Various items

The New Republic "scandal." The issue more important than Gonzales' "perjury." More on Beltway seriousness.

Published July 27, 2007 9:45AM (EDT)

(updated below)

(updated again)

(Update III -- with Bush's radio address tomorrow re: FISA)

I may not have time to post much today, or at all, but want to note several items:

(1) The latest debacle for Howard Kurtz's right-wing friends, this one concerning The New Republic, has shined a very bright light -- yet again -- on what they are and how they think and function, and in that regard, there are several excellent commentaries I highly recommend:

* This post by Robert Farley at LG&M;

* All three of the posts by John Cole on this matter -- here, here, and here -- examining the truly deranged behavior towards Private Beauchamp; and,

* This post, one of the best Digby posts ever.

I would simply add that right-wing troop-exploiters always reserve their most hateful, vicious and deeply personal attacks for soldiers and veterans who deviate from their political church -- Jack Murtha, John Kerry, Wes Clark, Max Cleland, Scott Beauchamp. Similarly, the minute Pat Tillman's political views became known, the use they had for him vanished (and nobody has less interest in finding out what happened to Pat Tillman than they do). As Digby points out, they "support the troops" only to the extent that the troops are useful props for their political agenda.

(2) Marty Lederman and Anonymous Liberal both have thoughts similar to the ones I expressed the other day about why it is not particularly fruitful (or even accurate) to focus on the "TSP/other activities" comments of Alberto Gonazles as "perjury," particularly because -- as Marty emphasizes -- doing so obscures the far more important point. Alberto Gonazles is a serial perjurer and it is long past time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take action over that, but this particular case -- even though it lends itself to splashy headlines and seemingly "obvious" contradictions -- is not the right case for it.

As I argued the other day, the real question that urgently needs to be pursued is what were the "other intelligence activities" which Gonzales was desperate to conceal?

(3) Andrew Sullivan, who is a friend of Joe Klein's, nonetheless has some worthwhile thoughts regarding the Klein/Seriousness exchange from yesterday.


(4) On the topic of the Klein exchange yesterday, I recognize that the following point is not overwhelmingly important, and I debated with myself as to whether I should even raise it (hence its appearance only as an update), but it is irritating me just enough that I think I should.

As I indicated yesterday, I believed that Klein's original post responding to what he understood to be the use of the term "Serious" as an "epithet" was, in fact, a response to the Lieberman/Hagee post I had written earlier that morning (even though Klein did not say he was responding to that post). I thought that for two reasons: (1) because I had just written a lengthy post that morning which mentioned Klein and heavily focused on the concept of Beltway Seriousness -- the very argument which Klein, hours later, attacked; and more importantly, (2) because this is how Klein described the target of his argument:

And now, among certain precincts in the blogosphere -- those prohibitively clever sorts who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting (or much thinking) about it -- a new epithet: serious. This is meant to convey disdain for those of us who grant undue credibility to people in positions of authority or people of moderate political views.

That certainly sounds like how Joe Klein would describe (and has previously described) a very small number of blogs, including mine. So I naturally assumed he was responding to my Seriousness argument in the Lieberman/Hagee post, just without bothering to link to it or even acknowledge it, and I said that in the post I wrote last night responding to him.

But then Klein responded last night to what I wrote (again without linking, though at least this time acknowledging whose argument he was addressing) and he claimed that, with his first post, he was not responding to my Lieberman post at all and, indeed, had not even read that post when he wrote his. Instead, Klein claimed that he was merely addressing the "Seriousness" argument because he saw it being made by some unnamed Swampland commenters. Thus, Klein said:

Numerous readers seem to assume that my earlier post about the silly, sarcastic use of the word "serious" was a response to Glenn Greenwald's post about Joe Lieberman, a right-wing nutcase minister named John Hagee and, somehow, me. It wasn't. I read Greenwald on occasion, but not today. I was actually responding to this sort of comment, which comes all too frequently from certain, non-discerning Swampland readers in response to my attempts to keep you up to date on Iraq:
Thanks for that extra special privileged look inside the Pentagon. That was very special. And serious, very serious.

Is that even plausible? How can it be that Klein was merely addressing the stray usage of "Serious" in his comment section -- rather than my use of it in yesterday's Lieberman post -- when Klein's original complaint, as he himself put it, was about the use of Serious "among certain precincts in the blogosphere --those prohibitively clever sorts who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting (or much thinking) about it."

That certainly sounds like he is complaining about specific bloggers and specific posts, not random comments (how could he refer to unnamed Swampland commenters as "those prohibitively clever sorts [in certain precincts in the blogosphere] who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting"? As I said, the issue is not of towering importance, but it seems an odd and unnecessary prevarication, if that is, in fact, what happened (and I'm open to alternative explanations).

UPDATE II: In Comments, Chris Andersen offers a possible (if not convincing) "alternative explanation" for Klein's claim. It is also possible, theoretically, that Klein was referring to his own comment section as a "certain precinct in the blogosphere" and the specific commenters as "those prohibitively clever sorts who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting." I doubt I will have much more to say on this, since all one can really do is speculate about it and it is best to refrain from making accusations in the absence of definitive proof, which is lacking here.

UPDATE III: I obtained a copy of the text of George Bush's radio address, to be delivered tomorrow, in which he announces that he will seek "liberalizing" changes to the FISA law. There is much worth saying about this, thought I don't have time to address it now (though I previously addressed similar arguments here, when DNI Mike McConnell wrote an Op-Ed demanding these FISA revisions):

Embargoed Until Delivery

At 10:06 A.M. EDT, Saturday, July 28, 2007



THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I visited with troops at Charleston Air Force Base. These fine men and women are serving courageously to protect our country against dangerous enemies. The terrorist network that struck America on September the 11th wants to strike our country again. To stop them, our military, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals need the best possible information about who the terrorists are, where they are, and what they are planning.

One of the most important ways we can gather that information is by monitoring terrorist communications. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- also known as FISA -- provides a critical legal foundation that allows our intelligence community to collect this information while protecting the civil liberties of Americans. But this important law was written in 1978, and it addressed the technologies of that era. This law is badly out of date -- and Congress must act to modernize it.

Today we face sophisticated terrorists who use disposable cell phones and the Internet to communicate with each other, recruit operatives, and plan attacks on our country. Technologies like these were not available when FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments. As a result, our Nation is hampered in its ability to gain the vital intelligence we need to keep the American people safe. In his testimony to Congress in May, Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, put it this way: We are "significantly burdened in capturing overseas communications of foreign terrorists planning to conduct attacks inside the United States."

To fix this problem, my Administration has proposed a bill that would modernize the FISA statute. This legislation is the product of months of discussion with members of both parties in the House and the Senate -- and it includes four key reforms: First, it brings FISA up to date with the changes in communications technology that have taken place over the past three decades. Second, it seeks to restore FISA to its original focus on protecting the privacy interests of people inside the United States, so we don't have to obtain court orders to effectively collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets located in foreign locations. Third, it allows the government to work more efficiently with private-sector entities like communications providers, whose help is essential. And fourth, it will streamline administrative processes so our intelligence community can gather foreign intelligence more quickly and more effectively, while protecting civil liberties.

Every day that Congress puts off these reforms increases the danger to our Nation. Our intelligence community warns that under the current statute, we are missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country. Congress needs to act immediately to pass this bill, so that our national security professionals can close intelligence gaps and provide critical warning time for our country.

As the recent National Intelligence Estimate reported, America is in a heightened threat environment. Reforming FISA will help our intelligence professionals address those threats -- and they should not have to wait any longer. Congress will soon be leaving for its August recess. I ask Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass FISA modernization now, before they leave town. Our national security depends on it.

Thank you for listening.

I would hope Congress would not even entertain any revisions until the White House finally provides the information the Intelligence Committee has long demanded about what they did when they were eavesdropping on Americans in secret, with no oversight. How can Congress consider claimed problems with FISA unless and until they know what the administration was doing for the last six years when eavesdropping on our country?

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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