Lost In Translation
Perhaps it is just my innate cynicism, but when I read this:
The Justice Department's inspector general yesterday announced an investigation into the department's connections to the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program, but officials said the probe will not examine whether the National Security Agency is violating the Constitution or federal statutes….
The "program review" will examine how the Justice Department has used information obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the "legal requirements" that govern it, according to Fine's letter. Officials said the review will not examine whether the program itself is legal.
The announcement signals a new level of scrutiny for the NSA program, which was launched shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and revealed in news reports in December 2005. The program has been ruled unconstitutional by one federal judge, but Bush and other administration officials have strongly defended it as a legal and efficient way to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.
The probe comes amid a dramatically changed political environment. Democrats who have been sharply critical of the surveillance program will soon control the Judiciary and intelligence committees, which oversee Justice and the NSA. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called Fine's investigation "long overdue."…
"I wonder whether this reversal is only coming now after the election as an attempt to appease Democrats in Congress who have been critical of the NSA program and will soon be in control and armed with subpoena power," Hinchey said in a news release.
…what it translates into is this:
Attorney General Gonzales: "I'm sorry Senator Leahy, but I cannot answer that question due to an ongoing investigation within the Department of Justice. That goes for you, too, Representative Conyers."
Unfortunately for the Bush Administration, I don't think that convenient dodge is going to work as well as it used to with the Republican rubber stamp Congress. Come January, I guess we'll see.
And when you take a peek at the WaPo article from which the above excerpt was taken, don't miss Lanny Davis providing the Administration cover on their handling of the domestic NSA program. Can we please get new Democratic public spokespeople who have some understanding of criminal and constitutional law concepts, and the reason we have the Bill of Rights and a commitment to civil liberties, please? Because all the Administration spin in the world does not negate the need for obtaining a warrant or for some third-party oversight to prevent the creeping in of abuse of power over time. There is a reason that such safeguards were built into the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our legal precedents over the last two hundred plus years and into the FISA system — it's called "the rule of law", Lanny. Just FYI. I know it's been a while since it has been honored within the Beltway, but the rest of us out here in the American hinterlands still think that our Constitution is pretty nifty. I'm just saying…
Bruce Fein has some ideas about restoring Congressional oversight and accountability in an op-ed in the WaTimes, which includes some intriguing thoughts on working around the constant assertion of executive privilege that the Bush White House continually sets up to obstruct any checks and balances. It is going to be an interesting next few months, to say the least. And it is about time.