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All the Spectator’s Readers

Re: Jed Babbin’s All the President’s Spies:

Is this definition of “U.S. person” unusual? Is it defined this way in other federal statutes or is it here sui generis, a burst of FISA creativity?

I’m no lawyer, but as a term of art it isn’t something I recall running into before. Seems quite innocuous, but upon a bit of reflection it turns weird like butter turns rancid. I suppose it does provide a decisive resolution to that nagging and theretofore unresolved problem of. the proper order in which to list the various sexes, genders and proclivities: his or her or her or his? The transgendered and hermaphrodite lobbies have certainly put down a marker in the drafting of this statute. A bit chauvinistic with respect to our finny friends, though. PETA, Flipper, et al. v. The United States, Edwin Meese, et al.

My only complaint in this whole business is that 30 times really doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things. Jack Bauer & Co. do 30 domestic signals intercepts before the first commercial! We can do better.
Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

If there was ever any doubt that the left hates President Bush more than they love this country, that doubt can now be dispelled with the latest NSA leak. And leading the “I hate Bush” charge, is none other than the New York Times (America’s very own version of Aljazeera). I am now completely convinced that the NYT is nothing more than a full participating partner of the Democratic Party.

Given the latest top secret leak, it is now time for President Bush to demand that the Justice Department conduct a full investigation to determine who the leaker(s) are and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If America is to survive, it is time to fight the enemy from within.
Jim L
East Sandwich, Massachusetts

I think President Bush is well equipped with courage; as Jed Babbin points out, Abe Lincoln had the guts to suspend the write of habeas corpus for anyone in military custody. The senators, bureaucrats, whomever, who are leaking vital information must be rooted out and prosecuted. In an earlier life, I wrote on military affairs for a major publication. Occasionally in order to produce an intelligent report, one had to receive “background information,” i.e., military secrets. One did not give away the country’s military secrets, first and foremost because one was an American, on America’s side, anxious for America’s success; secondly, if one gave something away even inadvertently there would be all sorts of gnashing of teeth and admonishments, and sources would dry up. And anyone who gave away a nuclear secret was ipso facto guilty of treason. We are now at war. The President is trying to lead us in a battle to preserve our way of life and, indeed, our lives. There is no question that the criminals to whom Babbin refers have been giving away the equivalent of nuclear secrets; they should be identified and tried for their crimes.
John G. Hubbell
Minnetonka, Minnesota

As time goes on the real damage done by the hyper-reaction to domestic surveillance back in the 1960s and the resulting laws and executive orders continues to hamstring U.S. intelligence.

As one who had to suffer through the misery caused by first Executive Order 11905, then the amplifying FISA, then Executive Order 12333, the paranoia and confusion it causes is tremendous to those on the “Front End.” In normal SIGINT operations it got so bad at one point if someone began to speak English the target would be dropped for fear it was a “U.S. person.”

The definition of “U.S. person” is the crux of the problem here, and something the Democrats will not admit to having crafted in such a way when they wrote the FISA law that it can prevent any useful intelligence being gained. Suffice it to say any dirt bag inside the U.S., or with a green card, or having a U.S. passport, or even an illegal immigrant living in the U.S. can be construed as a “U.S. person” and therefore must be handed off to the FBI. But as noted by the 9/11 Commission, since they don’t usually get the audit trail as to why these people were being tagged to start with, they can’t devote proper resources to them.

Suffice it to say as well that with all of the brouhaha over “torture” that in a few years the name of John McCain will be right down there with Frank Church and Otis Pike in the intel community for the damage caused to U.S. foreign intelligence collection, processing, analysis and reporting.
Cookie Sewell
Aberdeen, Maryland

Mr. Babbin’s “All the President’s Spies” is a colossal disappointment and another nail in the coffin for “conservatives” as TAS spirals toward GOP groupthink and away from thoughtful analysis. It is an intellectually lazy exercise for Mr. Babbin to blame the leakers (and, of course, the news media) while giving a pass to the Bush administration for their questionable and puzzling behavior regarding foreign gulags and going around FISA.

Mr. Babbin compares the GWOT to other real wars when it would be more appropriate to compare the GWOT to the war on drugs — neither have a tangible set of criteria for an end and both seem to epitomize the “ends justify the means” thinking by the administration. It is shocking to see how completely unconcerned “conservatives” are about civil liberties. Mr. Babbin states, “Our Constitution and laws set broad bounds for intelligence gathering. We should do everything within those bounds. Everything.” I disagree. Personally, I would much rather take my chances with a possible terrorist attack than with the government intelligence leviathan spying on everyone and everything in the United States (which is what will happen). Mr. Babbin’s article and the general response by “conservatives” are antithetical to what this great nation stands for. When did we become the nation of whiny, afraid people that were willing to risk our freedom and our way of life to torture our enemies and unlawfully spy on our own people all in the name of safety?
Ben Berry
Silver Spring, Maryland

Jed Babbin Replies:
I’ll be glad to pass your recommendation that your community absorb the next terrorist attacks to the bad guys next time I speak to them.

On Jed Babbin’s article, “All the President’s Spies,” who are the three U.S. senators suspected of leaking this information?
Jack Fisher

Jed Babbin replies:
Durbin, Wyden, and Rockefeller. They are under criminal investigation now. If they are as guilty as they appear to be, they ought to be run out of the Senate and tried criminally.

Since Jed Babbin seems to be taking questions on the subject of domestic surveillance, allow me to ask one. The sticking point for me on this whole thing is why these operations are not being handled under the existing FISA structures. My understanding is that the government can perform the wiretap first and then go to the court. What is so burdensome about that? I suspect many readers of this magazine are uncomfortable with any oversight system that depends solely on people who directly report to the President. We need to remember that we will not always be as fortunate as we are today in who holds that job.
Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey

Jed Babbin replies:
There are two answers to the question. As the great WSJ editorial says today, the president has a constitutional power, unfettered by FISA or any other law, to gather intel on possible terrorists operating in the U.S. Second, as Gen. Hayden, NSA director, said yesterday, we have to be extremely agile about this. Which means that if we take the time to gather information sufficient to support a FISA warrant on every intercept, our people won’t have the ability to gather as much intelligence. We only have finite resources, and they are fully occupied with the job they’re doing. More paperwork can only block the effectiveness of their effort.

Re: Shawn Macomber’s Forget What You Heard:

Long ago, the French sent troops to help us become the first modern democracy. Later, they gave us the Statue of Liberty, with the wonderful poem inscribed on it.

We are now watching the Iraqi troops stand up and protect their fledgling democracy, the first one in modern Arabia.

We, the people of the United States, should give them a liberty statue of some kind, with a purple finger triumphing over violence, with a verse from a great Iraqi poem inscribed on it.

Symbols can mean a lot, and the power of cultural iconography should not be underestimated.
Newt Love
Annapolis, Maryland

A very interesting article. Thanks for finding and printing the truth. I read my local newspaper every day and have kept a rough count of positive articles about this President and events in Iraq. In 2005 not one favorable article about this President and one headline (negated by the story) appearing positive about the recent election. The story focused on a “truckload of ballots” smuggled in from Iran which skewed the results. If the President gave every kid in the world an ice cream cone, the media would excoriate him for feeding them junk food, not having chocolate syrup or sprinkles. They have a pathological hatred of Bush and Iraq.

To Senator Kerry who recently was reported to have said : “These Iraqi security forces are not up to US Army standards and it will take years for them to get there” Senator Kerry, Iraqi security forces don’t have to be up to battling our Army, they just have to be better than the cowards they are fighting against. Sounds like they’re already there.

Keep sending us the truth.
Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

Re: Peter Hannaford’s Vox Populi in Salinas:

You are correct that all “taxing” matters of this variety should be controlled by those who pay them. Surely the local politicians jest when they call this a solution. Pensions, salaries, etc. of public employees continue to rise and when this tax sunsets in 10 years, they will be going to the well for ONLY a couple of pennies more. They’ve managed to buy time. What else do politicians do, but this?
Edda Gahm
Diamond Bar, California

Re: David Holman’s Romney’s “Mormon Problem”:

I was disappointed in the article by David Holman. I felt the article was flawed from the title on. The representation of Gov. Romney and of the Mormons or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was grossly inaccurate as well as misrepresented throughout the article. Let me illustrate my point with a portion of the article. When referring to polygamy the author made the comment that there were an estimated 50,000 polygamists in Utah who claim to be following the true and original teaching of the LDS faith. What was not clarified was that these people fall outside of the LDS faith. No member in good standing in that faith practices polygamy. The reason this can be stated with such certainty is because if a member were to choose to participate in this practice they would not be in harmony with the teachings of that faith and if they were not willing to repent are excommunicated and thus fall into the category of not being a member. Misrepresentations such as this have given rise to contentions rising between, as the author puts it, other local churches. As for being declined by Shirley Dobson when asking to pray at the National Day of Pray, it sounds as though the author has the ability to get into Mrs. Dobson’s mind and read her very thoughts. How does he know her reasoning for this? The group Focus on the Family is well respected by members of the LDS faith across the nation and often works closely with and are supportive of them. This relationship, contrary to what was alluded to in the article, is a good relationship — one of respect and support.

This article was lazily written and poorly researched at best. It falls into the category of one having broad, sweeping and unfounded statements and would not receive a passing grade in a high school setting. The American Spectator can and should do better.
Steven G.

Re: James Bowman’s review of Memoirs of a Geisha:

Mr. Bowman, thank you for the critic on Memoirs of a Geisha. I have just finished the book and loved it. Its travel to the past is interesting and something I enjoyed in the book. The honesty of the story tells us much of what a geisha was with none of the tiring ideas of what they were thought of at the time by people who did not understand their lives.

The people in the book become important to you and as with every book that grabs your heart, you do not want the story to end, although the ending, well, I won’t tell.

From your description the movie is close enough to the book for me to go see it. I hate it when Hollywood takes a book such as this and adds too much or takes away too much and we are left unhappy at paying to see a book we liked changed to their idea of what is important to the story.

Thanks, they are still with me and I am sure I will enjoy the movie.
Carole Graham

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