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« Bush and Miers. Bush and Merkel. | Main | The Weakly Standard (3): Spruyt »

The Weakly Standard (4): Schmitt

Of course, of course!

I am against unwarranted spying an I am against torturing. But I am also against Bin Laden and in favor of a hard struggle against his methods. I am in favor of a resolute defense of innocent people, all over the world, against fundamentalism, dictatorship, terror and oppression.

Khalid Mohammed, hours after his capture in 2003: evidently drugged, as were Saddam Hussein and BinAlSib, just after their captures. What is wrong with that? After two or three days, any information that could have been be had from them and their like, is outdated and/or worthless. After that, existing rules for criminal judgment and/or treatment as prisoners-of-war, are adequate and there should be no tampering with them (Guantanamo, renditions, CIA torture prisons). In the face of previously non-existent, non-state global terrorism, new rules should be established for treatment, procedures, inspection and efficient info-gathering. Those should be international and under control of internationally sanctioned bodies. Legislating, organizing and handling that - is it so hard?

That is, why I accept, in well defined, exceptional, situations, that criminals be forced to deliver informations that will save lives of innocent people. That is also, why I accept, that the most modern methods of datamining be applied to spying on communications, be it inside or outside the U.S.

I am convinced, that most people are.

So: Why didn't George Bush and his cabal

  1. change the law, so that in urgent situations, not exceeding 3 days, people, in very strictly defined situations, may be forced to give up any information that may save lives of targets of terrorism?
  2. change the law, so that an independent, neutral body, maybe even an international one, may handle private information, gained by datamining, like the NSA does since many years, in order to prevent terrorist actions?
Why couldn't they allow justice, to handle evil people, as soon as they are in custody?
Why couldn't they, after having found, eventually, some indications of evildoing, hand over the evidence to Justice and let Justice do?

Were they afraid of the American people?
Were they afraid of the opposition?
Were they afraid of Europe?
Of Saudi-Arabia?

Not only just after 9/11, but during long years, even now, he would have found a Congress, even an international community of "willing", eager, to adopt new rules to make a more efficient combat against this new world plague, possible.

Why did he not?

In their December contribution to the Washington Post, Schmitt and Kristol give a clue: In the neocon opinion, this imperial right to torture and to eavesdrop, is an "implicit" prerogative of the Executive, of the presidency. The moment, it would try to share that prerogative with Law and with Congress, it would no more be a prerogative, and that would weaken the Nation. Rubbish, of course. The opposants shouldn't allow themselves to be engaged in a debate of that kind. But that is what they do, crying "treason" about these unsettling snippets of a more general dictatorial behavior.

That may be a reason, why Bush let develop, with every new presidential warrant, this nixonean mine under his authority. Another reason, may be simple and plain stupidity. Surrounded by minuses like Gonzalez and Miers, nobody was present to show him a way out of this predicament. Even the resistance of an otherwise fairly conservative Court against the Guantanamo treatment of so-called illegal enemy combatants as neither prisoners of war, nor mere criminal justiciables did not wake him up.

Schmitt develops his manner of thinking in the Weekly Standard (dated Dec. 29, 2005). And he is not wrong (and neither was Krauthammer in his torture study the week before): With a more transparent judicial framework, with an update of the 1979 law putting a secret court in the place of Congress, he wouldn't have had any problem in doing his work.

Ron Nessen, of the Washington Post, sees it so (in his "think tanks-blog"):

Gary Schmitt, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, suggests abolishing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which provides for such warrants. In its place, he would restore the president’s “inherent constitutional authority” to conduct warrantless surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.

And, there is an "Intelligent Design", that would easily restore a new balance between Executive, Justice and Representation. Why don't the Democrats put it forward? Why are there so many people who lack the courage, to propose solutions that are maybe less populist, more complicated, but what would be easily ujnderstood by the large public in the longer run? Now, it is left to the more intelligent neocons, to come up with those solutions.


Don’t worry, Schmitt adds, such a move would not return the country to the bad old days of J. Edgar Hoover. The think tanker says there are now multiple guidelines and many inspectors general that would make renegade intelligence operations improbable or, at least, difficult to keep hidden for very long.
Besides, Schmitt says in an article titled “Constitutional Spying,” to be published in The Weekly Standard next week, there are intelligence committees in both the Senate and House which would reclaim their oversight role, now usurped by FISA.

The article quotes The Federalist Papers as warning that it is not wise to impose limitations on the authority of the executive branch to provide for the defense and protection of the nation. In other words, Schmitt writes, “A government has to do what is necessary to protect itself and its people.”

In other words: A procedure, controllable by the people's representatives; a Justice apparatus, that is fully in charge, from the moment, restrictive measures could have to be taken to restrict or to punish people with criminal intentions and, which is necessary in a time of danger, an executive that can do it's work, even if it is endangering individual liberties, thanks to a transparent relationship between the three powers and to a clear responsability before congress.

Why do you need Pfizer-financed neocon "think-tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute, to bring forwarde these evident truths? It is not about preparing to impeach Bush, it is about democracy, about enlightenment and about human rights. Bush will disappear. Bad habits will stay. No need for another Edgar Hoover, nor a 21st century McCarthy!

Now it is so easy for Gary Schmitt, to say in his WS article:

One irony of today's debate is that so many liberals are now defending FISA. Previously, a common complaint from the ACLU and others was that the secret federal court that issues warrants for foreign intelligence surveillance in this country had become a "rubber stamp" for the executive branch. Out of the thousands of applications put forward by the Department of Justice to the panel over the years, only a handful had ever been rejected. Instead of a check on executive authority, the court had become complicit in its activities-or so it was said.
The opposants are stuck with a lame "FISA" procedure that saves them from taking responsability. I cannot but agree with Schmitt, when he says:

Just as important, there are now standing intelligence committees in both the House and the Senate. One of the odd effects of FISA has been to take serious and sustained congressional oversight of electronic surveillance off the table. The constitutional body that should be watching the executive's discretionary behavior is, after all, primarily Congress.

To let go such an opportunity to rebalance the trias politica, House and Senate disserve themselves and represent badly the American people. Europeans who watch at the sidelines, just to see how incompetence and contempt of democracy will punish themselves, are in no way better. So many international institutions (the U.N., NATO, International Court of Justice, etc., etc.), are there, to favor a constructive debate about this: It IS, after all, an international issue, isn't it?

With a wise, well balanced series of propositions (like the one against torture), a mighty majority can be constituted. Is there really nobody around the Potomac, who has the guts?

Bush and Putin in Chilean pulls, Santiago de Chile, 2004: No distiction?

Please, please, do it! If it were only to avoid losing the democratic prerogative in front of people like Putin or Sharon, like Mubarak or the Chinese leadership. Democratic, enlightened, humanistic struggle against dark domination and wrongdoing, CANNOT be based upon cheating, corrupt policies and imperial illusions.

And why is the moment so far away, that Europe could speak up with one voice, to show a way out? Not any tiny reason to be proud of our governments in this matter: They sleazed, they lied, they condoned. Probably for the same reasons as Bush did. Their secret services helped the CIA-teams, benefited from prolonged torture and "renditions", condoned the secret eavesdroppings already long before 2001. Hypocrisy galore.

Sometimes, I am happy, this WS neocon rag exists!

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