Friday, February 17, 2006

GOP Leaders Block NSA Investigations

Why doesn't this surprise me?

In yesterday's Pen and Sword post, we reported on the announcement that the Justice Department would conduct it's own investigation on the NSA spy scandal, and predicted that GOP congressional leaders would likely block outside investigations by the legislature.

Lo and behold.

Today, from NYT's editorial staff:
Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?

For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. It was supposed to start after the 2004 election, but Mr. Roberts was letting it die of neglect until the Democrats protested by forcing the Senate into an unusual closed session last November.

Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse.

Roberts is not, apparently, using the Justice investigation to justify his actions yet (we don't need to investigate them because they're investigating themselves), but there's little question he's keeping that card tucked in his sleeve.

Roberts had promised to hold a vote of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday on whether or not the committee would hold its own investigation. But he cancelled the vote, and announced that he was working on a change to the FISA law that would eliminate the need for an investigation. How? By making warrantless NSA spying on Americans legal, and retroactively legitimizing the Bush administration's years of illegal wiretapping.

Roberts has yet to explain how making warrantless wiretaps on Americans legal will make them constitutional in accordance with the Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The administration's henchmen will argue that a warrantless search can be "reasonable," and hence adhere to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. But will they be willing to provide hard evidence of the reasonable nature of the wiretaps?

One of the best examples of a "reasonable" warrantless search is the police officer at the front door who hears a child inside crying for help and enters the house to investigate. This is a relatively sane procedure, and most Americans will agree to the soundness of it.

Can the administration present this kind of case for "reasonable" warrantless wiretaps? So far, they've been unwilling to discuss any operational measures involved in the NSA domestic surveillance program, and it's doubtful that they'll change their tune now. So they'll ask us to take their word for it that they'll take proper steps to ensure all their warrantless wiretaps are reasonable.

Which means Robert's law would give them a blank check to do what they've been doing all along in total absence of oversight, thus supporting Mr. Bush's claim of absolute power and authority to sidestep the Constitution whenever he likes.

A Ray of Hope or Another Train Coming?

It seems that not all congressional Republicans have leashed themselves to the administration's heel. NYT's Eric Lichtblau and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report today that the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have agreed to open an investigation on the NSA spying program.
Representative Heather A. Wilson, the New Mexico Republican and committee member who called last week for the investigation, said the review "will have multiple avenues, because we want to completely understand the program and move forward."

But there's a brown banana in the cereal bowl. An aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) told the Times that "the inquiry would be much more limited in scope, focusing on whether federal surveillance laws needed to be changed and not on the eavesdropping program itself."

Which means that the leaders of both intelligence committees--Roberts and Hoekstra--are in lockstep. They don't want to do any real investigating; they want to make sure that whatever the imperial executive department wants to do is "legal," even if they have to pass unconstitutional laws to make it so.

These events illustrate once again what has been obvious to many Americans for some time. As long as the GOP retains a death grip on Congress, we have no oversight, no checks, no balances, no separation of powers, and no republic.


  1. It's going to be very hard to make warrantless wiretaps sound reasonable when you can retroactively obtain them through FISA. The "exigent circumstances" that exist, for example, when a police officer hears someone crying for help inside a house, are entirely lacking because of the fact that you can get the wiretap later.

    That won't stop them arguing it, but I certainly don't buy it.

  2. That's how I see it. Thanks, by the way for bringing up the "reasonable" angle a few weeks ago.

    As I see it, that's the only line of argument they have, and it's a weak one. But they'll also blow smoke about constitutional powers (which I've written about too often to refute again here) and the AUMF, which is a whole can of worms.

  3. I think you're right on target Jeff. Funny how these "textualists" in the admin are more than happy to find things in the Constitution that aren't specifically set forth there, so long as what they want to find benefits them. Would be ironic if this got to the Supreme Court and Bush's favorite textualist or originalist justices (i.e. Scalia, Roberts, Alito & Thomas) said "Nope, the Constitution does provide this power.

  4. Funny how judges who back presidential power claims are "strict constructionists" but those who uphold individual rights are "activists."

  5. I just dont even know what to comment anymore. I keep coming back day after day and reading your posts (and other's as well) and am just apalled at the state of affairs. I wonder just what kind of world my son is going to grow up in. I like it less and less each day, thats for sure.

  6. Jeff H:

    I doubt you ever listen to O'Reilly, but he occasionally has Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano fill in. Napolitano wrote a book where a portion of it is devoted to explaining why the Patriot Act is unconstitutional.

    Anyway - been listening for the last two hours and he's been reaming the admin left and right - first about guantanamo bay detainees (he thinks the admin is violating internation law, the geneva convention, and our own laws and values by keeping them there without trial), he's reaming Congress on not serving as a check against the admin, he blasting the admin for trying to avoid the law and ignore the Constitution, and he's getting ready to address NSA wiretaps, which he says are clearly illegal and can't be authorized by the President or anyone else.

    In other words, it's been a heck of a show, and since the guests and callers have all been pro-admin, it's been fun to listen to Napolitano rip their arguments to shreds.

    No mistake - the guy is a conservative (and religious; catholic I think), but he's got no qualms about tossing the admin under the bus when they start screwing with individual rights and the constitution.

    Fun show.

  7. William Bollinger5:45 PM

    There's nothing wrong with conservatives. Personally, I miss them, they were usually reasonable, and actually seemed to have the best interests of the country in mind. I really wish they could re-claim the GOP someday again.

    The show does sound like it might have been worth getting the TV out and see if it still works, but the big question is, did any of the sheeple seem to have a thought of their own, or did they continue their mindless devotion to this administration?

    As far as abusing their powers to stall an investigation, I truly wonder if they really have the rapture mindset some say they do? Maybe they truly keep expecting Armageddon any day, so why bother worrying about a little corruption? After all, they are all wearing their magical, born-again, get-out-of-hell-free buttons.

  8. Scott,

    I'll see if I can find the transcript.


    A major part of the brainwash project was to scapegoar the "liberal" MSM to a point where the fanatic faithful anything bad said about the GOP is a lie.

  9. Jeff or Scott, if you find a transcript, can you post a link? Hard to believe they're running that on Fox!!

  10. Barndog6:12 AM

    I could show you about 10 people who are walking, living, breathing proof positive examples of the "Brainwash Project". I continually tell them they've "done sucked the Kool-Aid barrel dry".

    It really pisses them off, because it sets off that notice in their little pea-sized brains that they've bought the game lock, stock & barrel.

    When I start telling them about Murdoch's exploits to make money at any costs - doesn't mater who it comes from... they come un-fucking-glued. Why?

    Fox news is the only station they watch, or has any 'journalists' they'll listen too on the radio.

    kristied: theres a way to address this: teach you child the truth as you percieve it. That's how I raised mine. Once they reach the ability to reason for themselvs - they'll start responding to things on TV and newspapers. Then you can open that dialogue with them.

    Make sure you have your facts in order before you start though. You sure don't want to feed them a line of shit, and have them catch you at it. (kids tend to lie all the time to parents - don't think otherwise - it's a natural part of growing up) But heaven forbid, that you lie to them - and they catch you at it.

    Believe me, it works wonders. And, they'll tell you sooner or later when they lied to you. Don't worry.

    Semper Fidelis

  11. Doug:

    I'll see what I can find. Napolitano is the Senior Judicial Analyst for the Fox News channel. He's also very, very supportive of individuals rights and guarantees set forth in the Constitution. Which puts him at odds with the admin a lot (he's also been heavily critical of Janet Reno and her heavy-handed tactics while in Miami, and I agree with him on those points as well. She threw the Constitution under the truck in some truly terribly ways when she was down there, and was a bad AG in Washington).

    Napolitano is about the only guy I like on Fox. Other person would be Alan Colmes. He's a bit restrained on Hannity and Colmes, with that git Sean Hannity, but on his own radio show he's a lot more likely to take the gloves off. If you ever get a chance, listen it. His show is the only liberal one on the KC talk radio station I like to listen to. Comes on right after Michael Savage (talk about a clash of cultures).

  12. Doug:

    Finally, here's an old article in the Village Voice about Napolitano.