Friday, December 16, 2005

Very Nice, Dubya

Before I present this piece taken from the AP, I remind you of this post, which appeared a couple weeks ago on this blog.

Lawmakers Want Probe of Domestic Spying
New York Times Reports Bush Bypasses Courts With Wiretaps

WASHINGTON (Dec. 16) - A key Republican committee chairman put the Bush administration on notice Friday that his panel would hold hearings into a report that the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would make oversight hearings by his panel next year "a very, very high priority."

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Other key bipartisan members of Congress also called on the administration to explain and said a congressional investigation may be necessary.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared annoyed that the first he had heard of such a program was through a New York Times story published Friday. He said the report was troubling.

Neither Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice nor White House press secretary Scott McClellan, asked about the story earlier Friday, would confirm or deny that the super-secret NSA had spied on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002.

That year, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of people inside the United States, the Times reported.

Before the program began, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations. Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time.

"We need to look into that," McCain told reporters at the White House after a meeting on Iraq with President Bush. "Theoretically, I obviously wouldn't like it. But I don't know the extent of it and I don't know enough about it to really make an informed comment. Ask me again in about a week."

McCain said it's not clear whether a congressional probe is warranted. He said the topic had not come up in the meeting with Bush.

"We should be informed as to exactly what is going on and then find out whether an investigation is called for," he said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., also said he needed more information.

"Of course I was concerned about the story," said Lieberman, who also attended the White House Iraq meeting. "I'm going to go back to the office and see if I can find out more about it."

Other Democrats were more harsh.

"This is Big Brother run amok," declared Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "We cannot protect our borders if we cannot protect our ideals." Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., called it a "shocking revelation" that he said "ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American."

Administration officials reacted to the report by asserting that the president has respected the Constitution while striving to protect the American people.

Rice said Bush has "acted lawfully in every step that he has taken." And McClellan said Bush "is going to remain fully committed to upholding our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of the American people. And he has done both."

The report surfaced in an untimely fashion as the administration and its GOP allies on Capitol Hill were fighting to save provisions of the expiring USA Patriot Act that they believe are key tools in the fight against terrorism.

The Times said reporters interviewed nearly a dozen current and former administration officials about the program and granted them anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

Government officials credited the new program with uncovering several terrorist plots, including one by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting al-Qaida by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, the report said.

Faris' lawyer, David B. Smith, said on Friday the news puzzled him because none of the evidence against Faris appeared to have come from surveillance, other than officials eavesdropping on his cell phone calls while he was in FBI custody.

Some NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions.

Asked about this on NBC's "Today" show, Rice said, "I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters."

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group's initial reaction to the NSA disclosure was "shock that the administration has gone so far in violating American civil liberties to the extent where it seems to be a violation of federal law."

Asked about the administration's contention that the eavesdropping has disrupted terrorist attacks, Fredrickson said the ACLU couldn't comment until it sees some evidence. "They've veiled these powers in secrecy so there's no way for Congress or any independent organizations to exercise any oversight."

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing its use of a classified database of information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States after a report by NBC News said the database listed activities of anti-war groups that were not a security threat to Pentagon property or personnel.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that while it appears that some information may have been left in the database longer than it should have been, it was not clear yet whether mistakes were made. A written statement issued by the department implied _ but did not explicitly acknowledge -- that some information had been handled improperly.

The administration had briefed congressional leaders about the NSA program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues.

Aides to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment Thursday night.

The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.


At Friday, December 16, 2005 1:17:00 PM, Blogger PixieGaf said...

Finally! God Damn I hate this administration.

At Saturday, December 17, 2005 9:53:00 AM, Blogger LA said...

Me too, Pix.


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