Monday, February 06, 2006

Senate hearings on NSA program

Odds and ends (without benefit of a transcript)...

  • The hearing opened with nonsense. Senator Specter decided not to swear in Attorney General Gonzales, to which the Democrats objected. They forced a roll call vote, at which point all of the Republican Senators present upheld the Chairman's decision. And then Senator Feingold demanded to see the proxies of the Republicans who were not present. All told, it took about 10 minutes of committee time to wrangle over a non-issue that was never in doubt. Just silly.

  • Senator Leahy was in full high-dudgeon mode about the illegality of what the President was doing, about no one being above the law, about how the President was bypassing the Congress. It still amazes me that "all appropriate military force" can include capturing people in Afghanistan or killing people in Yemen or Pakistan, but not listening to a phone call made from Afghanistan to Manhattan...

  • Senator Hatch discussed the state of law, as I wrote about yesterday. And again, we see the conclusion - every time the issue of warrantless wiretaps of enemy intelligence has made it to a federal appellate court, it has been upheld as an inherent Article II right of the President. There is absolutely no evidence in the public record to suggest that anything illegal or unconstitutional has been authorized by the President or engaged in by any member of the executive branch.

  • The shock of the day - Senator Kennedy opened his questioning of Attorney General Gonzales by conceding that he made a strong case on the precedents and authorities for the Terrorist Surveillance Program!

  • Senator Grassley complained, as I have been for the past couple of weeks, about the "constant repetition in the media of the term domestic spying." Needless to say, I completely agree with him that it's inaccurate.

  • Senator Biden didn't help the cause of those on the left who've been howling about the "domestic spying" and "warrantless wiretapping of Americans" when he asked the Attorney General why the President had only authorized the NSA to intercept communications coming from outside the country and not any in which both parties were within the U.S.

  • Senator Kohl went the same way as Senator Biden. He described the fact that surveillance is taking place only when one of the parties as outside the U.S. and never when both are inside the U.S. as "incomprehensible." AG Gonzales made two relevant points in response. The first was to comment on the uproar and outrage that has greeted the disclosure of this program, and to speculate on how much worse it would have been had it actually included purely "domestic" surveillance. The second was to note that "domestic" Al Quaeda surveillance was not taking place "under the program that I'm testifying about today," clearly implying that it is, in fact, taking place. Presumably, those wiretaps are all going through the FISA court...

    Update: After questioning from Senator DeWine, the Attorney General addressed that last point, and made it clear that they are, in fact, going after domestic Al Quaeda communications.

  • Senator Feinstein tried to take a comment that the President made earlier out of context, and Gonzales called her on it. She then attempted to get answers to a bunch of hypotheticals and the Attorney General refused to go down that road...

Technorati tags: NSA, Hearing, Gonzales, Senate, domestic, spying



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