Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is the Washington, DC correspondent for The Media Consortium, a network of progressive media organizations, including The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

An Accidental War with Iran?

The question isn't whether the Bush administration will deliberately launch a war with Iran. It's whether unnecessarily heightened U.S.-Iran tensions will push some minor incident into a major conflict.

It's become fashionable in conservative Washington circles -- among commentators with extraordinary access to the Bush administration -- to suggest that people concerned about the threat of war with Iran are howling at phantoms. As The New York Times ' David Brooks wrote in a Nov. 6 column, "The Bush administration is not about to bomb Iran (trust me). It's using diplomacy to build a coalition to balance it, and reverse an ugly tide." Washington Post columnist George Will struck a slightly less friendly tone with those who would actually support strikes, but drew the same conclusion, writing on Nov. 11 that "some Washington voices, many of them familiar, are reprising a familiar theme -- Iran's nuclear program is near a fruition that justifies preventive military action. Whether or not these voices should be heeded ... they will not be." It's certainly clear that the White House has far less latitude to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive strike than it did in 2003. To put it mildly, few...

Iran Policy Counterattack

As the Bush administration's saber rattling toward Iran grows louder, can a handful of congressional Democrats disarm the White House?

In the past month, President Bush and his allies in the Congress have set Washington once again buzzing with speculation about the administration's end game for Iran -- having accused the Iranians of stoking a third world war and dubbed the Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. But as everyone from antiwar activists to military insiders wring their hands over the White House's intentions, a lonely handful of Democratic legislators are working to wedge Congress between the administration and Tehran. Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney and Virginia Sen. Jim Webb have emerged as early leaders. With a few exceptions, their efforts have drawn tepid support from their colleagues, in both parties. But Tierney points to hopeful signs of a groundswell -- and sources say influential Democratic donors have begun demanding that party leaders match Bush’s saber rattling with an equally vocal chorus of caution. In 1998, during a politically fraught moment in United States history,...

Our Ballooning Terrorist Watch-List

The GAO reported last week that the government's watch list is growing at a clip of 20,000 records a month. That's a list four times the size of even the most liberal estimate for the number of actual bad guys out there.

In the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States government compiled a list of 20 known terrorists: They were the 19 hijackers who died in the attacks and the one -- now known to be Zacarias Moussaoui -- who got away. Rapidly, however, that list grew. President Bush called upon every agency of government to provide his administration with the names of every so-called person of concern contained in their millions of files. Those records included not just potential terrorists, but also deadbeat dads, people wanted by the federal Marshal, and Drug Enforcement Administration suspects, among others. But they all found themselves on what has come to be called the "terrorist watch list." By June 2004, that list had swelled to 158,000 names. In May of this year, it clocked in at 755,000. Today, only five months later, it's at 860,000 and counting, according to the Government Accountability Office. The argument for maintaining such an unwieldy and quickly growing list is...

Snoops Get a Direct Line

Last week's revelation that Verizon readily opened phone logs to the feds should come as no surprise. The firm is a standout example of the revolving door between government and telecom industry.

It seemed like shocking news last week when the telecommunications giant Verizon admitted it has readily allowed warrantless national security investigators to browse customer records on thousands of occasions. But given the revolving door between the telecom industry and federal government, no one should be surprised by their cozy relationship. According to, a Web site run by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., the worlds are well connected : There are no shortage of government officials who once worked in the telecommunications industry, and no shortage of telecommunications industry execs who once worked for the government. Many of the men and women who have hopped the fence—sometimes more than once—between government and telecom have done so via predictable channels. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for aides and commissioners to the Federal Communications Commission to come from or move on to careers in telecommunications. It...

Senate Caves on Wiretapping

Congressional Democrats plotted for weeks how they could rewrite the surveillance bill Bush shoved past them this summer. But the battle was barely rejoined when the minority Republicans once again took control and scuttled their bill.

When the House Democrats prepared to rein in the administration's surveillance program Wednesday morning, Virginia Republican Eric Cantor knew just what buttons to push to make them panic. He announced a poison pill amendment: Nothing in the bill, Cantor wrote, "shall be construed to prohibit the intelligence community from conducting surveillance needed to prevent Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or any other foreign terrorist organization … from attacking the United States or any United States person." The amendment was clearly a political stunt, but it was worse than that -- it was a sure-fire torpedo for sinking Speaker Nancy Pelosi's much-anticipated second shot at reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Indeed, if Democrats had voted the amendment down, they would have handed Republicans ample material to accuse them of being soft on terrorism. But if Cantor's amendment had passed, it would have forced Pelosi's bill -- the so-called RESTORE Act -- back into...