Is it utterly impossible to give the Bush Administration any extraordinary power to strengthen its hand against terrorism without having that power used instead for political advantage? There seems to be reason to doubt it. It turns out * that Bush & Co. — in this case, the Transportation Security Agency, over which Bush insisted he needed extraordinary personnel powers — will even threaten to use powers it doesn’t have to punish those who displease it.
The Administration threatening to employ the extraordinarily intrusive investigations permitted under the Patriot Act to figure out which Air marshals complained to the press about leaving key flights unprotected. (No, it turns out that the Patriot Act doesn’t permit such investigations in these circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that the threat is without its intimidating effect.) This is the very same administration that seems so strangely uninterested in finding out which of its senior officials burned a covert CIA operative. *
Remember the fight last fall about whether to strip Homeland Security employees of civil service protection in the name of efficiency? Remember how the chickenhawks successfully questioned Max Cleland’s courage because he stood up to them on that issue? This is why that battle was worth fighting.
[Thanks to The Likely Story for the lead.]