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February 07, 2006

Not Telling the Truth
Posted by Morton H. Halperin

Leon Sigal begins his essential book on the government and the press (Reporters and Officials: The Organization and Politics of Newsmaking) by quoting from a high official of the Foreign Office (and I paraphrase):  If you think we lie to the public you are mistaken; but if you think we tell the truth you are equally mistaken.

And so we have the Bush Administration's dealings with what it now refers to as the NSA program which the President has described.  Before the program was revealed in the New York Times, the President and the Attorney General, in discussing the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance, may not have lied, but they certainly did not tell the truth.

No fair-minded listener open to the arguments of each side could reach any conclusion but that they were following the requirements spelled out in FISA.  We now know they were not.

There are other examples of this deception, including the testimony by General Hayden before Congress which Michael Fuchs and I discussed in a posting on ThinkProgress. Here I want to focus on the public statement by the President and the testimony by Gonzales because they are classic examples of not telling the truth and because the Attorney General defended both statements at the Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.  Since he steadfastly refused to answer any questions, this was almost the only interesting development during a very long day.  (I will discuss the few other interesting issues in another post later this week.)

The Democrats had intended to drive home their belief that both the President and the AG deceived the American people by playing the videos of the episodes at the hearing.  Chairman Specter, who deserves commendation for conducting the hearings, refused to permit the videos to be played.  I urge you to listen to them since they capture what happened very clearly.  (Video of Bush speech and video of Gonzales/Feingold exchange at Gonzales 2005 confirmation hearing). As you listen, ask yourself two questions:  Would any fair-minded person believe the explanation offered by the AG?  Second - and in my view equally important - would any listener come away believing anything but that warrants were being gotten for all electronic surveillance of the kind included in the NSA program?

The president was asked about roving wiretaps.  He defended them and then turned to the more general question of electronic surveillance and assured his audience that no such surveillance took place without a warrant:

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.

Even if you believe it passes the "do not lie" injunction,  you cannot possible argue that it passes the "do not deceive" test.

This same point is highlighted in the exchange between Senator Feingold and Gonzales:

SEN. FEINGOLD: I — Judge Gonzales, let me ask a broader question. I’m asking you whether in general the president has the constitutional authority, does he at least in theory have the authority to authorize violations of the criminal law under duly enacted statutes simply because he’s commander in chief? Does he — does he have that power?

...

MR. GONZALES: Senator, this president is not — I — it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.

This is even worse since there could not be any doubt what Feingold was asking.  Even if the AG picked his words very carefully and did not actually lie (judge for yourself) he could not have had any doubt about what the Senator was trying to ascertain and what (wrong) conclusion he must have drawn from the answer.

This exchange constitutes a crime and the Judiciary Committee should refer the matter to the Justice Department and ask for the appointment of a special counsel.

Beyond the legal requirement of government officials not to deceive the Congress is the question of trust, to which many members of the committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, alluded.  The nation is safer when the Congress and the president work together to craft solutions which protect national security and civil liberties.  When an Attorney General defends carefully crafted answers which deceive, he destroys that trust.

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Comments

Excellent catch!! Way good stuff.

The administration has created a crisis of trust. To slick for their own good they are.

TO UNDERSTAND SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, AND ALL THE EVENTS THAT HAVE HAPPENED SINCE THEN, YOU MUST BECOME AWARE OF WHAT HAPPENED PRIOR TO 9/11. ALL THOSE WHO READ THIS WILL HAVE THE DOORS OF UNDERSTANDING OPENED TO THEM.

WHY DO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE REJECT THE KYOTO TREATY? WHY DID WE GO INTO IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN? WHY ARE WE BEING ACCUSED OF "IMPERIALISM"? WHY DID KOFI ANNAN DO A 2 HOUR CAMPAIGN MOVIE TO CONVINCE THE WEST HE COMMANDS NO STANDING ARMY? WHY DID THE OIL FOR FOOD PROGRAM'S DIRTY SECRETS GET EXPOSED? WHOSE INTERESTS DID BIN LADIN'S ATTACK SERVE--A CERTAIN LARGE VOTING BLOCK OF THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY WHO WISHES TO THE U.S. TO GIVE UP ITS SOVEREIGNTY? WHAT BLOCK IS THAT?

ISLAMIC, PERCHANCE?

PLEASE REPEAT THESE QUESTIONS AGAIN, ALONG WITH YOUR OWN, AFTER READING THIS EXPLOSIVE SPEECH ADDRESSED TO THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRIOR TO 9/11!!!

READ, AND FINALLY GET THE ANSWERS YOU HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR!!!!

http://www.solongroup.org/aware/sovereignty.htm

For Tim Seretis's comments Re: Jesse Helm's speech to the UN:

With the following obviously false statements from Jesse Helm's speech, how can you give, or expect anyone else to give, any credence to his comments?:

"And, despite its initial success in repelling Iraqi aggression, in the years since the Gulf War, the Security Council has utterly failed to stop Saddam Hussein's drive to build instruments of mass murder."

And:
"America is in a process of reducing centralized power by taking more and more authority that had been amassed by the Federal government in Washington and referring it to the individual states where it rightly belongs."

I've read the speech and am convinced that Tim Seretis is correct. Jesse Helm's did not make that speech as anything other than a politician. One who postures himself as protecting state rights, because the south (where he was a senator and where I personally reside) would never have voted him in otherwise. The confederate attitude of independance from D.C. hasn't actually disappeared, if you didn't know that-now you do. No politician gets voted into office in the south by saying he supports larger federal powers.

As far as Saddam Hussein's building instruments of mass murder being an "obvious false statement", let's review how the Security Council failed to stop him: did he or did he not use gas weapons to destroy ENTIRE VILLAGES in northern Iraq? Hmmmm...apparently Jesse wasn't fibbing. And the Security Council continues to fail to stop any genocidal activities from occurring anywhere, as Sudan remains testiment to. I'd say that in all obviousness, there was no falsehood in that portion of Jesse's speech.

That he believed that America is "in the process" of reducing centralized power, doesn't reduce the truth of his speech before the council. If state power hasn't increased since the beginning of his speech, then why has certain states made gay marriage legal (against all odds?) There are multiple examples of state powers butting up against Federal mandate, besides this one.

Indeed, CITIES in America have asserted state rights in order to create bastions of shelter for illegal immigrants, in defiance of Federal mandates. San Fransisco for example.

If these two statements causes you to reject the point that Mr. Seretis made regarding the timing of the address, the content of the address, and the historic importance of it relative to events that have ensued since that speech to the Security Council, then I suggest that you put your head back into the sand you pulled it out of long enough to read the speech in desperate search of a way to invalidate his attempt to get people to ask pertinent questions and seek pertinent answers.

I've read the speech and am convinced that Tim Seretis is correct. Jesse Helm's did not make that speech as anything other than a politician. One who postures himself as protecting state rights, because the south (where he was a senator and where I personally reside) would never have voted him in otherwise. The confederate attitude of independance from D.C. hasn't actually disappeared, if you didn't know that-now you do. No politician gets voted into office in the south by saying he supports larger federal powers.

As far as Saddam Hussein's building instruments of mass murder being an "obvious false statement", let's review how the Security Council failed to stop him: did he or did he not use gas weapons to destroy ENTIRE VILLAGES in northern Iraq? Hmmmm...apparently Jesse wasn't fibbing. And the Security Council continues to fail to stop any genocidal activities from occurring anywhere, as Sudan remains testiment to. I'd say that in all obviousness, there was no falsehood in that portion of Jesse's speech.

That he believed that America is "in the process" of reducing centralized power, doesn't reduce the truth of his speech before the council. If state power hasn't increased since the beginning of his speech, then why has certain states made gay marriage legal (against all odds?) There are multiple examples of state powers butting up against Federal mandate, besides this one.

Indeed, CITIES in America have asserted state rights in order to create bastions of shelter for illegal immigrants, in defiance of Federal mandates. San Fransisco for example.

If these two statements causes you to reject the point that Mr. Seretis made regarding the timing of the address, the content of the address, and the historic importance of it relative to events that have ensued since that speech to the Security Council, then I suggest that you put your head back into the sand you pulled it out of long enough to read the speech in desperate search of a way to invalidate his attempt to get people to ask pertinent questions and seek pertinent answers.

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