The Bush Family Coup

Son revisits the sins of the father on America

There was concern from the start that FISA would be used to circumvent the Fourth Amendment in routine criminal cases. So FISA dictated that these warrantless searches and surveillance could be conducted only for counterintelligence purposes, and not for regular criminal investigations. However, if a FISA search happened to turn up evidence of a crime, this information could be handed over to law enforcement. According to a joint inquiry conducted in 2002 by the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence, “the Intelligence Community agencies, perhaps overly ‘risk-averse’ in dealing with FISA-related matters, restricted the use of information far beyond what was required. The majority of FBI personnel interviewed . . . incorrectly believed that the FBI could not share FISA-derived information with criminal investigators at all or that an impossibly high standard had to be met before the information could be shared. Most did not know [it] could be shared with criminal investigators if it was simply relevant to the criminal investigation.”

And anyway, the FBI never stopped its domestic spying. During the ’80s and ’90s the FBI spied on and/or infiltrated peace and solidarity groups engaged in protesting U.S. involvement in the wars of Central America, put agents into Earth First, and went after the far right, again trying to plant agents and turn participants into informants. The shooting at Ruby Ridge and the raid in Waco galvanized not just the right but the heartland against the Bureau. At Ruby Ridge, it was an FBI sniper killing a mother with a baby in her arms. At Waco it was a monstrous assault on a religious enclave. And the Bureau’s handling of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995—with botched lab work and lost documents—to this day fuels the controversy over the government’s role in that catastrophe. Recent evidence suggests a federal agent may have penetrated the gang that conducted the bombing. The informant told her superior, who sat on the information until long after the bombing.


The failures of the FBI and CIA in 9-11 were not because of any wall. These agencies failed because they weren’t doing their jobs right. The congressional investigation found the CIA couldn’t penetrate al Qaeda—an especially odd claim since we had helped to create and finance al Qaeda as an instrument to win the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. John Walker Lindh and other Americans walked right into al Qaeda and were greeted by its high officials. How come the CIA couldn’t do the same? No wall kept the CIA from getting Osama bin Laden. They just couldn’t find him. As for how the hijackers got into the U.S., it’s hardly a mystery. An FBI informant among the Muslim community in San Diego socialized with two hijackers and rented a room to one of them. When Congress tried to figure out how this happened, the Bureau covered it up, refusing to allow the informant to testify. Again, there was no wall here—just plain incompetence made worse by a deliberate cover-up. The FBI reportedly was informed in April 2001 by a longtime reliable asset of an impending attack using airliners as missiles. It did nothing. An operation known as Able Danger reportedly turned up information on and tracked hijacker Mohammad Atta as far back as 1998, but the Pentagon wouldn’t tell the FBI what it knew. Even now, the Bush administration is fighting to prevent the Able Danger officials from testifying before Congress about what they knew and when they knew it. When it comes to intelligence, the only thing worse than the FBI’s record is the CIA’s.

Given all that’s happened, the only explanation for the Bush domestic spying is that it’s political. There are no crimes involved here. But there is an overweaning desire by this so-called conservative government to establish and institutionalize a Big Brother regime that tolerates no dissent and wrecks constitutional government.

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