Friday, January 06, 2006

NYT: "Republican Senator Defends Briefings on Domestic Spying" (Jane Harman)

In a sign of growing partisan division over domestic eavesdropping, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday defended the Bush administration's limited briefings for Congress on the secret program and accused the committee's top Democrat of changing her position on the issue.
Also Thursday, 27 House Democrats sent a letter to President Bush asking for information about the National Security Agency eavesdropping program, including whether communications from or to members of Congress and journalists were intercepted.
The Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, was responding to a statement Wednesday by Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, that the law requires that the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees be informed of the N.S.A. program. By briefing only the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses and of the committees, the administration violated the law, Ms. Harman wrote in a letter to the president.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Republican Senator Defends Briefings on Domestic Spying" in this morning's New York Times. So then the Republican's have decided to go through with their pregnancy? (See yesterday's entry.)

On this topic, yesterday Media Matters had an entry entitled "NY Times selectively quoted Harman to falsely report she defended Bush's domestic spying program" in which they took issue with Scott Shane's article (noted here yesterday) due to the fact that he wrote that she had stated the NSA spying program (without warrants) was "essential" and that disclosing it had "damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

Media Matters feels that Shane's quote doesn't convey the full range of Harman's public statements. They offer this from the public record (and I've italicized the portion that Shane referred to yesterady):

"As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.
"Due to its sensitive nature, I have been barred from discussing any aspect of this program, and until the President described certain parts of it on Saturday, I have made no comment whatsoever.
"Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed.
"We must use all lawful tools to detect and disrupt the plans of our enemies; signals intelligence and the work of the NSA are vital to that mission. But in doing so, it is also vital that we protect the American people's constitutional rights."

This is, my opinion, a matter of opinion. Harman did say it. She is bothered by rumors of other things that may have occurred (which, my opinion, obviously did occur). The program itself she supported and thinks revealing of the program was harmful.

I'm not losing any sleep of Harman and don't really believe that she's the issue. Other's may feel differently. Bernado e-mailed the item and asked what the problem was, what had the Times done? Media Matters is arguging that that Harman's position is more complex. They feel that the quote from Harman did not include the fact that she has concerns (if rumors are true).

Which, in Madonna terms, means they too are "keeping my baby, I'm going to keep my baby" ("Papa Don't Preach"). Myself, I'm not really concerned with the complexity of Harman's feelings. She was for the program in what she thought was a limited forum. New reports have 'disturbed' her. She doesn't feel that select members of Congress were not informed. She does have problems with reports that the program reached beyond the scope conveyed to her. She feels that Risen, Lichtblau and the Times' reporting on the program (when they broke the news) has harmed national security.

So we've got a custody battle over the fetus. Here, we call the pregnancy itself into question. That's not, "Media Matters is wrong!" They're opinion is that more time and space were needed to convey Harman's complex feelings. It's a point true of any news report and more power to them on arguing that point and any other they feel. But this is the talking point that was due to be birthed yesterday. The Republicans argued she felt differently at an earlier time. Which she did. Media Matters argues that she is on record being opposed to reports that the program was larger then she was informed, which she did.

The issue of the program itself isn't addressed in those points. Yesterday, I think I referred to this argument as a spouse caught cheating focusing on who told on them. The cheating, my opinion, is the issue. The program itself was a violation. I'm not concerned about Harman's complexity. Those who are, should refer to Media Matters' item.

If I cared for Harman's "belief" or her "approach," I might feel differently and that probably colors my opinion. But to me she's the perfect "Fox Democrat" accepting the basic terms and then wanting to argue over fine tuning. If the scope was larger than she was told, she has a problem. I have a problem with an illegal activity that was illegal from the start. I also have a problem with Harman's initial support of that activity. They are correct that any article could provide more background. Harman has some fine tuning she wants to do (as her own statements reveal). I have no sympathy for Harman and her clucking that the press doing its job harmed national security when the harm comes not from the disclosure but from the very act itself. I feel she's trying to focus on who told that she was cheating (the public) and not on the fact that when it counted, by her own admission, she was supportive of the program and takes strides to maintain the 'importance' of the program to this day.

Media Matters has the patience to explore the depth of Harman's position (good for them) but I'm not concerned with her fine tunings. (Though I'm sure they'll be a "hit" in her next Fox "News" apperance -- probably this Sunday, in fact -- and that Harman will further muddy the issue and give Republicans and the Bully Boy additional cover to hide beneath.) But they are arguing for increased understanding of Harman's remarks which are part of the public record and that's never a minor point when it comes to press coverage. (It's obviously not one I'm concerned with regards to Harman and the reasons why are in the previous paragraph. But it's a noble battle and one worth noting. More power to them.)

Micah passes on the scheduled topic for Democracy Now! today:

An update on Ariel Sharon's situation. Sarah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Mid-East and North African Division, on Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine. And the issues of torture and presidential power.

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