Tim Grieve / Salon.com & Capitol Hill Blue – 2005-11-30 09:00:16
The president returns to Washington after another vacation in Crawford, Texas, and the White House hopes that talk of immigration reform and the Samuel Alito nomination will distract the public from worries over the war in Iraq and continuing developments in the CIA leak case.
As for George W. Bush? He doesn’t need any distracting.
In the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh tells the tale of a former senior administration official who visited Iraq after the 2004 presidential election and returned to inform Bush that the war wasn’t going well.
“I said to the president, ‘We’re not winning the war,'” the official told Hersh. “And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.'” Bush was “displeased” with the answer, the official told Hersh. “I tried to tell him. And he couldn’t hear it.”
Hersh paints the picture of a president who believes that he was chosen by God to lead the United States after 9/11, a man whose faith blots out any concern over setbacks in Iraq.
“The president is more determined than ever to stay the course,” a former defense official tells Hersh. “Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.'”
The former official tells Hersh that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney reinforce the president’s delusions by having him appear only in front of friendly audiences and keeping him “in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway.” Bush, the former official says, has no idea that he’s living in a bubble.
In the Daily News, Thomas DeFrank and Kenneth Bazinet say the state of denial extends well beyond Bush. They quote a “card-carrying member of the Washington GOP establishment with close ties to the White House” who dined recently with several senior presidential aides and left shaking his head. “There is just no introspection there at all,” he said. “It is everybody else’s fault — the press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They’re still in denial.”
Another “close Bush confidant” says: “The staff basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they’re doing. They’re talking to people who could help them, but they’re not listening.”
Meanwhile, the Daily News says, the president is growing paranoid about the people around him, furious over leaks about the mood inside the White House but unsure which of his aides is spreading the stories. One “knowledgeable source” says: “He’s asking [friends] for opinions on who he can trust and who he can’t.”
Bush’s Largest “Enemy List” in History of US Presidency
Doug Thompson / Capitol Hill Blue
Capitol Hill Blue
(November 8, 2005) — Spurred by paranoia and aided by the USA Patriot Act, the Bush Administration has compiled dossiers on more than 10,000 Americans it considers political enemies and uses those files to wage war on those who disagree with its policies.
The “enemies list” dates back to Bush’s days as governor of Texas and can be accessed by senior administration officials in an instant for use in campaigns to discredit those who speak out against administration policies or acts of the President.
The computerized files include intimate personal details on members of Congress; high-ranking local, state and federal officials; prominent media figures and ordinary citizens who may, at one time or another, have spoken out against the President or Administration.
Capitol Hill Blue has spoken with a number of current and former administration officials who acknowledge existence of the enemies list only under a guarantee of confidentiality. Those who have seen the list say it is far more extensive than Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list” of Watergate fame or Bill Clinton’s dossiers on political enemies.
“How is that you think Karl (Rove) and Scooter (Libby) were able to disseminate so much information on Joe Wilson and his wife,” says one White House aide. “They didn’t have that information by accident. They had it because they have files on those who might hurt them.”
White House insiders tell disturbing tales of invasion of privacy, abuse of government power and use of expanded authority under the USA Patriot Act to dig into the personal lives of anyone the administration deems an enemy of the state.
Those on the list include former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, former covert CIA operative Valarie Plame, along with filmmaker and administration critic Michael Moore, Senators like California’s Barbara Boxer, media figures like liberal writer Joe Conason and left-wing bloggers
like Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (the Daily Kos) and Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette).
“If you want to know who’s sleeping with whom, who drinks too much or has a fondness for nose
candy, this is the place to find it,” says another White House aide. “Karl (Rove) operates under the
rule that if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you over.”
Rove started the list while Bush served as governor of Texas, compiling information on various political enemies in the state and leaking damaging information on opponents to friends in the press. The list grew during Bush’s first run for President in 2000 but the names multiplied rapidly after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and passage of the USA Patriot Act. Using the powers under the act, Rove expanded the list to more than 10,000 names, utilizing the FBI’s “national security letters” to gather private and intimate details on American citizens.
National security letters, which can be issued by an FBI supervisor without a judge’s review or approval, allows the bureau to examine the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of any Americans.
The FBI issues some 30,000 national security letters a year to employers, credit bureaus, banks, travel agencies and other sources of information on American citizens. The Patriot Act also forbids anyone receiving such a letter to reveal they have passed on information to the federal government.
“Those letters helped us build files quickly on those we needed to know more about,” says a former White House aide.
The list of enemies of the Bush administration is not maintained on White House computers and is located on a privately-owned computer offsite, but can be accessed remotely by a select list of senior aides, including Rove. The offsite location allowed the database to escape detection by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald during his investigation of the Valerie Plame leak. The database is funded by private donations from Bush political backers and does not appear on the White House budget or Federal Election Commission campaign reports.
Bush is not the first President to use the FBI to keep track of his enemies. Richard M. Nixon used FBI files to try and discredit his opponents, including Daniel Ellsberg, the Department of Defense employee who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. Bill Clinton used the FBI to compile dossiers on critics like Conservative Congressman Bob Barr and legal gadfly Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch.
But worried White House insiders say the intelligence gathered by the Bush administration is far larger, more extensive and potentially more damaging than the excesses of previous occupants of the White House. Even worse, it dovetails into a pattern of spying on Americans that has become commonplace since Bush took office.
“We’re talking about Big Brother at its most extreme,” says one White House staffer. “We know things about people that their spouses don’t know and, if it becomes politically expedient, we will make sure the rest of the world knows.”
The White House press office did not respond to a request for an interview on this story and did not return phone calls seeking comment.
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