Sunday, August 13, 2006

Foiled Terrorist Plot Doesn't Help Republicans

Dick Cheney and others in the G.O.P. (which, for all intents and purposes, includes Joe Lieberman), are trying to use the recently-foiled, alleged terrorist plot for partisan gain. According to them, Connecticut Democrats who voted against Lieberman last week are America-hating, terrorist-supporting surrender monkeys. The G.O.P. is blanketing the nation with the message that Democrats -- who keep suggesting that Bush obtain warrants before prying into Americans' private lives in violation of the Fourth Amendment -- oppose policies like the ones that foiled the recent terrorist plot. I suppose that means policies such as Bush's illegal domestic surveillance programs.

Only one problem with that message: The British investigation didn't come across this plot through the wiretapping and datamining of millions of people. The British uncovered this plot because of a tip. In Britain, the authorities don't have to present a court with probable cause in order to obtain a wiretapping warrant. But in America, a tip like this would be all the probable cause a court would need to allow surveillance without violating the Fourth Amendment.

Far from rationalizing the White House's illegal surveillance programs, the thwarting of this alleged terror plot demonstrates why such illegal programs are unnecessary.

7 comments:

Gail said...

If you don't mind me getting up on my soapbox, I want to add that spying on Americans against the law is never necessary. Courts almost never refuse a request for a wiretapping warrant, and when they do, that's because the request wasn't proper. It's worked for centuries and I see no reason to change that just because President Bush says we should. I think when a President gets to be above the law and more powerful than the other branches of government, that's when he becomes a dictator. We can't let this President set us down that road, as Sandra Day O'Connor said.

-Gail (formerly Republican) Williams
Omaha

Paul said...

First off, that was a beautiful Frank and Ernest tribute yesterday. Well done.

Washington Post reported a tip from a member of the local Muslim community. Baltimore Sun and others said the tip came from Pakistani authorities. Guess it depends which wire service they subscribe to - or, it could have been a tip from a community member, forwarded to the authorities, sent on to Pakistan, who then (Baltimore Sun) reported back that they had two or three suspects providing information.

Well, if the Pakistani authorities provided info from people in custody, it's a safe bet the interrogation didn't go along the lines of "will you please tell us what you know? You want a lawyer? Sure. Would you like a Coca-cola while you're waiting for him to arrive?" ('cause you can be sure the attorney wouldn't be female). No, these sources of information would likely have been tortured. Not coerced interrogations like the Americans do (sleep deprivation, loud music, barking dogs, etc) but brutal torture. So much for the mantra torture never works (doesn't on fishing expeditions, does when the person is known to have specific information). So isn't that troubling, that this plot was likely broken up because people were tortured?

Go further - if there had been no tip from a troubled Muslim citizen - or if the Pakistani authorities hadn't rounded up some people and gotten the information - how would the plot have been revealed? One wire service stated several of the plotters (UK citizens) placed telephone calls to people in the US. Would this have been flagged by the NSA wiretap program? Who knows. But, absent the tip, it is possible that would be one of the only chances to stop the attacks.

Regards the earlier comment - "President above the law" - the legality of illegality of the wiretap program is open to debate. Legal scholars are on both sides. That's why there's a legislative branch (who were briefed on the program, later protests notwithstanding) and a judicial branch, who would have heard the case. Slogans are all fine and well, but the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding handling of terrorist suspects shows that the system is working just fine and no person, office, or branch is "above the law."

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the phrase "America-hating, terrorist-supporting, surrender monkeys" anywhere in that article. Nor have I ever heard the phrase "surrender monkey" used.

Darrin Bell said...

...Which might explain why there were no quotation marks around that phrase.

Darrin Bell said...

Paul, thanks for the compliment about the tribute to Bob Thaves.

In response to your post:

"Well, if the Pakistani authorities provided info from people in custody, it's a safe bet the interrogation didn't go along the lines of "will you please tell us what you know? You want a lawyer? Sure. Would you like a Coca-cola while you're waiting for him to arrive?" ('cause you can be sure the attorney wouldn't be female). No, these sources of information would likely have been tortured. Not coerced interrogations like the Americans do (sleep deprivation, loud music, barking dogs, etc) but brutal torture. So much for the mantra torture never works (doesn't on fishing expeditions, does when the person is known to have specific information). So isn't that troubling, that this plot was likely broken up because people were tortured?

Go further - if there had been no tip from a troubled Muslim citizen - or if the Pakistani authorities hadn't rounded up some people and gotten the information - how would the plot have been revealed? One wire service stated several of the plotters (UK citizens) placed telephone calls to people in the US. Would this have been flagged by the NSA wiretap program? Who knows. But, absent the tip, it is possible that would be one of the only chances to stop the attacks."


Those are an awful lot of assumptions. All we know for sure is, the British received a tip, they got a warrant to surveil the suspects, and they caught them without breaking any of their own laws. That does not bolster the Bush administration's claims that (what many consider to be) illegal wiretapping and habitual failure to obtain search warrants is necessary to meet the current threats. The way this bust supposedly went down doesn't help their case.

Paul said...

Well said. Appreciated that you didn't go on about the differences between British and American standards - the overarching point was, the Brits followed their laws. Wasn't trying to make assumptions - should have been clearer - question was, how would we have detected the plot, absent the tip? (which was not the result of penetrating jihadist cells). Amazing to me that, as I understand it, regarding NSA wiretaps for overseas phone calls to the US, the Bush Administration had procedures in place for legislative notification and judicial approval or after the fact notification, then, in the case of judicial followup, didn't follow their own procedures. I will give the administration credit, though, for trying to come up with ways to modify current procedures in the face of new technologies (warrants for monitoring a suspect's communications, not just a single-line phone tap, which using multiple cell phones necessitated) or adversaries(non-state combatants, operating outside Geneva Convention and other agreements regarding following rules of warfare).

Didn't take a clairvoyant to predict both Republicans and Democrats would use this for their own political agendas and not as a way to assess how better to protect the citizens.

Zirconia Wolf said...

Just to add fuel to the fire (so to speak) regarding the whole "Is It True Or Not" debate about the recent "Brit Bomb" thing, a friend e-mailed me an interesting link to an interesting site that has posted some interesting information about this event.

I have never been to this site before (and so am NOT makeing any claims about the accuracy of their information) but still found the information to be, well, interesting!

Here's the link/site:

http://www.theregister.com/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/

If that doesn't work, I also posted it on the Candorville Discussion Forum (under Links) if anyone out there is interested......

-ZW