Bush "accidentally" leaves mikes open--a deliberate leak to cover NSA leak?

Saturday, February 11, 2006 at 07:46 AM

So our esteemed president spoke to the House Republican Caucus yesterday. And, the story goes, "someone" forgot to turn off the microphones that feed into the press room, allowing the press corps to hear a few minutes of Bush's comments that he expected "to stay in the room."  And if the news reports of this incident are to be believed, what did the Presdent say during this brief moment of exposure?  All the right things about protecting the country, ensuring the NSA program's legality, and the like.  Then the open mikeswere apparently discovered, and turned off.

Well color me just as skeptical as hell.  Paranoid even.  But it's too pat, too convenient, too contrary to the otherwise obsessive secrecy of the administration.

An AP report, as styled by Forbes:

Bush Reveals Rationale Behind Surveillance
By JENNIFER LOVEN , 02.10.2006

President Bush defended his warrantless eavesdropping program Friday, saying during what he thought were private remarks that he concluded that spying on Americans was necessary to fill a gap in the United States' security.

"I wake up every morning thinking about a future attack, and therefore, a lot of my thinking, and a lot of the decisions I make are based upon the attack that hurt us," Bush told the House Republican Caucus which was in retreat at a luxury resort along the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The president said he asked the National Security Agency to devise a way to gather intelligence on terrorists' potential activities, and the result was the super-secret spy outfit's program to monitor the international e-mails and phone calls of people inside the United States with suspected ties to terrorists overseas. Bush said lawyers in the White House and at the Justice Department signed off on the program's legality, and "we put constant checks on the program."

"I take my oath of office seriously. I swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States," Bush said.

The president's comments on the NSA eavesdropping came after eight minutes of remarks intended for public consumption.

Reporters then were ushered out - "I support the free press, let's just get them out of the room," Bush said - so the president could speak privately to his fellow Republicans.

"I want to share some thoughts with you before I answer your questions," said Bush, unaware that microphones were still on and were transmitting his comments back to the White House press room. "First of all, I expect this conversation we're about to have to stay in the room. I know that's impossible in Washington."

That was not to be - and it was telling that the president chose the controversial NSA program as the first topic to raise out of reporters' earshot. Even so, there was no substantive difference between those statements and the series of public speeches he has given recently to defend the program.

Everything about the story rings true except the accidentally open mike.  I believe the President generally wants the press out of the room when he speaks.  I believe that the House Republican Caucus would meet in a luxury resort.  I believe that Bush would say that his NSA program is only for the benefit of us fellow Americans.

I find it very hard to believe that:

  1. The microphones were accidentally left open.

  2. Although Bush thought he was speaking in the absence of press, he said exactly what he says when the press is there.

  3. That the open mikes were conveniently discovered just after he made these publicly acceptable comments, allowing him to then conduct the rest of the meeting in the true absence of the press.

Talk to political folks in Texas who know Bush and Rove well.  Isn't this a classic example of what the hungry reptilian brain of Rove would cook up to make the public think they've now heard Bush's private thoughts, and that he really is just looking out for all of us?

Open mikes a mistake?  Possible.  Open mikes deliberate?  Very possible.

And before I step down off the soapbox, let me point out ywo things.  First, Bush said, according to the AP story, that "the result was the super-secret spy outfit's program...monitor[s] the international e-mails and phone calls of people inside the United States with suspected ties to terrorists overseas."  If that is true, then there is no reason in Hell that the NSA can't take the evidence of the "suspected ties to terrorists" before the FISA court for approval of the surveillance of those people.

Where is the incredible difficulty of using the FISA court to approve the sureveillance which the administration repeats endlessly?  Where is the need for speed greater than the FISA court approval process will allow?

Second, even if the program was conceived as an honest effort to protect us, and even if the program is important, the administration should still be obliged to have neutral, objective oversight of the program in order to protect us all against the potential dangers of a secret spying program that focuses on Americans in America.

The story stinks.  Always did, still does, and I suspect it still will long after I'm dead and gone.