Sigh. So Spencer got to write about this new Bart Gellman article first because he’s blogging from the future, like, 9 hours ahead of me. I don’t have any personal anecdotes about Ashcroft so my post will be a little less flashy. (Spencer always wins – even when he’s in Afghanistan. You should know that.)
Given that this little NSA program* and its fallout has been a personal – and obsessive – fascination, a few things ran through my head after reading Gellman’s latest.
My capacity to loath and mock Alberto Gonzales is like a black hole, void of any limits or reason. These articles paint him as unprepared, unqualified, unsubstantial and, at his worst, untruthful. Eh, we kind of already knew that but to read passages like this is to laugh out loud:
The issues were complex and remain classified. Addington bent on nothing, swatting back every idea. Gonzales listened placidly, sipping Diet Cokes from his little refrigerator, encouraging the antagonists to keep things civil.
We knew some members of Congress were in on this from the beginning (as minor as their involvement was) and now it does look like they were actually deceived by administration officials. What is still mind blowing to me is how often and how thoroughly hosed members were by this entire issue. From those first briefings to the Protect America Act to the FISA Amendments Act and telecom immunity, they’ve just taken it. There were a few moments where it looked like there might be some kind of fight left in them (thank you Senators Dodd and Feingold) but for the most part Congress just surrendered. Wholeheartedly. It amazes me that legislation updating FISA couldn’t get anywhere while the Republicans were in power then the Democrats take over, hear whispers of "soft on terrorism" and just roll over. That’s what happens when a political party is so invested in being the majority and paralyzed by the fear of losing it that it forgets to act like it. Shame!
Finally, Jack Goldsmith comes off as fairly reasonable in this article. That’s all well and good but don’t forget that just last month in a review of New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau’s book "Bush’s Law" Goldsmith made a full-throated appeal for the prosecution of Lichtblau, his colleague Jim Risen and the Times for uncovering and disclosing the NSA program. He claims that the reporters violated Section 798 of the U.S. Criminal Code, a section that bars the disclosure of classified information. Interestingly enough, Goldsmith claims
To say that the Times and Lichtblau committed a crime is not to say that they will be prosecuted for it.
Well, hello pot and good day kettle. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that Goldsmith is advocating locking up the press for doing its job. Now think about the fact that Goldsmith, his OLC predecessor and torture memo architect John Yoo and everyone else in the Bush administration responsible for lawless and apocalyptic policies who actually DESERVE to see the inside of a courtroom likely never will – at least from the defendant’s chair. (Read Lichtblau’s reply to Goldsmith here. It is snarky and I like it. Goldsmith responds to that. I don’t like it.)
Goldsmith’s defense of a program that even he was uncomfortable with at first is a little hard to take. Whatever changes he and the other dissenters forced in the program came over two years after it began and whatever those changes were haven’t exactly been spelled out for the general public. It’s hard to rely on his word and it’s unreasonable to blame the press for pursuing a story that was, indeed, a story.
There is so, so, so much more to say but I’m out of time so I need to go do work that pays my rent. But, really, if you haven’t read Gellman’s work over the last few days just fucking do it already.
*All of this annoys the shit out of me. All of it.