Sunday, December 16, 2007

Important enough to break the law but not important enough to fund

Follow the money.

It is what people say to do when you are looking for the underlying motives of someone, or to see who would gain from some action (or crime). It is what people say to do when you want to talk about where one’s priorities are, hence, the whole “put your money where your mouth is” saying.

And with Mister Bush, as well as the Congressional leadership (including those who are in charge of appropriations and negotiating the budget), by “following the money”, we can come to three conclusions:

  • There isn’t enough of a priority to protect Americans’ rights from invasion of privacy. We knew this for a while and on a number of issues - most recently with respect to retroactive immunity for telecom companies for their illegal acts;

  • There is no real priority to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end - as evidenced by another $70 billion in “no strings attached” funding on top of the $400 bazillion already provided with no strings attached.

  • There is no real priority by either Congress or the Executive Branch to actually provide the requisite funding for Homeland Security.

There were a few articles at the beginning of this month, three of which are noted above which touch on the budget “debate” (and I use the work loosely because there has been very little debate and a whole lot of foot stomping and breath holding by Bush and no real negotiating or debate). And while a lot of attention is focused on telecom amnesty as well as who is fighting for We the People, there hasn’t been much discussion regarding the link between the FISA fight on retroactive telecom immunity and the lack of funding for port security, police and fire departments, rescue departments and anti-terrorism programs.

Put differently, Bush and Congressional leaders it is more important to provide cover for illegal acts in the name of national security than it is to actually step up and provide funding for national security.

From a December 1 AP report:

the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given $23 billion to states and local communities to fight terrorism since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, “but the administration is not convinced that the money has been well spent and thinks the nation’s highest-risk cities have largely satisfied their security needs.”

The White House budget documents indicate that DHS wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half—$1.4 billion—according to the AP.

And the AP report said the decision by the White House to eliminate port security and transit grants, among others, would not take effect until September 30, 2008.

Now, the article does go on to say that some Democratic Senators (Barbara Boxer included) are dead set against this and would fight against this, but I’m not so convinced based on prior actions that the words will match the deeds once the negotiations and “bipartisan bridge building” by the Democrats actually commences.

And the reason that the telecom companies need to have the retroactive immunity? National security, of course:

AMY GOODMAN: The telecom companies are arguing that they can’t defend themselves in court because of national security, and that’s why they need immunity. Your response, Michelle Richardson?

MICHELLE RICHARDSON: Well, you know, they can always say they didn’t do anything. If they didn’t wiretap Americans without warrants, they could simply say that. What they want to do is say, “Well, the President told us it was OK. We had no ability to defy him.” And that’s not a legal justification. We have to realize these aren’t mom-and-pop organizations that don’t know the law. These are very sophisticated massive companies with lots of lawyers who knew what they were doing was illegal at the time they were doing it. They just really didn’t expect to be caught.

“They just really didn’t expect to be caught”. So then declaring that they were just following orders and are hiding behind “national security” to avoid being punished for their actions. And as far as the following orders part goes, it is simply amazing that we already know that Bush most likely directed the telecom companies to break the law and spy on American citizens and that too many in Congress are bending over backwards to accommodate these law breakers.

At the same time that the administration is crying “national security” in order to protect themselves from prosecution or accountability for breaking law after law after law, it has the audacity to cut billions in funding for national security programs at the same time they are excusing law breaking for reasons of national security.

With these completely conflicting matters, it is impossible for the Administration to claim that they are interested in preserving national security and therefore need to excuse illegal violations of the Constitution while at the same time cutting billions in funding for many programs that are specifically designed to strengthen homeland security.

Why Bush has been able to have it both ways is mind boggling. Why Democratic leadership doesn’t make a major issue of the cuts to homeland security funding is baffling. Why tens of billions of dollars are permitted to be dumped into a failure of an occupation with absolutely no accountability or strings attached is plain stupid. And the fact that telecom companies are asking for (and will likely get) retroactive immunity for crimes they committed due to “national security” reason is a gross miscarriage of justice.

The fact that all of these are allowed to happen makes a complete mockery of our government, our elected representatives, national security itself and the rule of law.

And we need to ask ourselves who our elected representatives are actually representing.

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