Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Second "Secret Surveillance Program"?

Did Gonzales' Department of Justice have more than one secret surveillance program watching US citizens?

Could one secret surveillance program be watching us, a program that people know about and which can be named, and yet there also be another program that our supposed leaders don't admit to knowledge of and dare not name?

Attorney General Gonzales' latest message to Congress suggests the possibility.

Back in 2006, Gonzales told Congress that the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" had aroused no controversy inside the Bush administration, according to the Washington Post. (Hat tip to TM)

But two days ago, former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey described (video) a remarkable case of just such a controversy regarding a secret program. Mr. Comey and several other senior appointees threatened to resign if a program continued that they considered illegal. When they went directly to the President, he ordered it changed.

No controversy?

Either Gonzales lied in November or Mr. Comey was speaking about a different secret program. Mr. Gonzales' program is titled with caps, while Mr. Comey was careful not to name his program, other than to say that it was secret.

Are there two programs? If two, could there then be three? Four? If there are many and not one, the friction around one could provide smoke cover for the others. Are there secret secret secret secret programs?

Soon we will know. The Senate Judiciary Committee asked Mr. Gonzales if he would like to reword his testimony. He responded that he is sticking with what he said.

So there clearly appear to be at least two secret citizen surveillance programs, one whose name can be stated, another so secret that it cannot be named.

Secrecy creates an environment that permits screw-ups. Fallout from mistakes can be limited. Short-term solutions aggregate into policy. This guarantees cycles of the Fukovsky-Fukupsky effect. Secrecy cannot help but wave a flag.

To not part of the known is to ever be at risk of curiosity, in the Age of Transparency.

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Glorifying all this scandal is the fact that Mr. Bush, who it would more and more appear temporarily occupies the Office of the President, sent Mr. Gonzales and Andrew Card to Attorney General Ashcroft's hospital bedside to obtain his signature on an approval for the secret secret surveillance program at a time when Ashcroft had handed his authority over to his deputy, Mr. Comey.

Mr. Bush had apparently called ahead to the hospital room to tell Ashcroft's wife that his people were coming. She called Comey, he raced to the scene and ran up the stairs. Ashcroft and Comey had previously agreed that the surveillance program was not legal. The signature was not obtained, the emissaries left in a huff.

Mr. Bush knew that Comey was the acting Attorney General, but he tried to get a signature from Ashcroft. Criminal obstruction of justice?

Congress will have to decide.