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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Politics of the Domestic Spying Case

** UPDATED ** New coverage at bottom of the article
There is lots of news coverage today on the "domestic spying" authorized by the President shortly after 9/11. A judge from the FISA court has resigned, according to a few of his collegues, in protest of the actions.

Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snow are both up in arms over it and want hearings to be held on this. Jay Rockefeller released his memo saying he wasn't comfortable with the program.

My big question is why didn't the Senators do something between 2001 and now about this? Rockefeller has been on the committee since this started, and when he finally objected in 2003, was the ranking minority member.

I understand the classified end of it, but it is not as if the Senate and House intelligence committees haven't held classified hearings in the past. They have issued suppeonas, and taken testimony that never makes the congressional record, so it wouldn't have been unheard of.

While the minority party is somewhat limited in what they can do in the Senate, they have a number of ways to make things happen. They could have "blue carded" every Presidential appointment, and said until they were happy with answers on certain national security issues, they wouldn't release nominees for votes. (Olympia Snow, a republican, is a master of this tactic). No need to expose the classified information, just ask for more information.

But the big thing that makes me wonder is the timing of Rockefellers memo. You see, he was the second ranking MAJORITY member of the Intelligence Committee when this program started, and Bob Graham was the ranking MAJORITY member. The Democrats controlled the Senate when this program was started in late 2001, and continued to until January of 2003. If the concerns were so grave about this program, why didn't they order a hearing on the matter, it would have been well within their rights to do so.

Rockefeller's problems with this evidently didn't start until July 2003, yet according to others on the committee which he was on, they were briefed a number of times in 2002, why, as a ranking member of the committee, not complain then? The committee held dozens of closed hearings on intelligence, why not bring up the issue during them, and if the majority of the committee had a problem with the send the President a memo requesting the program be stopped?

I believe that politics, played a major role in this. The Democrats only controlled the Senate because of Jim Jeffords defection from the GOP. At the time this started it wasn't too hard to see that the GOP would take it back, only because of the Presidents high approval ratings after 9/11. By not raising concerns when they were in the majority in the Senate, they would be able to brush it off as another GOP issue if and when it finally became public.

** UPDATE **

Drudge has some interesting info on this posted here. These "reminders" from Matt should lead folks to question even more whether politics or the law are the reason for the outrage in Congress right now.

Because I'm in a good mood, I'll post his info, incase the flash file goes away:


Bill Clinton Signed Executive Order that allowed Attorney General to do searches without court approval

Clinton, February 9, 1995: "The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order

"WASH POST, July 15, 1994, "Administration Backing No-Warrant Spy Searches": Extend not only to searches of the homes of U.S. citizens but also -- in the delicate words of a Justice Department official -- to "places where you wouldn't find or would be unlikely to find information involving a U.S. citizen... would allow the government to use classified electronic surveillance techniques, such as infrared sensors to observe people inside their homes, without a court order."Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, the Clinton administration believes the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes."Secret searches and wiretaps of Aldrich Ames's office and home in June and October 1993, both without a federal warrant.Government officials decided in the Ames case that no warrant was required because the searches were conducted for "foreign intelligence purposes."Government lawyers have used this principle to justify other secret searches by U.S. authorities."The number of such secret searches conducted each year is classified..."

Jimmy Carter Signed Executive Order on May 23, 1979: "Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order."

In another update, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is arranging a briefing for all FISA judges on the program.

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Robosquirrel at People Covered In Fish has a good rant on this subject also.

Newsweek's coverage is in Jonathan Alter's Bush's Snoopgate which basically calls him guilty, though ignores the above examples of other presidents using the same logic to do much more intrusive seaches.


Blogger shoprat said...

The Drudge Report is currently carrying documentation of Clinton and Carter doing exactly the same thing.


warning: Drudge changes the content of this page frequently so it could change.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Jeff H said...

Pardon my Freedom speech (sorry, won't give the Frogs even the backhanded recognition by saying "F****h"), but this morning some asshat former Dem Senator was on Fox discussing this and at every chance, brought up Scooter Libby's name. Shameless--and totally unhinged.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Shoprat, thanks for the tip, I'll toss a link to that in here.

Jeff, They are trying to find ways to connect dots that shouldn't have lines between them.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Rush was bringing up today that all the presidents have done this. So as always the democrats are screaming about something that is much ado about nothing.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Well, if it's wrong, it's wrong. Doesn't matter that others did it. But maybe some of these idiots need to be reminded that this is a WAR and we were ATTACKED ON OUR SOIL. Last time that happened we rounded up a whole bunch of peeps and stuck them in camps, and this time, what, we're eavesdroppping on phone calls? Ooh.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

LMC, Paula, I think that Rush's point is that it didn't seem to be wrong (to some who are screaming now) in the mid 90's when the order was signed, or the late 70's. It just reinforces the idea that this is a political retribution attack more than a concern about legalities and rights.

Paula, you are right, Big Friggin' Deal! Maybe we should open a few muslim internment camps and see how that goes over!

10:13 PM  
Blogger Robosquirrel said...

Thanks for the linkage, CP, and happy birthday!

Just to be contrarian, James has another point of view on this, the premise of which I think is flawed for reasons given here and elsewhere, but I would think that, wouldn't I? I'm going to leave him a comment when I have time.

Also, I disagree with it being OK because other presidents have authorized it; you don't prove your innocence by establishing the guilt of others and I dislike hearing that argument bandied about, even though it does establish precedent.

I think it's OK because it's legal as far as I can tell, necessary, and not infringing upon the rights of Americans who are not involved in heinous crimes against their country.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

I may not have expressed myself well, in that I don't necessarily think that it's okay for Bush since Clinton/Carter/Reagan all did it.

What I was actually trying to point out is that all the righteous indignation from the left was missing when Clinton signed a much more intrusive executive order.

1:16 PM  

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