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Tuesday, November 08, 2005
 
Bush's "Enemies List Database: How Illegal Is it?

From Capitol Hill Blue, this lovely little item:

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.

***

"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.”

***

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).

***

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 database of political 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.


Bushco had the good sense not to keep its enemies database on government-owned hardware. The article notes, however, that it "can be accessed remotely by a select list of senior aides, including Rove."

Obviously, maintaining such a list, unrelated to any official and legitimate executive-branch business, on government owned computers would be a misuse of resources. How would such use differ from the labor put in by these government employees while using the database remotely, possibly via government-owned computers? As you may remember from the Al Gore "no controlling legal authority" brouhaha, using government resources for political purposes is a no-no. Additionally, using federal law enforcement for purposes unrelated to, er, enforcing the law, is also a no-no.

The article mentions Joe Wilson and his wife in connection to the database, which brings to mind more, possibly much more important (and certainly more timely) questions:

1. Was classified information, such as Valerie Plame's employment history, sent to this private server?

2. Was the information contained there accessible to people without sufficient security clearances?

3. If so, are those who transferred the information from within the government to this server, and those who knowingly compiled and/or formatted this information for just such a purpose, presumed to be guilty of leaking the information? Or could they be accused only of negligence with classified information?

4. Does this "private server strategy" constitute obstruction of justice, insofar as it allowed government officials to conceal their activities (and, possibly, communications) relating to Wilson and Plame, possibly up to and including the use of federal law enforcement to obtain information about persons not under suspicion of illegal activities?

Just a little food for thought.