Deep into an updated Army manual, the deletion of 10 words has left some national security experts wondering whether government lawyers are again asserting the executive branch’s right to wiretap Americans without a court warrant.
The manual, described by the Army as a “major revision” to intelligence-gathering guidelines, addresses policies and procedures for wiretapping Americans, among other issues. The original guidelines, from 1984, said the Army could seek to wiretap people inside the United States on an emergency basis by going to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, or by obtaining certification from the attorney general “issued under the authority of section 102(a) of the Act.”
I don't know whether you've watched the C-Span coverage of the UMich conference on government secrecy and the press. Reading the Lichtblau-Mazzette articles within 24 hours of facing, in that conference, what is clearly a scary over-reach by the Bush administration makes even a prospective conflict with Iran pale in comparison -- though of course the two are closely related.
The situation we're in with respect to an increasingly authoritarian government shouldn't be shrugged off. It increasingly appears to have been been created deliberately -- not as a "necessary result of war" but as a goal of military engagement. The desire to give the military and the executive greatly increased power over American domestic life and politics preceded by decades the decision to invade Iraq. The invasion was another way of achieving that increase in authority.
Update: Dahlia Lithwick and I seem to be on the same page this morning. In a Washington Post article, she asks why Jose Padilla still being prosecuted, questions the Guantanamo policy and the President's reserved power to open our mail.
It has finally become clear that the goal of these efforts isn't to win the war against terrorism; indeed, nothing about Padilla, Guantanamo Bay or signing statements moves the country an inch closer to eradicating terrorism. The object is a larger one: expanding executive power, for its own sake.
What Lithwick doesn't go on to analyze is the purpose of the expansion except to say it would have been Nixon's dream. I don't think the purpose is simply to comfort Cheney and Rumsfeld in their old age with an abstraction -- executive power. Maybe it started out as executive power for its own sake. But it doesn't end there.
The proof lies in the sharp move over the past three or four decades from a centrist nation to a nation in which even many Democrats on the left have moved (or been dragged ) sharply to the right. Aggressive war, patriotism, corporatism, hierarchical religion allied to the state -- all these things which the left has been forced to accomodate -- are part of the far right's philosophy. The concentration of power in the White House is the culmination of that move. None of this is accidental.