March 01, 2006

Clown Wars

Spying -- it's all the rage now:
FAIRFAX, Va. - The nation's largest circus went on trial Monday on allegations that it ran an extensive corporate espionage campaign against an animal-rights group and hired a former CIA operative to help conduct the operation.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment, which produces the Ringling Bros. circus, more than four years ago, claiming the company's president supervised the spying efforts.

PETA claims circus operatives stole sensitive documents such as donor lists. It is seeking $1.8 million in legal fees and damages, as well as full disclosure of the alleged spying activities.

PETA attorney Philip Hirschkop described company President Kenneth Feld as "one of the wealthiest men in the Washington area" who "runs a billion-dollar business." Feld had fought unsuccessfully in pretrial hearings to prevent disclosure of his financial statements.


Feld sat silently through Monday's proceedings, occasionally consulting with his lawyers during jury selection and clenching his jaw during the opening statement by PETA's attorney.

The PETA attorney also alluded to the involvement of Clair George, the CIA's former covert operations director who was convicted of perjury in the Iran-Contra scandal but later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

George acknowledged in an unrelated case that he did consulting work for Feld and helped oversee surveillance of animal-rights groups.
Bush pere, clowns...oh, it's too easy. Best to let it go.

And speaking of spying:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration's original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.

At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it "and that is all that he has authorized."

But in yesterday's letter, Gonzales, citing that quote, wrote: "I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities." Using the administration's term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, "I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject" of the Feb. 6 hearing.

At least one constitutional scholar who testified before the committee yesterday said in an interview that Gonzales appeared to be hinting that the operation disclosed by the New York Times in mid-December is not the full extent of eavesdropping on U.S. residents conducted without court warrants.

"It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance programs ongoing that the president hasn't told anyone about," said Bruce Fein, a government lawyer in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations.
No kidding. As I've had reason to note on too many occasions, imagine the very worst about what the Bush administration might be doing in any area, and then multiply by ten -- or one hundred. That will get you closer to the neighborhood of what we actually ought to be worried about.

But there are just too many clowns around. Don't these people know we're at war??!! Time to get serious. No, shooting old men in the face doesn't count.