will. They’re lying because that’s next on the agenda.

Let me illustrate with a transcript of the questioning of the current attorney general, Mike Mukasey in connection with the allegedly illegal wiretapping of US Citizens without a FISA court approval. Magic that the Congress is actually taking this on, but are they really? Or are appearances just what’s next on the agenda? You decide:

By the way, I recognize that some of my readers may need a little background. FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It’s an act from 1978 that says that there are special courts that can make a judgment about whether US citizens can have wiretaps planted on them. The provisions were enacted to prevent an abuse of power by the executive branch after the Watergate investigations revealed the nature of some of the data collection methods used on American citizens. Imagine that: checks and balances. Brilliant.

Allegedly, President Bush first tried to circumvent the FISA thing by getting rid of the act, sort of. When that didn’t work, he would’ve simply ignored them completely. This is what the former attorney general, what’s-his-name, Alberto Gonzalez went to see a sick man in the hospital about (the then attorney general, John Ashcroft): to try to get him to say it wasn’t so. Now the senate is looking into this.

Incidentally, here is some more background before the schpeal:

  • Article II powers are those specified explicitly in Article II of the constitution, which describes the office of President of the United States. Listed among these powers is NOT the ability to change laws as he sees fit.

  • Arlen Specter is a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, and is the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Mike Mukasy is the current attorney general. For those that don’t know, the attorney general is like, the ultimate interpreter of the law in the executive branch. He knows his American Law. Or at least, he should.

Ok. Here it is. You judge and decide:

SPECTER: Is there a legitimate argument that the President has Article II powers to undertake such conduct?

MUKASEY: There are a number of concepts in your question, including whether he has authority to undertake torture. Torture as you know is now unlawful under American law. I can’t contemplate any situation where this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.

SPECTER: Well, he did just that in violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He did just that in disregarding the express mandate of the National Security Act to notify the intelligence committees, didn’t he?

MUKASEY:I think we are now in a situation where [that issue] had been brought within statutes, and that’s the procedure going forward.

SPECTER: That’s not the point. The point is that he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he?

MUKASEY: I don’t know whether he acted in violation of statutes.

SPECTER: Well, didn’t he act in violation of FISA? Expressly mandates you have to go to a court to get an order for wiretapping. There’s really no dispute about that, is there?

MUKASEY: It required an order with regard to wire communications, when that was a surrogate for foreign communications — for domestic communications. When foreign communications became something that traveled by wire.

SPECTER: I’m not talking about foreign communications. I’m talking about wiretapping U.S. citizens in the United States. Terrorist Surveillance Program undertook to do that. Well, not getting very far there, let me move on to…

Three things are particularly jolting about this exchange. Firstly it’s that the question is never answered. Secondly it’s that in liu of an answer, Mukasey is given reign to spit talking points that might, to a dumb enough person, make him and the administration look like saints. Thirdly, is the ever-shrinking size of Arlen Specter’s balls that he lets this guy get away with all of this gibberish with a wave of the hand, a “pssshhhh, I’m not getting very far here, let’s move on”…

What? You’re a senator. You own the floor. You’re the chair of the fucking judiciary committee. You have time… no, you MUST take the time to fish it out of this guy; in there, you OWN him. Fucking make it work, Specter. Jesus.

Now, if you’ll permit me (and you will, because it’s MY blog) I’ll go over that again, this time interspersing my comments within the text of the script. If you’re already tired of this instead of so furious you’re ears are burning and your neck might explode, feel free to stop reading and not vote at all. This is clearly not for you.

SPECTER: Is there a legitimate argument that the President has Article II powers to undertake such conduct?

MUKASEY: There are a number of concepts in your question, including whether he has authority to undertake torture (what? who said anything about torture? Mukasey is throwing this in to divert attention from the question). Torture as you know is now unlawful under American law (not that anyone seems to mind that). I can’t contemplate any situation where this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.

SPECTER: Well, he did just that in violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He did just that in disregarding the express mandate of the National Security Act to notify the intelligence committees, didn’t he? (note: a direct question)

MUKASEY:I think we are now in a situation where [that issue] had been brought within statutes, and that’s the procedure going forward (you’re not crazy or unintelligent: that last sentence did NOT make sense. This is no accident and is actually quite easy to do. Watch: it’s a matter of unparalleled precedent, sir, to invoke the quantitative acts put forth by the 101st congress that will ensure the continuity of this moment in history. The terrorists would be delighted if we did nothing with respect to the aforementioned invocation and besides, think of the children! Are you against the children or for the terrorists, Senator? See how easy that was?).

SPECTER: That’s not the point. The point is that he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he? (note: another direct question. Also note that the previous direct question has not been answered and yet nobody has called him on it. This is important)

_MUKASEY: I don’t know whether he acted in violation of statutes. **(keep in mind he’s the attorney general; if he doesn’t know, no one does. Also keep in mind that there’s no reason not to know, and that it’s his JOB to know, and that in all honesty, he DOES know and we all know that he KNOWS.)

**

SPECTER: Well, didn’t he act in violation of FISA? Expressly mandates you have to go to a court to get an order for wiretapping. There’s really no dispute about that, is there? (very direct question, and simple, too.)_

MUKASEY: It required an order with regard to wire communications, when that was a surrogate for foreign communications — for domestic communications (these guys suck at keeping the record clear). When foreign communications became something that traveled by wire. (that wasn’t even a complete sentence)

SPECTER: I’m not talking about foreign communications. I’m talking about wiretapping U.S. citizens in the United States. Terrorist Surveillance Program undertook to do that. (here it comes… he’s going to condemn him…) Well, not getting very far there, let me move on to…

***

(… again… WHAT? You’re going to stop there? Who’s paying you to do THAT?)

uuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhhhh.

I don’t know what to do anymore.


Let’s talk about security for a second because at least that’s far enough away from the primaries that I’ll keep the vomitus in. Hidden by the cloud of musty knee-jerk journalism that is draped over other matters, I’ve been reading some miscellaneous articles concerning the new government bureau that is actually hated more than the IRS: the TSA.

Now, the ineptitude of the TSA are numerous as they are nonsensical. Any one who’s ever passed through airport security knows this with no need for background knowledge. But you can’t weasel it out of anyone in charge because… well, because one of the reasons they’re in charge is because they won’t say anything about how it works. That’s what keeps them in charge. Frustrating.

But they keep their operatives in check by rigorous testing, they say, and here I think an interesting point can be made. According to TSA records as partially verified by CNN (not that they hold much credibility with me, but let’s roll with this for now), the standards are rigorous and the testing is often.

Ok. So the testing is good… let’s assume that much. Now let’s talk about what’s real and what’s not: failure rates and false positives.

I might’ve written about this before, but in any case, let me summarize. Some people will argue that catching 1 terrorist in a population of 1 million makes the whole operation worth it. Good for them. Let’s assume, then, that the rate of false negatives is 0%, which it isn’t in real life, not by a long shot: just look at how many guns, swords, components and all kinds of other things that could be potentially dangerous but aren’t get past the net. But let’s assume it is.

That’s not the whole equation. You have to look at the rate of false positives as well, because that will come up much more frequently, and will ultimately disrupt your security system much more. Any disruption in the normal flow of the system will make it more vulnerable during the time it takes to get back on track. So you may catch 1 terrorist in a population of 1 million, but if you’re busy stopping people with toothpaste, water bottles, nail clippers, or even box cutters to the point that the majority of the people you question are released, then chances are you’ve let actual threats through while investigating the wrong targets.

In other words, if you’re spending time catching people who are not a threat, that’s time and resources taken away from catching people who are a threat.

It’s been previously reported that the rate of false positives in the TSA borders around 99 to 99.9%. The TSA might even be good at what they do: but they’re still doing the wrong thing the wrong way.

As a supplement, here is an article by Bruce Schneier that sums up a related theory nicely:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/01/security_vs_pri.html

By now you should be coming to the sad realization that a lot of the money we pay into our taxes is either swallowed up by corrupt interests or else largely thrown straight into the toilet.

…yeah.


https://facebook.com/dylan.cormack.1 Dylan Cormack

Dylan is our political correspondent, bold and fiery as his fuse is short. He is a well-read, on-location kind of writer and is no stranger to travel. Intimately familiar with many distant and dark corners of the Earth, Dylan brings a new kind of blood to his vicious style of journalism. He sends us his words, notes and effusive rants of observation, commentary and occasional judgement.

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