In a statement after the meeting, Mr. Frist said his "informal working group" had "produced great progress in unifying senators around a core approach to terrorist surveillance legislation."
He also made clear his own support for the program, calling it "constitutional, lawful and critical," and he said the proposals discussed would "buttress" the program by providing statutory authority.
Still, people at the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity because its deliberations were supposed to be confidential, said the group remained sharply divided. On one side, Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has proposed a bill that would require the administration to seek periodic approval for the program as a whole from the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as its approval for specific wiretaps.
Congress created the court in 1978 as part of a broad overhaul of intelligence agencies and gave it the power to issue special secret warrants to eavesdrop on specific suspected foreign agents, but the Bush administration's program has so far circumvented the law.
Others in the meeting questioned whether the foreign-intelligence court's approval for the whole program might risk rejection by the Supreme Court, according to the people present. They said still others argued that involving a court would clash with the president's war powers.
The above is from David D. Kirkpatrick's "Republicans Seek to Bridge Differences on Surveillance" in this morning's New York Times. Is Kirkpatrick a natural optimist or has been drinking from the Miss Priss Instant Cuckoo? Specter's nonsense bill is as toothless (and lame) as McCain's torture bill (with exceptions no one ever wants to note while they high five one another). What Bully Boy did was illegal. End of story.
You don't pass after the fact legislation to justify illegal activites. Did he break the law? Yes, and he admitted it. (When he admitted the warrantless spying, that was admitting breaking the law. ) The Republicans are trying to do something, anything, to save their Bully Boy (not all but a large number) and to save him before midterm elections! There's no need for an additional law. If you break a law, you're prosecuted for that. No one needs to make a new law for you due to the fact that you broke an existing one. The laws are in place already. Watering them down or justifying Bully Boy's illegal activity is pointless. That's something the Republicans will learn the hard way if a message isn't sent because if Bully Boy can get away with it, you better believe a Democratic president will attempt to do the same.
Specter's legislation is toothless and meaningless -- and Larry Bensky and Elisabeth de la Vega did a great job explaining why yesterday on Pacifica. (If you missed the broadcast, it's archived at Pacifica.org). We need an impeachment so that a message is sent that this is not acceptable behavior. That message was sent with the speedy exit of Nixon. But time and again, Bully Boy reminds us all that slow learners can somehow (through purging the voter rolls of valid voters is one way) rise to the top. Slow learners need another message. Bully Boy's actions lack a defense. But it's not just him. There will be others to come. America needs to be very clear on this. And for right-wingers who stumble by . . . Picture thirty-two years from now, Chelsea Clinton's just been made president. You know how the very name "Clinton" sends you into a panic. Do you want her to be able to conduct warrantless spying on Americans? No? Well you better be sure and say it's wrong now. If you don't say it now, it's accepted behavior. If it becomes accepted behavior it happens again and again.
He's a liar. Most people have woken up to that fact. He lied us into war. He's done warrantless spying on Americans -- and we don't know the half of it. If you missed that in yesterday's hearings, for a brief moment or two, Democrats were pointing that out. As Bensky pointed out, today's witnesses were under oath. de la Vega didn't think the committee would call Gonzales again to put him under oath but he didn't answer any questions. They asked questions and he hid behind "National Security! National Security!" Like a parrot, he just kept repeating that.
We don't know what else they're hiding. Were they spying on lawyers? Is that why they avoided FISA? We don't know. We can't find out. They stonewall.
After Gonzales said that it was up to the chair (Specter) as to whether or not Ashcroft and others testified we saw that fade away as soon as he marches his butt out of the committee hearing. Now the White House says "No." Screams "No!" (By the way, anyone else noticing any similarities between Scooter's defense strategy and Agnew's?)
This isn't acceptable. And America needs to say so. Regardless of which party you belong to (if you belong to a party). Otherwise, you can't scream in a few years when a president you don't like has this same power. The argument then will be: "Bully Boy did it. If it was wrong, they'll say, someone should have objected then."
Congress is making an ass out of itself as some rush to prop up illegal activities and cloak them in the guise of national security while some of others are too scared of their own shadows that they fear polls might cast. Congress needs to start acting like Congress, regardless of party membership. They need to stand up for the people and they need to stand up for the legislative branch.
Specter's weak hearings with chuckles and giggles aren't cutting it. Russ Feingold conducted himself well. Not able to say that about a lot of others.
He broke the law. Yet again. He lied to the people (in 2004 when he claimed that all wiretaps had court approval). He broke the law and he continued to break the law while not just staying silent but actively lying to the people of the United States. Katrina vanden Heuvel rightly stated that we can focus on the 2006 elections and raise the issue of impeachment. Another person at the magazine says we can't. Well of course not in his mind, as a pampered overly praised male, he's not used to juggling many things. Editor, publisher, blogger, mother, wife . . . Katrina vanden Heuvel knows life is juggling and that in our daily lives we focus on more than one thing or more than two things or more than . . .
What Bully Boy did was illegal. It's an impeachable offense. People need to take it seriously if they take the offices they hold they seriously. "Giggling with Arlen" isn't taking it seriously. (That's someone else phrase, maybe Mike's.) The mutual back slapping isn't cutting it. As Goldie Hawn says in Shampoo (screenplay by Warren Beatty and Robert Towne), kissing ass doesn't make you a success, it just makes you a kiss ass.
Feingold raised the issue (again) of where does this lead? If we accept this behavior, what's the next progression? There will be another level. You either say it's wrong now or you have yourself to blame. The so-called Long War (the Long Con) isn't going away while Bully Boy is in office. There will be another expose from somewhere about another law he's broken and he will again trot out the excuse of national security.
If our laws aren't followed (especially at the very top), there is no security. If our laws are tossed aside at someone's whim, there are no laws. There's nothing binding and anyone can make up whatever rules they want. Specter wants to give Bully Boy a "do over." There's no "do over" on this.
And if right-wingers still can't grasp it, imagine (shudder) Hillary Clinton in 2008! Oh the power she will have! And she's already so powerful! She's killed or helped kill how many according to those slimey videotapes? (Hawked by the ultimate slime.) Apply some reality to your deranged fantasies about her and see if you don't get really frightened.
I'm grossly disappointed in Hillary Clinton's silence on the war. But I don't live in fear of her. Many of the extreme right-wingers do. So maybe they better prepare for their nightmare scenario: Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office with the power (thanks to the Bully Boy's actions and the Republicans silence) to shred any law she doesn't want, to go after anyone she wants.
That's what silence will do. It will allow future leaders to do the same thing Bully Boy did and to "take it up a notch." People who aren't taking this seriously aren't being helped by elected officials who want to joke and act silly in a committee hearing. These are issues that go to the heart of what our nation stands for and what it will stand for in the future. The actions of a large number yesterday may not have helped get that point across. If you can't condut yourself on the committe in a serious, diginified manner, just close your mouth -- you've already demonstrated that you may as well be silent so it's no loss to the public.
While one of the David's misses the point, another David (S. Cloud) has a bit better grasp of the importance of what he's reporting on in "Documents Detail Case of Ex-Lawmaker:"
Former Representative Randy Cunningham, who resigned last November in a corruption scandal, inserted projects into appropriations bills that benefited two businessmen who were bribing him, then "bullied" Pentagon officials into awarding the men's companies inflated contracts, according to prosecution documents released on Tuesday.
Mr. Cunningham, Republican of California, pleaded guilty last November to bribery and tax evasion. But the prosecution documents, which were drafted to help guide sentencing later this month, provide many new details about his activities on behalf of the businessmen, Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty last month to bribing Mr. Cunningham, and Brent Wilkes, who lawyers in the case have said also participated.
"Cunningham bullied and hectored D.O.D. officials in order to ensure that his co-conspirators received their pound of gold," federal prosecutors said in the documents. "Shamefully, he did this knowing that the contractors would extract such exorbitant profits from our nation's taxpayers that they would happily continue to ply him with millions of dollars in illegal payments and benefits."
And this should go up higher in the post, but Martha just e-mailed it, Charles Babington and Dan Eggen's "Gonzales Seeks to Clarify Testimony on Spying: Extent of Eavesdropping May Go Beyond NSA Work" (Washington Post):
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December.
In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration's original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.
File it under, "We saw it coming."
Reminder, today at noon Pacific time on KPFA:
Against the Grain
Iraq veteran and conscientious objector Aidan Delgado, whose unit was stationed at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, talks about why he opposes the US occupation.
For resources and further information about topics covered on Against the Grain visit: www.againstthegrain.org
If you're interested in hearing the program and can't listen over the airwaves to Berkeley's KPFA, click on the KPFA link. Also Kat's latest review went up last night in case you missed it ("Kat's Korner: Cat Power's Greatness").
And don't foget to listen, watch or read Democracy Now!
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