Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Administration rationale for illegal wiretaps assailed

This is, I think, a very important article. What I think is absolutely crucial to discerning the intent of the administration is this:
NSA and Bush administration officials were urged repeatedly by members of the joint inquiry and by the Sept. 11 commission to recommend FISA reforms that they felt were needed... Said Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint inquiry and former inspector general for the Pentagon... "The question was always asked of these witnesses: 'What do you need?'"

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales said this week that the administration had discussed possible reforms to FISA with members of Congress. "We were advised that … that was not something we could likely get," he said.
So, although there was opportunity to get some reforms, since the particular reforms they wanted weren't attainable, they just decided to ignore the law. That's... oh, what's the word? Oh yeah, illegal!

What is unclear in this exchange is precisely the nature of the disagreement between Hill's statement that Congress asked the Administration, "What do you need?" and Gonzales's statement that, "[T]hat was not something we could likely get..." There are two possible scenarios here:
  • The first is that either Gonzales or Hill is lying. Gonzales indicates that the Administration wanted reforms to FISA that would allow the NSA to "address that problem," but that Congress wouldn't accomodate them. This would make Hill a liar. Hill indicates that Congress offered the opportunity to request changes to the law, but the Administration didn't follow up on those chances for whatever reasons, making Gonzales a liar.
  • The second is that Congress did offer the opportunity for reforming FISA, but the Administration asked for something that went too far in Congress's view and that was the thing that "was not something we could likely get..."
You can make your own guess as to which of these scenarios is closest to reality. The bottom line, though, is that it doesn't really matter. In the end, regardless of the reason there was no reform to FISA and the Administration then chose to ignore the law. These rationalizations are just that: rationalizations.

Even the matter at issue in this article, the oversight of calls between a San Diego residence housing two of the 9/11 hijackers and a known safe house in Yemen, provides only a rationalization. If that really was a problem (and I don't concede that it was; read the article for more), the law has to be changed to provide the "flexibility" required before the "flexibility" can be used.

Bush is clearly responsible for this breech and assault on the Bill of Rights. He should be impeached.

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