Sunday, February 05, 2006

Why Congress won't get through to the NSA.

hsaepYep, this is exactly what we have been afraid of.

This White House learned one thing and one thing only from Watergate and Iran/Contra.

Stonewall, stonewall, stonewall; lie, lie and keep on lying. Never, ever do something so stupid as give the congress anything they ask for, especially if the request comes as part of any investigation.

Eventually, everyone will be so tired of it all that they will simply tune it all out.

Why not?

Hell, it works. This is how they, essentially, got away with Iran/Contra. Oh, yes...there were convictions, but Poppy Bush pardoned everyone.

They intend to batten down the hatches and ride it all out, hoping against hope that the ADHD public and the ADD media will move on to more important things, like the next sexy, murder of a white woman/girl, whatever.

Why Congress won't get through to the NSA.

By Patrick Radden Keefe
Posted Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, at 6:30 PM ET

Today's news that the Justice Department refuses to furnish the Senate judiciary committee with its internal documents on the legality of President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program is the first sign that congressional efforts to investigate the National Security Agency program are likely to dead-end. Administration officials and intelligence officers will refuse to provide the committee with further information on the mechanics of the NSA operation, and they probably cannot be compelled to do so. There's only one way the committee could succeed in obtaining a clear picture of what the NSA was up to: subpoenaing the CEOs of major American telecommunications companies. But that's a step the senators are probably not bold enough to take.

The precedent for these inquiries—the judiciary committee begins hearings on Monday, and the intelligence committee also plans an investigation—is the famous Church Committee, which revealed Vietnam-era abuses by the NSA and CIA and set in motion a series of widespread intelligence reforms that changed the way spies did business. The Church Committee actually succeeded in gleaning volumes of useful information. It also acted as a muscular congressional check on an out-of-control executive branch. By contrast, next week's hearings look to be the historical opposite. Unlikely to emerge is any comprehensive understanding of what precisely the NSA's program involved—how targeted it was, what grounds determined who should be listened to, and how long authorization to listen to specific individuals could last. All these questions have major, possibly decisive, legal implications. Answering them would shed light on the efficacy of the warrantless eavesdropping and the privacy violations that may have resulted from it. In failing to elicit new information, Congress will merely underline its own status as a compromised body with little oversight of America's spies, and no ability whatsoever to check executive excess.

The Church Committee investigation originated much as the current inquiry has. But it was not so easily rebuffed. The committee got und erway after Seymour Hersh's front-page New York Times story in December 1974 outlined a widespread CIA program to spy on civilian anti-war protesters during the Nixon years. The House and Senate each established investigative committees. The Senate's was led by Frank Church, D-Idaho, who intended to run for president the following year and embraced the national exposure and prestige of leading the charge. Before weighing in on the legality of the operations, the committee wisely sought to determine what precisely Nixon's intelligence agencies had done. Young congressional aides began knocking on doors around Washington, and in May 1975 the committee got a major break. It obtained a document known within the CIA as "the family jewels"—a ledger compiled by then CIA Director William Colby of all the legally questionable activities conducted by U.S. intelligence in recent years. It was quite a list: wiretapping journalists, administering LSD to a CIA scientist who later killed himself, attempting to assassinate Castro and other foreign leaders. It ran to 700 pages.

Read On


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