More Zazi Justifications for PATRIOT

For the second time today, the WaPo has a very obedient regurgitation of DOJ’s efforts to use the Zazi investigation to push for reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act. There’s the proclamation that the plot was very serious (which I am not challenging).

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that an alleged hydrogen peroxide bomb threat was "very serious" and "could have resulted in the loss of American lives."


Holder declined comment on the next phase of the investigation, including the timing on possible arrests. He nonetheless expressed confidence that authorities had defused the alleged al-Qaeda-inspired threat, which may have been intended to kill "scores" of Americans. 

Tied to the call for Congress to "swiftly" reapprove PATRIOT provisions.

Holder used the occasion to call on Congress to swiftly reauthorize provisions of the USA Patriot Act, including tools that allow the FBI to conduct roving wiretaps of suspects, that have helped the bureau and its law enforcement partners in multiple cases. He nodded to the concerns of civil liberties advocates by acknowledging, "There’s certainly a conversation that can be had about, do they need to be reexamined," but Holder went on to assert that "the tools as they exist are valuable and not in a theoretical sense."

And, as with the WaPo article this morning, this article accepts the Administration’s focus on roving wiretaps, when that’s not really the focus of any challenge to PATRIOT reauthorization.

Say, Justice press corps … any chance you might point out that the real questions pertain to Section 215, NSLs, and data mining aspects of the domestic surveillance program?

Update: Oh!! Ask and you shall receive! Apparently a few members of the Justice press corps did ask these questions, though Holder didn’t answer them. From Josh Gerstein:

Holder said Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders produced "much of the information" in the case, but he did not offer details on how Patriot Act provisions were used in the case. He also rebuffed questions about why those tools are superior to conventional authorities and why the Justice Department is vigorously opposing attempts in Congress to raise the threshold of proof needed to issue demands for information in connection with terrorism investigations.

"The existence of these tools is of great assistance to us," Holder said.

Update: Josh has put up a post with the explicit detail from today’s presser on Section 215. Here’s an excerpt, but go read the complete exchange:

Q: Back on the 215 issue, its connection and the extent to which this case should inform that debate: the subtlety of that debate is not whether the authority should exist but how much predicate…before the authority could come into play. And I think that sometimes that gets lost. In the interest of being clear about this, could you talk at all about how it is that he came to the government’s attention as someone who was interesting to look at in the first place [was it] something that happened here or happened overseas…Would 215 as it currently exists or as it’s being proposed to be reformed have changed that at all?

HOLDER: I really can’t comment on how he popped up on our radar screen. I really can’t talk about that. 215 as I said, there are proposals discussions about how it might be modified, looked at, we’ll certainly engage in those conversations. The point I was just trying to make is that with regard to those three provisions, they are all extremely useful tools. It doesn’t mean that they are perfect as they are presently constructed but I think they are vital in this fight against those who would do us harm. 

48 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    I’m guessing you also read this part of the WaPo article:

    …For the first time, Holder said Tuesday that the nearly two-year-old criminal probe into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes is “close” to completion, with an announcement expected “relatively soon.” A grand jury, meeting in Alexandria under the direction of career prosecutor John H. Durham, has been reviewing the matter, but lawyers involved in the matter have cast doubt on whether it will result in criminal charges…

    If I were a betting person, the thought that this investigation was close to completion means no indictments, no prosecutions, and nobody even gets their hands slapped.

    Shorter John Durham: “It was just a mistake. Rose Mary Woods was just trying to tidy up again.”

    • emptywheel says:

      I actually think the WaPo is institutionally claiming this will amount to nothing. It may well, but if Durham’s spending a lot of time with a grand jury, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,

      • bmaz says:

        I am encouraged by the GJ bit, but remember he has time constraints because of statutes running; he may have had no choice but to press with a GJ just in order to cover and say he did something before punting on chargability. Secondly, there is little question he has been dual purposing that GJ with the more recently assigned Holder “review”. There may or may not be charges, but I am not sure I would draw any inference from GJ use.

    • Leen says:

      “A grand jury, meeting in Alexandria under the direction of career prosecutor John H. Durham, has been reviewing the matter, but lawyers involved in the matter have cast doubt on whether it will result in criminal charges…”

      Can any of you lawyer folk tell me why the fuck they do all of this investigating, reports etc if they are not going to hold anyone accountable?

      Why don’t they just come out and say it there are people above the law. The peasant folk know this they are not fooling anyone.

      Loud and clear message…destroy the evidence…unless you are a peasant and then you will get hammered

    • MadDog says:

      Good catch and even better point!

      Goes to show you that Congresscritters have no more pull than journalists.

      The Unitary Executive lives on!

      • phred says:

        The Unitary Executive lives on!

        Only if Congress capitulates to the whims of the executive.

        Granted that’s pretty much a given, but you would think at least some members of Congress could find a little institutional pride somewhere. Especially after they have been treated so poorly during the health insurance debacle. Maybe if we sent them flashlights, they could root around in all the dark little corners of the Capitol and see if they can find some hidden pride in some musty old unused cupboard or something.

        • MadDog says:

          In a sense, it’s like they think this is a football game (memories of my Vikes last night notwithstanding).

          When the other team had the ball, they tried like hell to move the ball forward to where they wanted.

          Now that the Democrats have the ball, the impetus is to do the very same.

          Principles when one has no power. And when one has the power, no principles.

          • phred says:

            Thanks a lot MadDog, between you and EW today, I am surrounded ; ) But, I’m not going to go OT again, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not ; )

            Seriously though, I watched the clip Jon Walker posted of Baucus literally turning his back on Wyden, when Wyden made his closing statement about his amendment the other night. I am genuinely baffled why there has not been a unified progressive revolt in the House and Senate to stand up to these bullies. I get the fact that the DLC centrists are bought and paid for and that even many of our “progressive friends” have their hands in the lobbyist cookie jar, but surely there are enough to put up a real fight. I’d settle for a single meaningful roadblock.

            Yet all the fighting is in ones and twos. Whitehouse drives me crazy. As does Leahey. Are ALL of our so-called friends on the take? Is it really that hopeless? I don’t get how some of these people aren’t ashamed to show their faces in public.

            If I were Wyden, after the stunt Baucus pulled and the sheer rudeness of the man I would be spending every waking moment working out a way to stop him. Forgive me though, while I don’t hold my breath.

    • maryo2 says:

      That is a HUGE red flag. After Bush II, Congress surely knows not to accept a wink and a nod from an AG. Gonzales drove that train off a cliff years ago.

  2. orionATL says:


    thank you for your sleuthing that resulted in this post: http://emptywheel.firedoglake……ction-215/

    this is extraordinarily devious even for a republican administration and a congress (republicans and democrats alike) who, over the last decade, have become the gold standard for deviousness in public policy making.

    i am reminded of a similar out-of-the-public-eye theft of openness that took place during the latter bush years. it involved, i seem to recall, arlen specter (and maybe a staff member of his).

    i can’t recall the topic, so don’t recall if it was national security related.

    regarding the in camera changes in conference you discussed in your post, i can’t believe that senators who did NOT agree with those changes would not have noted them.

    you know these others HAD to have known or learned what happened – the senate is a big place and senators staff members, as well as the senators themselves, interact extensively with each other.

    why did they not make a fuss?

    there was something very fishy going on then in the senate (and house) that involved not only the conferees, but others senators who stood quietly by.

    “they also are complicit who only stand silently by” –

    or something like that.

  3. LabDancer says:

    With apologies to The Bobblespeak Translations:

    So this was real serious?

    AG: Coulda been.

    Can we call Zazi “the mastermind”?

    AG: Knock yourself out.

    What stage is the investigation at?

    AG: On a scale of zero to a hunnert, it’s right in there. Also, the groundtroops seem pretty sure we might have something or other.

    Are Congress’ hearings on the Patriot Act & FISA relevant?

    AG: You betcha. They should do as we say.

    Should Congress be listening to civil liberties concerns?

    AG: Why not? Talk’s cheap. But I tell ya: these Patriot Act and FISA tools aren’t Star Wars–they’re real, and we do stuff with them and everything; we like ‘em lots.

    Nice to get Perez confirmed?

    AG: Fer sure, but right here we got all this flashy national security type stuff going on, and they’ve been sitting on Dawn Johnson since March?

    How’s Durham coming along with the grand jury?

    AG: Fine.

    Whoa- gotcha! News!

    AG: Settle. Tell you what: I never said so, but you might not want to get your panties all in a knot over indictments.

    Sweet; thanks! So where’s Durham at with his torture homework?

    AG: Ask the dog he’s feeding it to. I really don’t wanna know; seriously.

    Hey, you and Axe are shortlisted on American ‘Stache Idol.

    AG: That’s it; this is comin’ off tonight.

    • bmaz says:

      I will give Durham one thing, he runs a tight ship; not much has leaked out. That is, in and of itself, a little refreshing I suppose. However, the consistent word, both in the press and in the grapevine you won’t see or hear, is that criminal charges are unlikely on the torture tape destruction. All for the little it is worth. I will say this though, if you wanted to indict, it would be quite easy to have done so long ago; I think they are looking to string it out and not indict. His gigantic problem is that any indictment, anywhere in the destruction chain, puts all kinds of stuff they would kill to not address in play in terms of litigating the charges. There is no way in hell they want to go there. He has to speak sooner or later though, so I guess we shall see.

    • Leen says:

      greatest thing I have heard all day. Micheal Moore could not have said this better. Hope that guy keeps his job

  4. MadDog says:

    OT from Politico:

    CIA probe may go faster without Kit Bond

    …”It expedites things,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “There was a lot of staff-level argument, and it tends to be over the party divide. And I think without that constant argument, we’ll be able to move forward more rapidly and do just as good of a report.”

    Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Bond’s decision to not participate “sort of helps” the panel’s investigation “because everybody knows there is too much partisanship on that committee, and I don’t think we caused it…”

    …Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat on the panel, acknowledged that “intelligence work is most credible in a bipartisan manner.” He said he hopes to persuade Bond to rejoin the inquiry.

    Wyden’s statement reflects the dilemma that has dogged Democrats repeatedly this year: Go it alone and risk attacks from Republicans, or attempt to compromise with the GOP and risk seeing an initiative bogged down amid partisan warfare

    (My Bold)

    Same ol’ Repug strategy that Democrats can’t ever seem to defeat: “Heads we win, tails you lose!”

    • LabDancer says:

      If you read kagro X regularly, you’ll see that there are a number of procedural quirks that go beyond merely encouraging Senate collegiality, to requiring Ds to go some distance to placating Rs just to get stuff out of committee. It’s not merely the case with the SJC, or even necessarily most important to that particular committee. Also, it goes beyond things like holds, the sort of crap that nitwits like Bunning & Bond pull on a regular basis. Merely getting an originating piece of legislation reported out of a given committee & onto the floor of the Senate becomes a formidable task requiring use of scarce resources in time & effort, critically from the Senate Majority Leader, to get round. That becomes particularly relevant to someone with a degree of innovation and motivation to get something done- like Wyden- & so has pet projects he or she is trying to advance.

  5. MadDog says:

    More OT – From Main Justice:

    OPR Report on Torture Memos Still Incomplete

    The release of a long-awaited ethics report on the conduct of former Justice Department lawyers who authorized the use of harsh interrogation still appears to be a ways off.

    Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the department is waiting for additional comments from “some of the lawyers who were involved.” The former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers under scrutiny already missed a May deadline for submitting their responses.

    Speaking with reporters at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Holder said he expected the report to be cleared for release relatively soon. In June, he said the report, now more than four years in the making, would be ready in a “matter of weeks…”

    …Holder said Tuesday his “hope is that within a relatively short period of time we’re going to be in a position to release that report in as much detail as we can…”

    • bmaz says:

      You would think that people just “missing the deadline” would mean they waived objection. That sure as hell is what it would mean for any normal person. Instead, they just get to drag it out and stall to burn time. This is bullshit, and tells me Holder is prepared to soft sell the report to a point to where no credible action will result or be possible.

      • phred says:

        Soft sell? Heck, I’m voting for the dog eating it first.

        Holder will stall as long as he can to give ObamaRahma as much time as they need to reach bipartisan nirvana, then the revised standard version (rewritten by the poky perpetrators themselves) will appear and it will decree that we cannot criminalize policy differences.

        And we will look forward and be pleased with our changed political culture. Where there is no more partisan sniping… because we have succumbed to single party rule under the Republocrats.

      • MadDog says:

        Yeah, I read it as allowing the miscreants unending opportunities to whitewash stuff they might’ve missed the first dozen reviews.

        OPR has been a joke for at least the last 8 years, and it doesn’t look like they’re giving up slapstick anytime soon.

    • Hmmm says:

      …Holder said Tuesday his “hope is that within a relatively short period of time we’re going to be in a position to release that report in as much detail as we can…”

      How tantalizing. FInalizing a deal with someone? Biggus Dickus and Baby Dickus have been pretty absent lately…

  6. orionATL says:

    mad dog @24

    “…Late last month, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) abruptly withdrew from the probe to protest Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to review the legality of Bush-era interrogation techniques

    Read more:…..NT.”


    who has what one kit bond?

    that’s the most interesting question for me?

    or what did the white house promise bond?

    no tough stuff from the u.s. g with lead, chrome, beryllium?

    • MadDog says:

      Bond was reading the tea leaves and knew full well that both he and his Repug predecessor on the SSCI, Senator Pat Roberts, were complicit in furthering and then obstructing, any investigation of the crimes of the Bush/Cheney regime.

      There was no doubt in Bond’s mind that the only possible outcome and centerpiece of the SSCI investigation would be the inarguable and irrefutable evidence of deliberate Repug lawbreaking (again), and like almost every Repug we’ve come to know, Party takes precedence over all else.

      Watergate redux. Iran Contra redux.

      And even criminals learn from their past mistakes, so this time around the order has gone out: Repugs all plead the 5th and refuse to participate, even under threat of subpoena.

  7. Loo Hoo. says:

    I think they are vital in this fight against those who would do us harm.

    Couldn’t Holder at least change the language from Bushco?

    • LabDancer says:

      Apparently Canada’s got it’s own little CIA, called the Communications Security Establishment of Canada or CSE, which can spy on anyone it wants, anywhere it wants, anyway it wants, so long as it doesn’t actually spy on Canucks, or anywhere on the ice floe [or otherwise get caught I suppose].

      They’ve got another federal agency, name of which has come up here from time-to-time, called the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or CSIS – which appears to be more like the Stasi, except it’s only allowed to spy inside Canada & has to operate under this arcane primitive requirement to actually get warrants for wiretaps & stuff.

      The problem appears to have been suddenly realized after 9/11 [wasn’t everything? maybe Addington clued them in].

      CSIS would get a warrant to spy on some homie, & they’d be hot on his trail & suddenly the sumbitch would up decide to call his travel agent & escape the deepfreeze for some warmer clime, like Arizona or Babylonia. And then CSIS would be s.o.o.l. for the whole time the homie was off the icefloe grabbing some vitamen E — unless CSE agreed to help out; which, as the judge kind of throws in, “usually” they wouldn’t- probably because it was maybe illegal under the CSE charter.

      So in addition to CSIS playing footsy with CSE, with mixed results [so their story goes], CSIS drafted CSE into playing joint footsie with the courts to get some judicial solution to the problem, like a warrant.

      [You’d think maybe they’d go the legislative route to try & solve the problem; but it could be that foresightful folk like Crazy Pete, Jane Harmon, the late-if-ever Kit Bond & the-Jay-formerly-known-as-Jello, are representative of a uniquely American phenomenon.]

      An earlier story shows this particular judge is a former fed who apparently drafted the Canadian counter-terrorism laws; anyway, for whatever motivation [patriotism, hubris, gratitude, whatever] he somehow was able to get around the previous failed efforts as sufficiently different that he could hang his grant on the idea that all that needed to be done was let CSIS use the CSE’s equipment, all already conveniently inside Canada, to keep on scooping up all the traffic on their targets’ cell phones [& e-mail accounts- Canadian redactions seem way lighter] whilst the homies were catching rays on the Riviera [or whereever].

      Here’s the ruling:

      Interesting: the judge not only cites a few U.S. court decisions–he also quotes Jack Goldsmith. And oh yeah: the judge says if CSIS wants to do this again, they have to always apply for a warrant. Nice; quaint, but still nice.

      Not so nice maybe is that CSE’s got equipment that spies on the whole wide rest of the world; but such nice discrete folks surely would take care to keep it all that nasty intel just to themselves.

      [Though James Bamford has written otherwise, in Shadow Factory & elsewhere- repeatedly. Now maybe if I’d ever worked for the feds & was allowed to say, I might even agree.]

      • skdadl says:

        Ha! Cross-posted, LabDancer. Sorry ’bout that, and I’ll have to ponder your parallels a little before I respond.

        ETA: When I am posting to EW, am I a Canadian citizen abroad?

    • skdadl says:

      Argh. On the one hand, this isn’t exactly warrantless wiretapping since Mosley has said that a Federal Court warrant will always be required for CSE eavesdropping on Canadian citizens abroad. On the other, this looks to me as though Mosley has ruled in an area where there is no legislation, or the legislation has never been sorted out by Parliament.

      I don’t know what I think about this. In his pre-judgely life, Mosley was the main drafter of our anti-terrism act. Yet he was the judge who was charged with deciding which CSIS documents on Omar Khadr should be released, and he allowed that video of agents dealing badly with a weeping Khadr at GTMO to be made public, along with some associated memos, one of which puts a DFAIT guy in very bad light.

      I really question this:

      So when Canadian extremists travelled abroad – a situation never contemplated during the Cold War, but arising frequently now in places like Somalia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan

      Really? There’s evidence of that? I sure haven’t seen it. Who told the reporter that, and why is it just sitting there as a claim?

  8. Mason says:

    First of all, haven’t we been through this doh-see-doh before about the possibility of terrorists taking acetone and hydrogen peroxide in separate unlabeled plastic bottles onto an airplane and taking a bathroom break during the flight to mix them together to make a bomb? I remember a chemist pointed out that both substances have to be refrigerated down to approximately the freezing point of water before mixing them together and one must be added to the other drop by drop, or an explosion will occur — but not big enough to destroy the plane or anyone in it except the bomber dude. So, he’s got to fly first class and order champagne on ice, switch out the bubbly for the two plastic containers, wait at least an hour for them to chill, take the bucket with the payload to the bathroom, lock himself in, and spend an hour or so adding one fluid to the other a drop at a time with an eyedropper — all without attracting attention.

    Yeah, right! Like that’s going to happen.

    Second, haven’t we gone far beyond the point where it makes any sense to believe anything our government asks us to accept on faith? Isn’t that what we’re being asked to do? Holder sealed the deal for me when he dodged a simple question.

    In the absence of independent and verifiable evidence supporting what our elected and appointed government officials and their employees say, I assume they are lying. Sad to say, but this rule hasn’t failed me yet.

    God, how I loathe my government and the fascist Patriot Act.

    Repeal the damn thing, NOW!

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