Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crazed, Sick Cretins or Opportunistic Fascists?

The following is from an article in the New York Times Magazine by Jeff Rosen scheduled for release on September 9, 2007. The article describes the thoughts and experiences of Jack Goldsmith, a former head of the Attorney General's Office of Legal Counsel.

..Goldsmith deplored the way the White House tried to fix the problem, which was highly contemptuous of Congress and the courts. “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,” Goldsmith recalls Addington telling him in February 2004.

In his book, Goldsmith claims that Addington and other top officials treated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the same way they handled other laws they objected to: “They blew through them in secret based on flimsy legal opinions that they guarded closely so no one could question the legal basis for the operations,” he writes. Goldsmith’s first experienced this extraordinary concealment, or “strict compartmentalization,” in late 2003 when, he recalls, Addington angrily denied a request by the N.S.A.’s inspector general to see a copy of the Office of Legal Counsel’s legal analysis supporting the secret surveillance program. “Before I arrived in O.L.C., not even N.S.A. lawyers were allowed to see the Justice Department’s legal analysis of what N.S.A. was doing,” Goldsmith writes.

Goldsmith also witnessed perhaps the most well-known confrontation over the administration’s aggressive tactics: the scene at Ashcroft’s hospital bed on March 10, 2004, when Gonzales and Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, visited the hospital to demand that the ailing Ashcroft approve, over Goldsmith and Comey’s objections, a secret program that was about to expire. (Goldsmith refuses to identify the program, but Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, has publicly indicated it was the terrorist surveillance program.) As he recalled it to me, Goldsmith received a call in the evening from his deputy, Philbin, telling him to go to the George Washington University Hospital immediately, since Gonzales and Card were on the way there. Goldsmith raced to the hospital, double-parked outside and walked into a dark room. Ashcroft lay with a bright light shining on him and tubes and wires coming out of his body.

Suddenly, Gonzales and Card came in the room and announced that they were there in connection with the classified program. “Ashcroft, who looked like he was near death, sort of puffed up his chest,” Goldsmith recalls. “All of a sudden, energy and color came into his face, and he said that he didn’t appreciate them coming to visit him under those circumstances, that he had concerns about the matter they were asking about and that, in any event, he wasn’t the attorney general at the moment; Jim Comey was. He actually gave a two-minute speech, and I was sure at the end of it he was going to die. It was the most amazing scene I’ve ever witnessed.”

After a bit of silence, Goldsmith told me, Gonzales thanked Ashcroft, and he and Card walked out of the room. “At that moment,” Goldsmith recalled, “Mrs. Ashcroft, who obviously couldn’t believe what she saw happening to her sick husband, looked at Gonzales and Card as they walked out of the room and stuck her tongue out at them. (Emphasis added)

Well, here we have what is unquestionably the most powerful lawyer in the Bush Administration, Cheney Chief of Staff and Counsel David Addington, pining away for another terrorist bombing of the United States so that the Administration can cravenly grab even more power and completely eviscerate the Fourth Amendment. And, as Goldsmith relates, that extra authoritarian/dictatorial power is exactly what everybody in the Administration wanted desperately; so you can easily presume they were all similarly hoping for just such an event so they could grab their dream. Wonderful, eh?

If that were not enough cretinous craving for you, we now have the further details of their attempts to take advantage of the medically debilitated and incapacitated John Ashcroft in the hospital ICU. My hat is off to Mrs. Ashcroft for sticking her tongue out at these evil rubes. My answer to the question posed in the title to this piece is both.