It's pretty obvious what the Bush administration was doing with that National Security Administration spying program.


Look at the facts:


The NSA has this awesome computer technology that allows it to use written and spoken keywords to monitor all telephone and internet communications (though it has been barred under law from using that ability on domestic communications since 1978).


When it wants to conduct a specific monitoring campaign against a target, it has the Federal Intelligence Surveillence Act (FISA) courts to turn to to seek a secret warrant--a process that is extremely fast, and if that's not fast enough, the attorney general can tap without a warrant for 72 hours, and then obtain one retroactively.


Add to this the fact that the FISA courts last year rejected exactly none of the nearly 2000 monitoring requests made by the government, and that it has only rejected such requests five times in its entire history, and you have a situation that should have made the most wire-tapping-obsessed fanatic happy.


And yet, Bush wasn't happy. We now learn (courtesy of a belated report in the New York Times which was withheld from publication for almost a year), that he instead issued a secret executive order to authorize the NSA, or elements within the NSA, to go outside that FISA warrant process to monitor domestic communications 18000 times over the past four years.


According to the Bush Administration and the head of the NSA, all those extra-legal taps were aimed at Al Qaeda suspects (the administration argument is that the Congressional authorization in September 2001 for the President to use force to pursue Al Qaeda gave him the authority he needed to justify the executive order on NSA warrantless domestic spying).


Does anyone really believe there are thousands of legitimate Al Qaeda targets to monitor in the U.S.? If so, just who is left for the U.S. to allegedly be hunting in Afghanistan? The entire Al Qaeda terrorist apparatus, and probably Hamas and the Red Army Faction, must have moved stateside to come up with those kinds of numbers!


No. History has made it all too obvious what has actually been going on: It’s Cointelpro all over again.


The administration saw that remarkable NSA monitoring apparatus just sitting there, and just couldn’t keep its prying hands off it. It has been using that equipment to monitor those same peace and anti-war groups that the ACLU has recently discovered it was infiltrating. The Rove political machine has no doubt also been using the NSA equipment for Nixonian Watergate-like monitoring of the political opposition (such as it is).


And who knows? With the kind of equipment that is in the hands of the NSA, maybe they’ve figured out ways to get into those Diebold voting machines, too.


The mind reels at the possibilities of an NSA run amok and in the hands of the Bush-Cheney cabal. No wonder one FISA judge has resigned in disgust.


The president and his backers are saying there’s nothing illegal here. After all, the president asked his appointed attorneys, including Attorney General Alberto “torture-is- just-fine” Gonzales, for an opinion, and they all said it was quite legal--just like Abu Ghraib.


By that standard, Bush might just as well ask his legal eagles if it's Constitutional for him to put sarin gas in the Capitol air ducts during a joint session of Congress, kill off the legislature, and rule by edict. If they say it passes muster, then by Bush’s Constitutional logic, he can just go ahead and do it.


Either that or we should insist that the subverting of the NSA for domestic, warrantless spying was an unconstitutional act of major proportions and call for the president's impeachment.


For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .