NSA Hearings, Part III
FEINGOLD QUESTIONING: Begins by saying that he thinks AG ought to have been sworn in. Listing Republicans who have publicly disputed that AUMF authorizes domestic wiretapping. Problem is not that the Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world – the problem is that the Preznit has a pre-1776 view of the world. (RH: SLAM!) Must protect the US without violating the Constitution and without putting the Administration above the law. You have been violating the law, and misleading the American public to try and justify it. Serious questions about your (Gonzales’) credibility and about the forthrightness of the Administration itself. Russ: You were fully aware of the NSA program at the time you testified to Congress regarding your appointment in Jan. 2005, yet you were less than forthcoming about my surveillance questions. AG: Well, that depends on what the meaning of “illegal” is. You let a misleading statement about a key issue dealing with your confirmation stand, rather than tell the truth to the committee about this NSA program. AG: Um, we don’t think we are breaking the law, so I’m going to dance around the fact that I failed to honestly answer your previous question. Feingold calling AG on the false premises raised regarding past actions by Presidents who were not subject to FISA since it had not been yet enacted.
GRAHAM QUESTIONING: Gosh, you sure are nice and honest. I don’t always agree with you, but I’m not going to ask you any questions that you can’t answer. And it’s Congress’ fault that the Preznit is breaking the law. When I voted for AUMF, I did not dream that I was giving the Preznit an end-run around the FISA law. And I suggest to you that the next time the Preznit needs a force resolution, it will be much harder to get one – because Senators have long memories – don’t think that Republicans are going to let you take this too far, either. (RH: Well, that was an interesting public exercise in threats, wasn’t it?) Then gets into UCMJ requirements on anti-torture and McCain amendments. Does Congressional rule trump – or does your interpretation of the Constitution allow the Preznit to do what he wants? AG tries to dodge and weave. Graham goes after the fact that Congress could pull funding from military if need be – points out Bybee legal reasoning on torture was strained and violated an existing body of law under the UCMJ. Can you see how this is analogous to FISA laws being violated? Taking the inherent authority argument too far cuts out any check and balance. AG says maybe he hasn’t been as precise with words – not saying “inherent, exclusive authority,” just saying “inherent authority.” (RH: Anyone for what the meaning of is is?) If we don’t buy your AUMF argument, then all you are left with is the inherent authority argument – and that argument has no boundaries for executive decisions at a time of war – and I am not comfortable with that. AG tries to backtrack and say, “Oh Congress, we sure do appreciate your input.” (RH: Publicly anyway, because we could give a rat’s ass about what you think based on how we’ve conducted ourselves over the last five years.)
SCHUMER QUESTIONING: We think surveillance is important, as is protecting our national security. But we must do so and protect liberty – don’t you agree? AG: yes, we must protect civil liberties. Reiterates the names of Republican Senators who question the program, as well as the fact that there were a number of high-ranking lawyers within the Administration itself who questioned the legality of this program. AG agrees. Brings up James Comey’s problems with the program. AG hedges on this response – he says there has not been serious agreement about the program that the Preznit authorized that we are talking about today – but there apparently were disagreements with programs they aren’t discussing? (RH: Where the hell is the follow-up question on this?) Says Administration wouldn’t object to Ashcroft being called – but not waiving executive privilege. To the extent that there are privileges in place, then wouldn’t…ummm…really object to Comey and others being called, Schumer asks. AG weaves around a bit. Tries to pin down whether the Administration would have same rules for critics of the WH program as there would be for the AG today. AG not really answering. Doesn’t the Fourth Amendment also cover questions under the Constitution – not just your so-called inherent authority argument? (RH: Good – get into the “pick and choose” philosophy of this Administration when it comes to Constitutional theory.) Has there been a situation brought to your attention of an internal US call? AG says he won’t respond.
CORNYN QUESTIONING: Blah blah blah people should not question our President, I don’t like that blah blah blah. (RH: Oh lordy, Cornyn is getting into espionage laws. Anyone in the media want to ask Cornyn whether Karl Rove ought to still have his classified security clearance? I mean, he is asking that reporters be prosecuted for publishing the information now – so how about Karl?)
DURBIN QUESTIONING: Durbin asks about circumventing or ignoring FISA. AG says up is down – “we aren’t breaking the law, by conducting ourselves in a way which is outside of the law.” Why didn’t you come to Congress and ask for changes, when you knew that we have supported you in every request that you have made for assistance in fighting terrorism? Why go behind the backs of Congress? AG dances around an answer. Not a single reference in the AUMF to surveillance. AG: Not a single reference of detainment of American citizens either. Durbin throws language of Hamdi back at the AG – you are warping the reasoning of the Court, and O’Connor’s language is very instructive of this. Reads language on commitment to protecting Constitutional rights at home as we promote them abroad. AG again refers to Sec. 109 of FISA. This President is reaching far beyond what you have described today – that is our greatest fear – the fact that you have done this without asking for changes in the law, but instead doing it behind our backs. Ordinary Americans are getting no answers whether or not they are being spied on without warrants and, I’m sorry, but we cannot trust “career professionals” to not make bad decisions without some oversight.
BROWNBACK QUESTIONING: Begins by saying essentially that terrorists are scary – fear them, and allow the Preznit to do whatever he wants because you are afraid. AG – I never have a different opinion than Gen. Hayden. (RH: Well, so much for that internal oversight.) Brownback troubled by possibility of a “forever war” – and asking what changes in FISA law could make things less cumbersome for the Administration, based on their complaining about it, but also allow for oversight which Brownback feels is necessary. AG not willing to talk abotu specific changes without talking to “experts” in his department. (RH: Um…preparing for the hearings is hard work.)
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