PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts


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  1. I would say it is not only a matter of connecting the dots, but acquiring enough dots. With a limited number of dots you can’t draw a complete picture.

    It was my view after 9/11 when it became clear that most of the terrorist support network was based in Europe and the Middle East, with active communication between the operatives in the US and foreign support network, that the cross border communications networks were a liability to the US unless they were monitored. The support networks are located outside the country partly to make it difficult for the US government to gather intelligence on them using its own assets. This puts us in a position of depending on foreign governments to monitor the extremist groups in their midst, which one might consider outsourcing intelligence and depending too much on governments who don’t necessarily share our interests or put high priority on our safety, even after decades of the US putting their safety and security very high on our priority list.

    Comment by ATM — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 8:00 am

  2. 9-11 didn’t happen because they failed to connect the dots. It happened because they wern’t looking. It wasn’t a lack of spying authority, it was a case of wrong priorities, pre-9/11.

    Also, I maintain that the level of threat from Al-Qaeda and it’s ilk doesn’t rise to the level of threat that justified past incursions on civil liberties. We’ve faced down larger threats during the cold war without going all Medieval on civil liberties. They don’t threaten the foundations of our republic, our reaction to them does.

    Comment by Sonny Bertoncin — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 8:34 am

  3. “However, setting those things aside, this is a very smart, in political terms, way of re-casting this issue. ”

    I am not sure how this is “smart” politically at all. In fact it makes his demands for unchecked power even more suspect given the fact that the whole idea that the lack of a domestic spying program was the reason the government failed “to connect the dots of the conspiracy” is so groundless that one has to question the mental functioning of the president.

    One wonders if Bush is familiar with the 9/11 Commission report which found that the NSA had indeed uncovered information on Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar and that the info was shared with the CIA and FBI, but that these agencies basically ignored the information.

    If anything the 9/11 Commission concludes that it was lack of bureaucratic coordination rather than the absence of executive power which could have stopped the 9/11 conspiracy.

    These comments in the State of the Union show either that he is incredibly dim-witted and unable to learn lessons from mistakes or that he is willing to distort evidence relating to national security simply for the enhancement of his own power. I think it is clear that the latter is the goal here.

    So, I don’t see how it is smart politically given the fact that it is so transparent. I don’t happen to think that people are that stupid, Steven.

    Comment by Joe mCCarthy — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 11:25 am

  4. Joe,

    It isn’t a question of people being stupid, it is that there are already a number of people already looking for a reason to support the President on this issue. I am not talking about convincing everyone, I am talking about convincing enough people that it helps the President and the Republicans.

    And I honestly think that he has made some progress in that direction.

    Again–the issue is one of politics, not policy.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

  5. Steven: I’m not sure I agree with your assertion that “the President has simply asserted this power, rather than obtaining it via Congress.” The question here, as I understand it from the scholars I have read (limited, I grant you),is whether the Constitution itself and/or the Congressional authorization to go to war explicitly or implicitly authorize the President to conduct the kind of activities at issue here. I don’t know the answer to that, and it’s certainly a meaningful debate to have, so I don’t necessarily disagree with your concerns (in fact, to some extent, I share them). But I just don’t see Bush declaring that he has the power to to these things without any arguable legal/Constitutional support. He didn’t simply appropriate power, he exercised power he thought, perhaps wrongly, he had under the law.

    Comment by Scott Gosnell — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

  6. He didn’t simply appropriate power, he exercised power he thought, perhaps wrongly, he had under the law.

    I am not sure that there is a clear distinction to be made between those two position.

    More to the point, it seems clear that the warrantless surveillance violates FISA. However, the President has made appeals to Article II that I do not think are supportable and the appeal to the Congressional Resolution post-9/11 is substantial over-reach as far as I am concerned.

    On balance, I interpret the actions as the appropriation of a power that was not expressly granted under guise of “war powers” despite the fact that the actions appear to violate existing law. I find this problematic, to say the least.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  7. 9-11 didn’t happen because they failed to connect the dots. It happened because they wern’t looking.

    People were looking, they just didn’t believe they had enough justification to press further for a warrants to look deeper. And even then it isn’t clear to me that information gathered from warrants would have lead to the 9/11 hijackers in a timely manner, particularly if al Qaeda became aware that the government had started getting close to some parts of the network and sped up the plot.

    Comment by ATM — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

  8. One on the things stressed by the outgoing adminstration was the seriousness of the threat by Al Qaeda. It was flatly ignored. They sent the chief of counter terrorism to the “children’s table” and barred him from participation in cabinet level meetings.They simply did not find it to be a priority until slapped hard upside the head. Then it became a convenient excuse to bring the wet dreams of the PNAC crew, and Cheney’s unitary executive to life.

    Comment by Sonny — Wednesday, February 1, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

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