In a letter to President Bush, the representative, Jane Harman of California, said the briefings did not comply with the National Security Act of 1947. That law requires the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to be "kept fully and currently informed" about the spy agencies' activities.
The briefings on the program under which Americans and other people in the United States are selected for eavesdropping without court warrants were limited to the so-called Gang of Eight. That consists of the Republican and Democratic leaders of each house and of the Intelligence Committees. Because of turnover in those positions, 14 members of Congress attended one or more briefings.
Ms. Harman wrote in her letter that the law allowed briefings to be limited to the eight leaders only in cases of covert action. The National Security Agency program does not qualify as a covert action, which the law says does not include activities whose "primary purpose is to acquire intelligence," she wrote.
The above is from Scott Shane's "Key Democrat Says Spying Violated Law" in this morning's New York Times. A Republican disputes Harman's claim saying there was "tacit approval."
Both he and the Bully Boy (and Harman herself) seem to forget that there say so doesn't cut it in a democracy.
The will of the people is an issue. The Constitution is an issue. And Bully Boy can bluster away about how he's protecting this or that but he's not handed a position (by the Court?) to then run unbound. There are rules, there are laws.
Policies need to be discussed.
Harman feels, or felt, that the disclosure harmed national security. A bit like a cheating husband exposed wanting to focus on who told. The disclosure was news. I will trash the paper up and down when they deserve it. But this was news and it needed to be told. (And should have been told long before.)
People sometimes debate whether an elected representative is bound to represent (via voting) the people who elected her or him. Some feel that's an absolute. Some feel that the person is elected and needs to act by other principles. (Which sometimes include lobbying monies.)
So before a new talking point is born, let's abort it.
You're not allowed to change the rules without public discussion.
Claims that a discussion would have tipped off anyone are seriously flawed.
After 9/11, when this began, anyone with something to hide would have known to be more careful. After 9/11, if this had been debate, my opinion is, sadly, Bully Boy would have gotten the authority for it. We, as a nation, were scared, grieving and not thinking at our most clear.
The same tide that swept through the Patriot Act could have carried this in its wake.
That wouldn't have made it any more honorable nor would it have made it live up to the spirit of the nation. But it would have made the change happen within the guidelines this democracy is supposed to act under.
Tipped off? Anyone who didn't believe the FBI might be listening in after 9-11 would most likely also believe they'd escape the NSA.
So this could have been suggested via the rules we are supposed to operate under. It wasn't. It was done covertly and illegally. Jane Harman may still cluck over the revelations. She should concern herself more with the events.
Again, it's like someone caught in an extramarital affair wanting to demand the spouse reveal how they learned of the cheating. That's not really the issue between them. The issue is that there was cheating. The issue here isn't how the Times learned of it (though an issue is why they tabled the story for so long). The issue is what happened.
And a "gang of eight" or fourteen or twenty can't take it upon themselves to decide to change the rules under which we operate on their own. Not in a democracy.
Not for any reason. Not even the catch-all of "national security."
For the Constitution to have any meaning, it must be honored. Any changes in it or other accepted laws and guidelines must involve the public. That's why the process for amending the Constitituion was created.
Bully Boy took it upon himself to change the guidelines. He can get away with that in a military junta but that's not how things are supposed to be done in America.
We're citizens, not children. The government works for us, we don't serve a king or a Congressional member. The government is answerable to the people.
If Harman or anyone else gave "tacit approval," it wasn't their approval to give. That's not the rules under which we operate. Bully Boy broke the rules and his actions were illegal.
Rod gives us the heads up to today's Democracy Now!:
An in-depth look at the West Virginia mining disaster.
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