Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has taken a stand on the domestic spying controversy that is bound to upset both sides in this highly polarized nation: he says that while President Bush could have gone for warrants there was nothing wrong in doing warrantless surveillance in the kinds of instances that have sparked a political firestorm.
This will likely upset those who want not just 100-percent backing of the administration’s position on warrantless searches but a full-fledged statement from him that the administration had no other choice — and it’s also likely to upset those who want to see him repudiate the administration totally. The Washington Post:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday supported government eavesdropping to prevent terrorism but said a major controversy over presidential powers could have been avoided by obtaining court warrants.
Powell said that when he was in the Cabinet, he was not told that President Bush authorized a warrantless National Security Agency surveillance operation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Powell said he sees “absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions” to protect the nation.
But he added, “My own judgment is that it didn’t seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it.”
The New York Times notes:
Though Mr. Powell stopped short of criticizing Mr. Bush, his suggestion that there was “another way to handle it” was another example of his parting company on a critical issue with the president he served for four years.
This fall, Mr. Powell broke with the administration on the issue of torture, endorsing a move by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to pass a measure in Congress banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees by all American authorities, including intelligence personnel. The White House at first opposed the measure but later accepted it.
Since leaving office at the end of Mr. Bush’s first term, Mr. Powell has been involved in several business and public service ventures, including the establishment of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at City College of New York, his alma mater.
On Iraq, Mr. Powell repeated earlier statements that differed somewhat from those of Mr. Bush, saying he did not know whether he would have advocated going to war with Iraq if he had known that the country had no stockpiles of illicit weapons.
Most likely, many on both sides will say that Powell is trying to have it both ways and isn’t sincere. But unless some folks work for and have a great track record at the Psychic Hotline the fact is his sincerity can’t be confirmed OR proven to be incorrect. And there could indeed be a position that falls between the Bush Is Totally Wrong and Bush Is Totally Right positions as Powell seems to be making here: that there were other avenues to accomplish the same task that were less controversial.
But, then, that has been the style of this administration on many issues: if path A is less controversial and B means going it alone and risking a firestorm, they will often-times pick B. Powell’s point is likely to get lost amid the criticism because he hasn’t come down squarely on just one side. But the reality is: it doesn’t necessarily follow that he’s trying to have it both ways.
THAT’S JUST OUR VIEW. HERE’S A CROSS SECTION OF OTHERS
—The Heretik (an always lively site) has a graphic of Powell as waffle: “â€œMY OWN JUDGMENTâ€? is something Colin Powell should not be allowed to say. If the Wafflemaster had used his own judgment, perhaps we wouldnâ€™t be in Iraq.”
—The Political Teen: “Remember when Powell expressed his outrage about the War in Iraq publicly at some speech and the media covered it like butter on a bagel? I wonder where that support from the media went for Powellâ€™s opinion on domestic spying is.”
—Americablog: “Uh, lots of people have suggested that what Bush is apparently doing is illegal and a violation of the 4th Amendment. That’s hardly a vote of confidence in continuing the program. How much you want to bet Powell didn’t get called on this? Oh, the little general who still can’t decide which side of the fence he wants to play on.”
—Ace of Spades: “The key to being perceived in official Washington, I guess, is to never actually say anything. Just like in Being There.”
—Shakespeare’s Sister (which also has a great graphic):
Continuing his slide into disgrace and eventual irrelevance by chipping away at his own backbone out both sides of his mouth, Colin Powell has decided to come out as both sort of for and sort of against the administrationâ€™s secret spy program. Or, perhaps more accurately, clever enough to acknowledge it wasnâ€™t lawful, but hackish enough to defend the administration, anyway.
—The Superspade: “Sometimes I like Colin Powell, sometimes I don’t. On the one hand, I respect his educational and military backgrounds. On the other hand, I do not respect how he told the U.N. what he now believes were lies about Iraq’s phantom weapons of mass destruction. He’s doing a similar dance on G.W.’s illegal spying…”
—Black Bloggah: “…Powell still saw “nothing wrong” with the practice and advocated that it be continued. Hold on, so even though the president has a law that allows him to violate our privacy and civil liberties, a travesty in itself, Mr. Powell seems to believe the president need not be subject to that law or avail himself of the due process it provides. I’m still trying to get my head around this one.”