- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access the Harper’s archive
For those, like Joe Klein and a large part of the mainstream media, who can’t be bothered to actually understand the debate over FISA (“it’s just too complicated!”) and who are convinced that everything a Bush Administration representative says must be true (even if you know somehow it really can’t be), here’s Teddy, the National Surveillance Teddy Bear. He’s a product of the fertile imagination of Marc Fiore, the piece is entitled “The Spies Who Love You,” and the only word for this is “brilliant.”
<object width=”425″ height=”355″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/dxKYG6KTK-M&rel=1&border=0″> <embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/dxKYG6KTK-M&rel=1&border=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” wmode=”transparent” width=”425″ height=”355″></embed></object></p>
And then for a somewhat more caustic take on the same theme, here is the Special Comment that Keith Olbermann delivered two weeks ago:
<object width=”425″ height=”355″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/0ay_ykrMJL0&rel=1&border=0″> <embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/0ay_ykrMJL0&rel=1&border=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” wmode=”transparent” width=”425″ height=”355″></embed></object></p>
And here is Olbermann’s very effective response to Bush’s threat to veto any legislation that fails to include telecom immunity:
<object width=”425″ height=”355″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/HDZVTlQJLMA&rel=1&border=0″> <embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/HDZVTlQJLMA&rel=1&border=0″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” wmode=”transparent” width=”425″ height=”355″></embed></object></p>
Olbermann wades deep into the relationship between the telecoms and the Bush Administration. What does this tell us about Bush’s use of national security concerns? And what does it tell us about Bush’s manipulation of fear for political purposes. Has this at length simply become too crude to work? That’s what the president’s polling numbers reflect.
My one bone to pick: Olbermann uses the political “f”-word with respect to the Administration’s cooption of telecommunications. He should remember that an obsession with their citizens’ private lives is a common feature of all totalitarian states and all totalitarian wannabes, not just the fascists. On the other hand, the cooption of corporate interests to undermine civil liberties does have a strong feeling of the last shuddering days of the Weimar Republic about it.
Finally, some words of praise are appropriate for Silvestre Reyes, the congressman from El Paso who now chairs the House Intelligence Committee. I have been very critical of the intelligence committees in the past. I agree with the criticism that CIA veteran Milt Bearden recently hurled their way in a piece in the Washington Independent: they have been AWOL. What they need to keep in check is not so much a rogue intelligence service as a rogue executive which is constantly trying to spur the intelligence service to act outside the bounds of the law and for purposes that have little ostensible connection to national security. But at length Reyes and his committee seem to understand Bush’s fear-mongering. Reyes sent Bush a letter which demonstrated step by step why Bush’s claim that the nation would be unprotected unless Congress passed his exact version of a telecom immunity bill was a lie. Here’s what Reyes wrote to the President back on Valentine’s Day:
If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don’t have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations – including al Qaeda — that have gained strength since 9/11. We do not have nearly enough linguists to translate the reams of information we currently collect. We do not have enough intelligence officers who can penetrate the hardest targets, such as al Qaeda. We have surged so many intelligence resources into Iraq that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, you have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself on your watch.
You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.
The issue of telecom liability should be carefully considered based on a full review of the documents that your Administration withheld from Congress for eight months. However, it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we will be vulnerable unless we grant immunity for actions that happened years ago.
The House now remains the nation’s last line of defense against the Bush Administration’s aspirations for the new National Surveillance State. If you haven’t yet written your Congressman or woman, take the time to do so now. Tell him or her that this issue matters, and that you are counting on the House to hold its ground on telecom immunity and to reject the Senate version.
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — April 12, 2013, 11:11 am
A new report from Seton Hall University exposes government surveillance of attorney-client conversations
Rashid Khalidi on how the United States sustains the failure of the Israel-Palestine peace process
Alex Gibney on his documentary investigating the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of child sex-abuse cases
Lucas Mann on hope and change in a minor-league-baseball city
Minimum number of baboons forced to smoke crack in a 1989 study testing the efficacy of cigarettes as a drug delivery device:
A reduction in distrust toward atheists was documented among pious Canadians who are reminded of the Vancouver police.
A Missouri cinema apologized for hiring an actor dressed in body armor and carrying a fake rifle to appear at a screening of Iron Man 3.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
Winner of the 2012 Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines or books