Friday, December 30, 2005

Bush and Pinochet...

George W. Bush, as 2005 comes to a close, increasingly reminds one of a bad Pinochet:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 - The Justice Department said today that it had opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security Agency program under which President Bush authorized eavesdropping on people in the United States without a court warrant...

The investigation apparently began in recent days following a formal referral from the agency regarding the leak, federal officials said on condition of anonymity.

The program, whose existence was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Dec. 16, has provoked sharp criticism from civil liberties groups, some members of Congress and some former intelligence officials who believe it circumvents the law governing national security eavesdropping.

President Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales have vigorously defended the program as a legal, critical defense against terrorism that has helped prevent attacks in the United States. They say the president's executive order authorizing the program is constitutional as part of his powers as commander in chief and under the resolution passed by Congress days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing the use of force against terrorists.

Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, told reporters in Crawford, Tex., where the president is on vacation, that Mr. Bush did not request the investigation.

"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," Mr. Duffy said. "The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications."

Privacy advocates said today that the leak investigation should be set aside, at least for now, in favor of an investigation of the warrantless eavesdropping itself.

"President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."

Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said his group believes "the priority at this point for the Department of Justice should be the appointment of an independent prosecutor to determine whether federal wiretap laws were violated" by the National Security Agency program.

Of course, the violation of 4th ammendment rights makes the leak look trivial by comparison, and besides, if they cacth the leaker, "defending against a bigger crime" will be the defense, and we can only hope the details are blazed in neon across the land.

Don't worry though if it's not. George W. Bush can't take comfort in the fact that it looks like justice will finally be meted out to Augusto Pinochet:

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Ailing former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet suffered two legal setbacks on Friday -- he was stripped of his immunity in a fraud case and his house arrest was allowed to extend beyond the New Year's Eve, prompting his lawyer to decry his "unceasing persecution."

Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years after leading a 1973 coup, has been under house arrest since November on a series of human rights charges related to the murder and disappearance of leftists during his dictatorship.

A Chilean appeals court stripped Pinochet, 90, of his immunity from prosecution so he can face new charges for abuse of funds in a $27 million (15.7 million pounds) tax fraud case.

Judges from the Santiago Court of Appeals voted 21-3 to strip the retired general of his immunity for a second time regarding charges related to millions of dollars he allegedly hid in foreign bank accounts.

He can appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Separately, the court said the Pinochet defence team's appeals of the house arrest order were left pending until next week.

George W. Bush can run but he can't hide. Eventually we'll smoke him out. Take the battle to him. Oh, and for the record? "Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications" is bullshit. When proto-fascists break the law it has serious ramifications, and that's what makes it news. Duffy, go to work for Pinochet.

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