Thursday, January 18, 2007

On lions lying with lambs (the leopard and the kid, yadda yadda yadda)

Okay, so despite his longstanding, vehement protestations that they absolutely, positively, without a doubt, indubitably, unequivocally could not keep us safe if they had to get a valid warrant before (or within three days after) listening in on your phone conversations or reading your e-mail, the Bush administration has announced that... well, that that isn't the case anymore.
The Bush administration said yesterday that it has agreed to disband a controversial warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency, replacing it with a new effort that will be overseen by the secret court that governs clandestine spying in the United States. ...

... Under the new plan, Gonzales said, the secret court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, will oversee eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mails to and from the United States when "there is probable cause to believe" that one of the parties is a member of al-Qaeda or an associated terrorist group.

So by "new plan," of course they mean "old plan," referring to the one that was in place - and was, by all accounts, perfectly effective - back before King George decided that warrants were for sissies.

I snark, because that's my way, but don't pretend that I'm not happy to see George Bush doing the right thing for once. As a matter of fact, that he is doing the right thing is practically a parade-worthy event, and I will be wearing something red, tight and sparkly tomorrow to celebrate. And despite concerns that this New Old-Fashioned Way lacks some of the civil liberties protections of the original, effective FISA legislation, I have faith that our lege can work it out and, if necessary, push things through, because just for tonight, I believe in miracles.

Not too miraculous, though:
White House and Justice officials said the president was not retreating from his stance that he has the constitutional and legislative authority to order warrantless surveillance on international calls but said the new rules promulgated by the surveillance court have satisfied concerns about whether the FISA process can move quickly enough to authorize surveillance.

Allow me, in my good and gracious mood tonight, to set something straight: You don't, Georgie. You really, really, really don't. I don't know what Alberto "VO-5" Gonzales has been telling you, but you're not giving in here because he thinks the program is fine as-is. You're giving in because you don't have a legal leg to stand on, and he knows it. If you really had that authority, do you really think Bert would have you punting it mere weeks after the newly Democratic Congress took office?

Oh, you did? That's so cute.

Anyway, points to the Bush administration for doing the right thing for once, whatever the motivation. While y'all are feeling so magnanimous, let's talk about this thing you're doing in the Middle East...

Update: While I'm passing around gold stars, it would be wrong to ignore signs that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might actually be honoring his commitment to crack down on Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, arresting in the neighborhood of 400 militia members and forcing many others into hiding. If this keeps up, and I truly hope it does, good on 'em; it's the first step to peace in Baghdad and a non-sectarian government in all of Iraq.

Of course, Maliki has also announced that in light of these developments, it's time for the US to get out. Out! Three months, six months, don't surge, don't escalate, just get out! But, um, leave those Humvees behind. And that heavy artillery. And, wow, that is a nice looking helicopter.

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