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Censure Hearing Set for Friday at 9:30 am

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UPDATE:  Reader angie found a tentative witness list for the Friday morning hearing.  Looks like an interesting mix, to put it mildly, for the one panel whose names have been released.  Talk about your must see tv for political junkies tomorrow!

Contrary to the weird comments made by Sen. Specter at the end of Tuesday’s illegal NSA domestic spying without a warrant hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to discuss Sen. Russ Feingold’s censure resolution on Friday morning, March 31st — beginning at 9:30 am.

Anonymous Liberal, writing at Glenn’s Unclaimed Territory blog, puts the truth back into play in the NSA discussions.  Stinks when there are transcripts available for exact language when you are trying to pull a snow job to protect the President’s flank, doesn’t it?  (Perhaps the Washington Times ought to keep that in mind for future public testimony reporting.  I’m just saying.  Let alone everyone who repeats their inaccurate blather without first checking the transcript for themselves or without watching the actual hearings, as many of us did here at FDL.)

As Anonymous Liberal says:

A total of five judges testified in person, and one submitted written testimony. All of the judges made it crystal clear that they had no intention of opining on the legality of the NSA program ("we will not be testifying today with regard to the present program implemented by President Bush"). The judges were there to testify about FISA and about the merits of Sen. Specter’s proposed legislation to amend FISA.

The bulk of the testimony by the judges was in praise of FISA and in praise of Specter’s proposed bill (which is clearly why Specter called them to testify in the first place). Although the judges were careful not to opine about the NSA program specifically, it was clear from their testimony that they believe further Congressional authorization is necessary and desirable and that the judiciary has an important and indispensable role to play in overseeing domestic surveillance.

Their agenda, to the extent they had one, was to lobby for the continued relevance of the FISA court. If the DeWine bill passes, the FISA court will be utterly marginalized. These judges realize that some sort of legislation is likely to be passed, and they’d undoubtedly prefer something along the lines of Specter’s bill, which would at least require the court to approve surveillance on a program-wide level.

I can assure you, though, that at no point did any of the judges come anywhere close to saying that the president "did not act illegally" or that he acted "within the law" when he authorized the NSA warrantless surveillance program. So the Washington Times story is complete rubbish. It could not possibly be more misleading.

There is no excuse for perpetuating an inaccurate report simply to further your own political agenda. That’s manipulative lying.

That the Washington Times reporter would float this rubbish out, and it would be run around the wingnut spin machine without anyone bothering to check the transcript — having clearly not watched the hearing itself, and without such a disclaimer being put into the reporting, is inexcusable.  (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here that, indeed, the transcript was not checked nor the hearing watched.  Ahem.)  I watched the entirety of the hearings and Anonymous Liberal’s reading of the transcripts matches my recollection of the testimony.

All of the judges who testified were very careful in what they did or did not say regarding President Bush’s current NSA program — because none of them had been fully briefed as to its particulars — but all were very clear in saying that the President is bound by any law passed by Congress which is constitutional — and that the FISA court provides invaluable checks and balances to executive power. Period.

And the testimony which followed them was even more clear in its assertion that the President of the United States must follow the law like anyone else.  Period.  Including former Justice Department muckety muck David Kris, who I found to be quite compelling in his legal arguments and the foundations therefor — when I can find a way to link up his testimony for everyone, I will do so.

House Dems on the Select Committee on Intelligence have sent a letter to President Bush (PDF) requesting formally that all members be briefed on the NSA program, as required by law.  And calling the refusal to do so for the baloney that it is — that the Administration has several hundred people briefed on the program within the Executive branch and that the only reason to keep appropriate intel committee members out of the loop is to prevent them from knowing the particulars of the program and to stall adequate oversight.  Nice to see Dems call bullshit on this in writing.

As for the hearing set for Friday morning, I have obtained a copy of Sen. Feingold’s witness list (sorry, no link yet, as I got this via e-mail — will update when I can on this):

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold announced today that Bruce Fein, former official in the Reagan Administration, and John Dean, former Counsel to President Nixon, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at Friday’s hearing on Feingold’s resolution to censure the president. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer, served in President Ronald Reagan’s Department of Justice as Deputy Attorney General. Fein testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 28th, 2006, regarding the President’s warrantless wiretapping program.

John Dean served as Counsel to President Nixon. Prior to his White House service, he served as Chief Minority Counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. In 1973, Dean testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. According to the Senate Library, Dean last testified before Congress in 1974. Dean currently is a columnist and lecturer on law and government and has authored several books on those issues.

Sen. Feingold has also released a fact sheet on the illegal NSA domestic wiretapping without a warrant program — and you can read it here

Sen. Specter tells Roll Call that the censure resolution could have its day on the floor of the Senate, whether or not it passes through the Judiciary Committee.

Georgia10 has a lot more at dKos — definitely worth a read and a click thru on her links.  Ought to be an interesting day on Friday.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com