Tag Archive: Rush Holt authored

The Surveillor in Chief

Tonight the President suggested again that if only he had tapped all Americans phones he would have prevented the 9/11 attacks.  That’s why, he says, he needs this nationwide surveillance program.  You’ll remember that for years he has been saying “no one could have foreseen the attacks.”  In fact, maybe we would have been better off if the President had been reading his Daily Intelligence Briefs the summer before the attack, which had more specific warnings.  He wants us to believe that only bad guys will be watched and listened to.  The kind of police states where the government knows no restraint begin with the government saying it only restrains bad guys, but who decides who are the bad guys– a functionary at the NSA, or worse, a political appointee at the White House?  That’s why we no to demonstrate probable cause before a judge, but the President refuses to do that.  Because suspects are always suspect– until they later turn out to be completely innocent– law enforcement, investigative, and intelligence forces must be subject to careful constraints.

More on the SOTU

AS a scientist I’ve been urging for years that we do more in the area of science and math education.  The coments of the President tonight would sound good if you did not know the history of his budgets and legislation.  Last year Republicans provided less than one-third of the promised investment in the Math and Science Partnerships for K – 12 students.  Republicans have shortchanged by one-third the Tech Talent Program which helps kids learn computers and technology.  They have failed to enact the recommendation of the John Glenn Commission to increase the number and training of science teachers.  Now he says he will provide more teachers and now students will start performing better.

State of Our Union

President Bush seems to be talking about a different nation than the one he has been leading for five years.

In his speech he says public officials need to speak with candor, but he refuses to acknowledge that the war in Iraq a preemptive invasion has only stirred up a hornets nest that makes Americans less safe.  Osama bin Laden and al Zawahiri have been at large for 1603 days and that is where the President’s attention should be– not conducting a preemptive, warrantless spying program on Americans that has seen the Defense Dept and FBI spy on environmental groups, animal rights groups, anti-war groups, rerligious groups, Arab American groups and other innocentcitizens with no connection to al Qaeda or it surrogates. 

Forms of Honesty

People now say, by a clear majority, that they cannot trust Bush and his administration. Any of us in public office know that people are skeptical about the honesty of politicians. The immediate concern in the papers today has to do with the specific illegal lying that is perjury, but people are equally troubled, I think, by other less direct forms of prevarication. Forrester says he is opposed on principle to embryonic stem cell research. Then he’s for it. He tells the NJ pro-life assemblage that he’s with them, and then he says he’s pro-choice.

In Washington the Republican leadership is saying that it is Katrina that makes it necessary for them to loosen clean air standards, remove Davis-Bacon livable wage protection, introduce school vouchers for religious and private schools, cut student loans by $15 billion (for an average student, that might  mean an increase in cost of $5,000), cut Medicaid, cut food stamps, cut child support enforcement. People say to me: “Why don’t the Republicans just say ‘These are things we don’t want to do because we don’t believe in them, rather than blaming it on Katrina?'” It’s a form of lying that gets in the way of good government. Among all the reasons that I support Jon Corzine (good fiscal sense, attention to higher education, good ideas about innovative economic growth, etc, etc) one thing I like best is that he’s straight with the people of New Jersey.

The Plame game

Friday’s indictment of Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, for obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements is indicative of this Administration’s larger plan to forward its agenda at any cost, and it was the American people that paid – until now.  It is plain now that from the start the Bush Administration was committed to making its case for the Iraq War, and it would not let the facts get in the way.  Where the evidence differed from their script, they ignored it, buried it, and destroyed the credibility of those who brought it forth, and evidence suggests they did so illegally.  

We must remember that any disclosure of covert identities has damaging effects on our country’s human intelligence collection capabilities.  We ask many men and women to take risks around the world to collect information in order to prevent war and protect the safety and effectiveness of our soldiers.  When a leak like this happens, there is a ripple of damage.  Not only is the original covert operative compromised, but so are all the people who had contact with her overseas.  The people with whom Valerie Plame dealt with overseas – other covert agents and informants, for example – have almost certainly been compromised.  

To provide the oversight we are obligated to do, Congress must examine how this leak occurred, assess the damage to current and future intelligence collection, and review options for preventing similar episodes in the future.  Our intelligence professionals need to know that Congress will help them preserve their cover, which is the only real protection they have in their often dangerous job collecting information to protect America.

My central point is: whatever happens in the courts, Congress owes it to our intelligence operatives to exert oversight in this matter.

I will be appearing on CBS’s 60 Minutes, tonight at 7:00 p.m. discussing the Plame leak and its consequences. I hope you’ll tune in, and I welcome your comments.