by Jordan Zakarin
In an embarrassing turn for a White House threatening to veto a FISA domestic surveillance bill passed yesterday by Congress, a leak from a disgruntled former NSA employee revealed that President Bush, wiretapped by a cooperative Verizon, text message voted for American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken in 2003. Having received a request to monitor the President in late 2002, Verizon kept track of all incoming and outgoing activity on Bush’s personal cell phone.
According to the former NSA technician, the administration was growing concerned that foreign national Simon Cowell, the often abrasive talent judge on Idol, was gaining far too much influence in American domestic affairs. Suspicious that he was receiving cooperation from withing the government itself, Vice President Richard Cheney had a top aide file the wiretapping request.
The administration sought to counter Cowell’s influence by backing another contestant, Ruben Studdard, in what became a heated contest. Then-White House political director Karl Rove took the lead on the top secret Idol campaign, and as the finale neared, smears regarding Aiken’s personal life began to bubble to the surface. Studdard would eventually win a razor-thin margin of less than 135,000 of the 24,000,000 votes cast in a controversial election that has become the center of conspiracy theories amongst a small but significant number of Aiken partisans.
The revelation of the wiretap is a blow to the White House’s case that immunity for telecom companies that participated in the secret domestic surveillance program is essential to American security. While Americans have willingly heeded the call to sacrifice a number of civil liberties when asked by the Bush administration, voting rights have long been considered sacred to the greater public, dating back to 2001, when American Idol debuted. The show is enjoyed most enthusiastically amongst the rehabilitated and paroled formerly incarcerated community, whom, having paid their debts to society, enjoy having their voices be heard in a crucial national debate.
Among the leaked file’s other revelations about the President’s personal communications: 4600 instances of the term “ROFLMAO”; ninety seven separate calls to Papa John’s; and a seemingly inadvertent three-month subscription to a daily horoscope service, later canceled by the President’s wife, Laura.