Much deserved anger has been expressed the past week over revelations that the FBI used the Patriot Act improperly to gather information on American citizens.
In fairness, and to be clear, this was "anger" expressed, not shock. Eight people in the United States were shocked that the government under George Bush improperly used the Patriot Act. And they've just awoken from comas.
The shock would have been if the Patriot wasn't used improperly. An Administration that blinks at torture, lies to start a war, abuses the FISA Act and ignores laws with "signing statements" would have disappointed its public if it didn't toss in improperly spying on its citizens.
No, this reaction was about anger. After all, just because you're not shocked at something doesn't mean you can't still be furious about it.
And, as noted, it was deserved anger. That's even the reaction of the man in charge of the very FBI that acted improperly, misusing national security letters.
"How could this happen?" Robert Mueller asked reporters at his headquarters. "Who is to be held accountable? And the answer to that is I am to be held accountable."
Whooaaaaa!! Hold the phone, Nellie. The head of the FBI is not only taking responsibility, he's actually saying he should be held accountable! Everyone "takes responsibility" these days, that's nothing. President Bush has taken responsibility for every disaster of his Administration and then forgets about it. But this is different! This is Robert Mueller saying in clear, indisputable language, "I am to be held accountable."
And so how precisely does he expect to be held accountable?
According to the New York Times, "Mr. Mueller left open the possibility that some FBI employees might be disciplined for their errors involving national security letters."
Say what??? That's how he should be held accountable? By disciplining other people? Punishing his employees? Man, if that's how one should be held accountable, Robert Mueller almost makes it sound fun.
Of course, in the end, that's how everyone in the Bush Administration feels they should be held accountable, so it's not really a shock either.
As for that pesky improper use of the Patriot Act, happily Mr. Mueller assures everyone that the problem, serious though it was, is not really serious, merely "deficiencies in the database" and failing to keep every signed copies of national security letters. That's all.
Whew. Thank goodness that that's all. Except...except, well...except that's not what Glenn A. Fine, the Inspector General who wrote the report, says. Fine says that the FBI used "exigent letters" (which are for critical emergencies, after requesting subpoenas) in non-emergencies without asking for subpoenas.. That's completely different from what Director Mueller prevaricated.
But don't worry. After all, "We have already taken steps to correct these deficiencies," Mueller continues to assure the American public, and says there was nothing malicious intended.
And why shouldn't we believe the fine fellow?! Never mind that he hasn't been honest about what the deficiencies were or that he oversees the organization that has just admitted breaching the Patriot Act. Please, that's just nitpicking. (This assumes that your definition of a "nit" is something the size of a boulder.)
Of course, for all of Robert Mueller's tap dancing worthy of a Fred Astaire musical, perhaps the best quote concerning the entire improper affair was from the beloved Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he of the "It's okay to ignore the Geneva Convention and torture" memo and "Let's fire U.S. attorneys for political reasons" white paper.
(Are you sitting down?)
For this rewriting of human decency, the top judicial official in the land said that what Inspector General Fine's report exposed was information which the FBI "would have been entitled to if we had followed the rules."
How's that for a legal judgment from the Attorney General of the United States? That's like a football team having five extra players on the field, and the quarterback justifying that the touchdown they scored are six points "we would have been entitled to if we had followed the rules."
Of course, Mr. Gonzaeles's track record of interpreting what the United States is entitled to do is problematic at best. So, his assessment of what he is entitled to do is suspect. But the bottom line is that the famous 16 words that the President lied about to the nation in his State of the Union Address have perhaps been now superseded by six words that Alberto Gonzales used - six words which summarize the entire Bush Administration:
"...If we had followed the rules."
This corrupt Administration wouldn't know what rules were if they hit them in the face, which they do every day.