Always Expect “Tora! Tora! Tora!” to Be Made: Thoughts on the FBI’s Abuse of Patriot Act Authority

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tora! tora! tora!.jpg
When Matsushita purchased MCA/Universal Studios in 1990, many worried that the Japanese business would distort, censor, or otherwise direct creative content at the giant movie and entertainment house towards politically safe — rather than provocative and edgy — material.
A journalist asked the Chairman of Matsushita Electric, Masaharu Matsushita, at the first press briefing focused on the entertainment studio acquisition whether Matsushita would play any role in content supervision at MCA/Universal. Masaharu Matsushita said that his firm would not meddle in creative affairs and wanted MCA/Universal to continue to create appealing films and music for a global audience. When the journalist followed up and asked “Would Matsushita allow ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ to be made today?” the Chairman responded by saying “Why would anyone want to make that film today?”
A shiver went through the room — and it reverberated through the creative community at MCA/Universal.
The same sort of issue exists when branches of government or bureaucracies think that they have specified powers.
One should assume that specified legal authorities will be used in their broadest sense. One would be naive to ‘hope’ that concern for the public good will generally prevail in complex government organizations.
This tension between public interest and government power is apparent in the news today that the FBI abused Patriot Act authorities. I agree with Senator Russ Feingold, who is on the
Senate Judiciary Committee panel that oversees the FBI and said that a new Justice Department Inspector General report on the FBI “proves that ‘trust us’ doesn’t cut it.”
Lara Jakes Jordan of AP reports:

The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a Justice Department audit concluded Friday.
And for three years the FBI underreported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over the customer data, the audit found.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said he was to blame for not putting more safeguards into place.
“I am to be held accountable,” Mueller said. He told reporters he would correct the problems and did not plan to resign.
“The inspector general went and did the audit that I should have put in place many years ago,” Mueller said.
The audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that FBI agents sometimes demanded personal data on individuals without proper authorization. The 126-page audit also found the FBI improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.
The audit blames agent error and shoddy record-keeping for the bulk of the problems and did not find any indication of criminal misconduct.

The only way our form of democracy works is to realize that the President wants to be King, that Members of Congress want to be re-elected and derive power from keeping the King in check, and that the Judiciary has ultimate authority in most cases to resolve disputes between branches of government and contending political interests. The aspirant King and the wannabe rulers in the Congress both have input into the membership of the Judiciary.
The system works with all parties vigorously pursuing their interests. We should always worry that a Matsushita would pull the plug on “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and plan accordingly.
We should also expect that the Patriot Act would be misused, misapplied, and distorted beyond the intention Congress and the White House had for it.
Getting rid of Tom DeLay was an important part of correcting some of the worsening structural corruption in Washington (though i hear from the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund he is about to become a CNN commentator), but there is much more work that needs to be done to get the American political order off the edge of “losing its character as a republic.”
— Steve Clemons
Update: Someone close to me tells me that the Matsushita-MCA example doesn’t work very well.
Perhaps not, but Glenn Greenwald has a terrific post here that deserves attention and looks at the abuse of Presidential powers that led to what the FBI was doing.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

33 comments on “Always Expect “Tora! Tora! Tora!” to Be Made: Thoughts on the FBI’s Abuse of Patriot Act Authority

  1. Den Valdron says:

    Is the two weeks up?
    Goddam

    Reply

  2. Winnipeger says:

    poa:
    if you’re implying that i posted as “attila” in order to criticize his comments, you’re wrong. regardless, this is easily proven by viewing IP addresses of contributors.
    i would give anything to meet you face to face. something tells me that your demeanor and disposition would change markedly.

    Reply

  3. Barry says:

    I take issue with your statement that “We should also expect that the Patriot Act would be misused, misapplied, and distorted beyond the intention Congress and the White House had for it.”
    I will give you 10/1 odds on any reasonable sum that if we ever get to the bottom of this, the FBI excesses will have the white house’s fingerprints all over them and that the “excesses” were the result of white house direction. Indeed, I don’t see how you could suspect otherwise.

    Reply

  4. Pissed Off American says:

    “Attila’s” post is nothing more than troll droppings, designed to provide a platform for the subsequent expectable comment.

    Reply

  5. urbino says:

    The mad Hungarian falls under my DNFTEC policy.

    Reply

  6. Winnipeger says:

    are you implying that “attila” doesn’t really believe what he wrote, poa? he merely wrote it to get a reaction or it was an example of “false flag” commenting?! as if there aren’t many people in the world who DO harbor these ugly, anti-semitic feelings? it seems to me like your being quite naive or worse.
    in any event, thank you for going on record to condemn that scree.

    Reply

  7. Pissed Off American says:

    Attila’s asinine crap isn’t worth comment. It was posted just to get a reaction. Or, of course, it was posted expressly so someone could point a finger and say….
    (see above).

    Reply

  8. Winnipeger says:

    btw, “attila,” i guess 564,500 hungarian jews killed during WWII wasn’t enough for you, huh?
    and here’s a nice photo to remind you of the great work you did in trying to rid your country of jews:
    http://www.mazal.org/Hungary/Photos/10/10-1112.htm

    Reply

  9. Winnipeger says:

    attila is NOT an anti-semite, right?
    i find it ironic that when a anyone says something on this blog in support of israel they are roundly “attacked” by several contributors and told to “go away,” “go to hell,” “shove it,” etc. but, when something like the above is posted, these same folks have nothing to say in response or condemnation.

    Reply

  10. Attila says:

    The Jews are wrecking Hungary just the same as every other country they’ve infiltrated over the centuries. In every case, they suck the very life out of the country concerned. They ransack it, rape it of its wealth and wreak havoc with its government, banking and legal systems. They defraud its people and pervert the minds of innocent children with the filth they broadcast through their media interests. The Jews are like locusts and leeches; they cannot live among themselves, they must go out in the world to pillage and plunder. I hope your paracite prime minister and his supporters in Tel Aviv is soon brought to justice for his crimes.

    Reply

  11. canucklehead says:

    The administration has relied on secrecy, intimidation, and acquiescence to further its agenda. Over congress, the media, the general public.
    It’s the acquiescence that has always puzzled me. Republican leaders aggresively neglect any oversight. Powerful congressional voices like Specter forget the most basic of privacy issues. McCain backs off on detainee rights. Lieberman on judges and war and homeland investigations. Media personlaities regurgitate talking points and bury facts. Immediate silencing of administration critics. No follow up on misinformation campaigns.
    These are powerful voices with big platforms rolling over here. Its usually attributed to extreme partisan politics, loyalty to the president, and general media slovenliness.
    I sense there is more. To have this tight a control over all key levers of power, and to be able to pull these levers on demand, there must be an absolute belief by the administration that their power won’t ebb.
    I submit the NSL’s as a perfect indicator of the silent power of the administration: They KNOW stuff on everyone. They know personal habits, private pedelictos, and can view correspondences of anyone they require.
    Think back to the Bolton war. Surveillance activity was a key component not fully invetsigated. But Bolton gained access to ‘wiretaps’ as a normal part of his past duties.
    Knowledge is their true power. I predict everyone knew Cheney and Delay would find out secrets. And those with something to hide always roll in the end.
    Maybe Specter has a Chapaquidick…

    Reply

  12. jf says:

    Independent voters are more likely to appreciate the value of our civil liberties. This issue is one of the dealbreakers when considering candidates for President. Where did they stand when our civil liberties were threatened? Would love to see Hagel get out in front on this one. At least support others who are getting out on front. Something. Anything.

    Reply

  13. Pissed of Hungarian says:

    Budapest under Israeli Occupation?
    ——————————————————————————–
    (Reuters Photo) Shots were fired at Hungary’s police headquarters in Budapest February 13, 2007
    The Men in Blue have arrived- The murderers and child killers in blue arrived on the 9th of March.
    200 Israeli solders in their standard blue uniforms as a “military delegation” arrived in four buses – windows covered – to the center of Budapest to a huge city block sized synagogue. They did get out of the bus and walked into this center of unrestrained human love and source of all wisdom for mankind.
    They were also received in the Hungarian Parliament by Mr. Laszlo Mandur before they drove to the synagogue.
    Obviously the intention is to house them there in the center of the city, within a few hundred yards from the spots where all the action will be played out on the 15th of March. Interesting that the Israeli Supreme Court just made a decision that it is forbidden to use civilians as human shields for Israeli soldiers. How will these fine people protect themselves in our country now?
    We did have a similar event: A few days before the 23rd of October (last year) a U.S. military transporter with a few hundred soldiers and what else was parked in a corner at the Budapest airport. It was obvious that they were their in preparation to help to emigrate our beloved Prime Minister, Mr. Gyurcsany and his family either to the U.S. or Israel, in case if the need suddenly arrives.
    Generally, the government and the media is trying to create maximum hysteria in advance in order to justify the coming beating, blinding and maiming of Hungarians on the 15th of March. This is the day when the Hungarian war of independence broke out against Austria in 1848. When the Hungarians won against Austria the Russians dutifully sent in an army to help out…
    We do have around a hundred celebrations and demonstrations already lined up for this day.
    The local Jewish organizations are openly promoting to their members to spend the very long weekend starting on March 15th in a foreign country.
    This writer is sitting here in the middle of this whole mass, speaks the language, has access to all possible information sources and he is familiar with all local customs and history, still it is increasingly difficult for him to separate reality from hysteria. The whole country is shifting into lala-land and there is only one fix point: The local Judeo-Bolshevik government increasingly depends on 30,000 policemen to survive from week to week. It just might turn out to be a very long and hot summer this year.
    The government and their well paid and numerous agents keep complaining that the rebels are importing firearms into the country. No proof was ever provided. The whole thing sounds like an urban legend to justify the dramatically increasing expenses for police hardware.
    There was a single incident involving an AK47: Somebody opened up on the national HQ of the police in Budapest, a huge building covered with bulletproof glass plates. It might be that those eight people who were blinded by the police with rubber bullets were not all happy about this event and used their left over eye. But it is even more likely that it was a self-inflicted wound on those 15 glass plates. (Replacement is $5,000/each.) The suspects were filmed with their car, and were not caught. A rather suspicious circumstance. As far as the use of hard rubber bullets: It will be permitted again for the police.
    Around Kossuth Square, where the whole action started on the 17th of September there is a double metal cordon, protected by police 24/7.
    On the other hand the courts permitted that 15 people can actually walk around the Square – as demonstrators. This is what they call democracy around here.
    In the meantime the government published a list of 300 public hospitals that will be closed in the country. The buildings will be sold to satisfy the greed of the parasites who are in preparation to jump the ship. Thousands of government owned buildings, public utility companies, even the airport of Budapest was sold to international gangsters who pay kickbacks to their local comrades.
    The general population is at the point of open rebellion in larger and larger proportions. Average income and the standard of life is rapidly decreasing while taxes, prices and fees are increasing.
    Even George Soros finds that the place is unstable for investments; he started to operate in Bolivia where the locals broke out in a revolt against him and his clan.
    The locals claim at open public meetings that Soros is buying up land and natural resources.
    David Irving will be delivering public speeches and signing his books in Budapest, starting on the 12th of March. He is scheduled to speak at Heroes Plaza on the 15th.
    The local supervisors of our Brand New World Order figured this out after he was already traveling in the area for a while. They are trying to sort out how to spin this news, how to fit it into the local background – it is not an easy job. To deny the Holiest Hoax of them all is not a crime by Hungarian laws and for Irving it is not really necessary to deny anything in order to make a statement.

    Reply

  14. clio says:

    According to TV Newser (via DKos) the rumors of Delay’s employment with CNN are greatly exaggerated.
    And, c’mon, it was John Fund reporting. All the credibility of Pravda combined with the common sense of 18th century French aristocracy.

    Reply

  15. Pissed Off American says:

    The Patriot Act is designed to control the masses when the collective realization is reached that we have ceased to have a part in our own governance. Bush’s new expedited processes through which he can declare martial law serve the same goal. These abuses by the FBI are the least of our problems. The REAL problem is going to be exposed as the neo-con monster’s grand design becomes evident.

    Reply

  16. Dennis says:

    DeLay and CNN?
    Kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel, ain’t it?
    Sorta like when two of our local music stores began to hit hard financial times, they tried to make up for it by selling more and more RAP.
    They still went under.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

    Reply

  17. urbino says:

    “Tom Delay is supposedly going to work for CNN, not Fox.”
    I guess there’s no such thing as going too far when it comes to proving you’re not The Liberal Media.

    Reply

  18. Steve Clemons says:

    Phil Silver — right you are. Was on auto pilot. Fixed…thanks,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  19. Mullah Cimoc says:

    Mullah Cimoc say this for only to diversion the mind of the ameriki.
    ameriki needing to understand how neocon making the war for israel with the ameriki boys doing the dying, and the killing.
    where them neocon am now? Why am eriki media not mention this subject? Also not mention the subject of the israeli spy, and also why the wtc bldg. no. 7 collapsing so suspicious.

    Reply

  20. Brigitte N. says:

    You know that you have a problem on your hands, if the FBI needs tens of thousands of National Security letters in order to investigate suspected terrorists within the country. It is utterly nonsense to tell us that so many American citizens or residents are suspects in some kind of terrorist scheme.
    Anything that is in the post-9/11 era has been called “patriot” or “patriotic” was and is suspect in that it was and is a means to violate the democratic rules of the games and even the constitution.

    Reply

  21. asdf says:

    Diehards may like the actual inspector general rapport:
    http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/oig/natsec.pdf
    The Washington post coverage has *the* questions about this issue at the end:
    * Is data from overly broad requests kept?
    * If so, for how long and how easy can this data be used?
    From the WaPo it appears the FBI is still looking for the answer. Its very encouraging to hear that extra data handed to the FBI besides the data requested in the national security letter can be sequestered.
    This becomes even more important with US plans for “data retention” legislation. This is an Euphemism for forcing phone companies an internet providers to collect and keep records of phone calls and e-mails of all of their customers, and paying for the cost of this gigantic surveillance.
    This idea started in the UK in 2000. Thats more than a year before 9/11 and long before the London and Madrid bombings. In a rapport the national criminal intelligence (along with spooks the biggest proponents) concluded it was illegal under the European convention on human rights and national privacy legislation. Article 8 offer great privacy protection, any personal data collection has to be proportional to its goal, this isn`t!
    http://cryptome.org/ncis-carnivore.htm#7
    It is suggested that the idea was turned into a proposal within the EU council of minister precisely for this reason. With a bunch justice ministers convinced this wouldn`t cost the taxpayer a dime (Crazy stuff) this sweeping legislation could have passed swiftly without anyone noticing. This is unlike sensitive national legislation in th UK like “entitlement cards”.
    Even when the parliament got involved the plan got pushed trough the the two big party blocks with the treat of just going with the council proposal.
    Just saying European politics is murky and the smal groups of parties in the parliament can write the most insightful stuff (CIA flights?) and be ignored by big blocks reducing everything to a duel of diplomatic compromises over interest.
    The combination of mandatory traffic data collection regulation (“data retention”) and databases of traffic data collected piece by piece trough national security letters is extremely powerful. It creates within the FBI a potential capability not unlike the target selection phase of the unconstitutional NSA program. Here network analysis was used to look at which phones have been in contact which which other phones, which in turn have…. well, Just play with exxonsecrets.org and you get the point.
    http://cryptome.org/nsa-program.htm
    —-
    Its never to late to have a hard (first?) look at the patriot act. Remember the disappearing prosecutors? they where replaced with friends of Karl Rove. Thanks to a few line slipped into the patriot act reauthorization bill they didn`t need any confirmation procedure.
    All of this because Karl Roves department of the GOP considered the corruption investigations to much tilted in favor of democrats. How many local corruption investigation where there the last couple of years again?:
    Democrats: 262
    Republicans: 37
    Independents: 10
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_03/010882.php
    If democrats are *that* corrupt… Then the patriot may really be needed for political stuff.

    Reply

  22. liz says:

    I think and have thought since the day of the vote that this so called Patriot Act should be repealed. The reps and Senators did NOT READ the tremendous amounts of laws they put into motion. Nothing is a better example of a buy out or sold out group of elitists who have forgotten that one day, probably sooner rather than later, they are going to become a joe average again too. They allowed themselves to be taken advantage of, is bugging their offices really ok? Tapping their phones? Now mine? Yours?
    I am all for going after and catching terrorist and ” bringing them to justice” but I see the Patriot Act as a tremendous impediment to that process.

    Reply

  23. susan says:

    “Perhaps someone can explain to me what phrases like “I take full responsibility” or “I am to be held accountable” acutally mean…”
    Sure, happy to help. The phrases mean absolutely nothing.
    Or, as Bush would say, “I take full responsibility. Now, watch this drive.”

    Reply

  24. David N says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Phil. Now I know not to watch CNN, either.
    The only honest news providers in television are Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart. Everyone else is a corporate shill.
    Print news isn’t much better, with just as few exceptions.

    Reply

  25. urbino says:

    “Perhaps someone can explain to me what phrases like ‘I take full responsibility’ or ‘I am to be held accountable’ actually mean in practical terms.”
    Oh, that’s easy. They mean, “Oh golly-gee, you got us. Move along, now. We’ll take care of it. No need to watch us. Move along, please.”

    Reply

  26. Phil Silver says:

    Steve,
    Tom Delay is supposedly going to work for CNN, not Fox.

    Reply

  27. JohnH says:

    Anyone who is old enough to remember J. Edgar Hoover knew exactly how this was going to turn out. Most members of Congress are old to have known better. What’s most shocking to me is that the ever spineless Democrats voted for this bill and refuse to challenge warrantless wiretaps knowing full well that they are almost certainly the first to be secretly spied upon…
    What a pathetic excuse for an opposition party.

    Reply

  28. Marcia says:

    A very timely and well expressed post!
    Glenn Greenwald has been following the develping Constitutional crisis for some time, first on his Blog, Unclaimed Territory, now on “Salon”.
    There are also videos of the:
    “Presidential Power in America”
    Massachusetts School of Law Conference- October 14 & 15, 2006
    The videos are referenced at:
    http://www.mslawevents.com/
    and available on Google at:
    http://video.google.fr/videosearch?q=presidential+power
    Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe who investigated the “Signing Statements, was among the many speakers, the others were noted Constitutional scholars and historians, presentation by Dean Velvel.
    The question of the separation of power is treated in depth as well as the consequences of Congress having relinquished its role.
    This is certainly one of the most important problems facing us today. Foreign policy and these domestic issue are closely linked. The distortions of our Constitutional law and the equally distorted ventures abroad would probably not exist one without the other.

    Reply

  29. David N says:

    Steve, where do you get the idea that the White House and Congress had no idea they were going to abuse powers when the Patriot Act was passed?
    The whole point of the Patriot Act was to give the executive branch powers that could not be reviewed or limited by the other branches, and I doubt that Delay and his cronies had a problem with that, given that their agenda was to suck the government dry for their own profit, and get out of Dodge before any accountability showed up. In this, they were hugely successful. I am waiting, in the case of Delay, to be proven wrong.
    Of course, as to the meaning of “accounable,” I am with JM waiting to figure out what that means. Bush has also claimed to be accountable for the horrific mistakes he and his have made, and in that case, as in others, it means nothing.
    It has been my experience over the past thirty years, even before the Bush thugs hijacked our Constitution, that the rule in Washington is: Whenever someone gets caught doing something wrong, everyone else gets punished. The only difference today is, it’s more so.

    Reply

  30. JM says:

    “‘I am to be held accountable,’ Mueller said.”
    Perhaps someone can explain to me what phrases like “I take full responsibility” or “I am to be held accountable” actually mean in practical terms.

    Reply

  31. urbino says:

    Nice post.
    I think you’re right that our system works only when each of the 3 branches set in opposition to each other zealously pursues its interests. It’s clear enough from the Federalist Papers that the Framers at least were operating on the assumption that human nature was such that they *would*.
    But that creates an interesting problem for a certain political perspective in this country. It’s the perspective currently ascendant in the GOP, clearly seen in the conduct of Congress and in their political rhetoric over the past 6 years. That perspective is that the president *should* have very broad, even monarch-like authority, particularly in “wartime” (and the definition of that is a big problem).

    Reply

  32. Dan says:

    Mr. Clemons,
    I don’t know if you had a chance yet to review Glenn Greenwald’s take on this matter. He raises the relevant point that one of Bush’s signing statements is EXACTLY this very issue, regarding these NSLs, and how he didn’t think he needed to follow Congress’s mandate regarding them.
    This wasn’t a problem at the FBI. This is a problem at the very top: from Bush himself.

    Reply

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