Much has been made of General Michael Hayden's nomination to head up the CIA without so much as retiring from active duty. Many see the mark of the Rumsfeld beast on this appointment, and I can't say I blame them. Porter Goss' job was to transform the Agency into a more compliant Public Relations company for the executive branch; and the sudden resignation of Goss as the Foggo sex scandal comes creeping centerwise provided the Department of Defense its best-yet opportunity to finally seize its long-time intelligence and covert operations rival for itself.
Even more has been made of Hayden having been the architect of the administration's domestic spying program, when he was head of the National Security Agency (NSA). The latest scandal involved the NSA acquisition of call records for millions of people inside the United States. The excuse being put forward by both Bush and Hayden is that they didn't listen to the calls, so it wasn't spying. The legal issue is that the NSA is prohibited in monitoring people inside the United States without express permission from a federal judge showing cause. The Federal Intelligence Security Act (FISA) that lays out this rule was written in the wake of the domestic spying scandal that led to the presidential resignation of Richard Nixon.
But in December 2005, Bush actually signed and executive order authorizing not merely the harvesting of phone records, but actual wiretaps. So their excuse now undermines their claim they did nothing wrong then.
The real problem for the Bush administration is whom they pissed off with this one. The Chicken Little sector of the antiwar movement (I still love them, even though they madden me with their breathless panic attacks.), of course, immediately leapt to the conclusion - again, based on their wild overestimation of the abilities of government employees, including spooks - that the omniscient Big Brother portrayed in 'Enemy of the State' has arrived and the roundups for the camps are immanent.
The real story is that this administration is in a very deep crisis and this is a rearguard action. To do what? Let's think this through, shall we? In the war of leaks and counter-leaks over the last four years, the Bush administration has been repeatedly beaten like a rented mule. There are not enough of these government employees to stay on top of every telephone call in the country. They have to be directed, focused. The target has been the press, in order to determine who the whistleblowers are who are doing such terrible damage to Bush-Cheney legitimacy.
The Bush government's hatred of whistleblowers is well-documented.
When Bush was busted in December 2005 for the illegal wiretapping, his response - in public - was:
"Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."
He meant that. George W. Bush and his administration have said more than once that they believe they are entitled to take extraordinary (extralegal) measures as part of the Global War on Terror (GWOT - I call it the Gee what?). This goes to the very Levi-Straussian core of their philosophical identity. The masses must be conformed to support the national "destiny" with a simple story - they are too stupid to be privy to the truth. These leaks are considered tantamount to treason by the Bush White House.
Yesterday, I turned on MSNBC. Joe Scarborough, an emcee who rivals the worst of Fox in his mean-spirited mediocrity and petit bourgeois right-reaction, was lambasting the Bush administration on the latest revelations about the NSA scandal. One of the guests was my friend Robert Jensen, a died-in-the-wool anti-imperialist journalism professor at the University of Texas, and Scarborough was taking Robert's side against a Republican Party spokesperson in the debate about the NSA.
(In the background, can we hear the lifeboats smacking down onto the ocean swells?)
Television news is a commercial venture. They track polls as obsessively as any politician. George W. Bush enjoys a 31% approval rating. Figure it out.
The Republicans have begun to understand - as has the entire bi-partisan ruling class - that Dubya and his entourage are a pig in a poke. On May 15, the conservative Moony sheet, The Washington Times, published an editorial by Bruce Fein, wherein he quoted (of all people) then-Congressman Porter Goss, the recently fired Director of Central Intelligence whom Hayden is designated to replace. The 2000 quote, from the floor of Congress as then-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stated:
"The NSA General Counsel's Office contended ... that its legal opinions, decisional memoranda, and policy guidance, all of which govern the operations and mechanisms of that federal agency, are free from scrutiny by Congress. This would result in the envelopment of the executive branch in a cloak of secrecy that would insulate the executive branch from effective oversight. It would also undermine the intent of the 94th and 95th Congresses to establish stringent oversight of the intelligence community. This outcome would seriously hobble the legislative oversight contemplated by the Constitution."
Archival quotations are like Biblical quotations. They are mined in the service of agendas. People are beginning to break and run in the Bush administration's Arena of the Gods.
So the perennial question resurfaces: What is to be done? Well... for starters, we need to understand that the defeat of Hayden's nomination will be a body blow to the Bush adminsitration. It ain't sexy, but it's real. The problem is that the majority of the Democratic Party has demonstrated its craven incapacity to fight Republicans... Pelosi has taken the war off the table for the 2006 debate, fercrisake! They are avoiding the subject of impeachment, too. Reminds me of the joke: Republicans run on what they believe (however awful) and win. Democrats run on what they think will win elections, and lose.
Call your Congressperson today. Tell them to sink Hayden's nomination. Threaten them with your vote - or not - in 2006, if necessary. Make this an exercise of popular power. The Bush government is wobbling. Knock the cowboy shit out of them. They sure would if it were us.