Saturday, May 26, 2007

Senate Judiciary Committee to Gonzales: Speak Up

The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding that US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "quit stonewalling" and release information on the NSA spying scandal. Some highlights from the letter:

He then described how you, then Counsel to the President, and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card arrived at the hospital bedside of an extremely ill Attorney General Ashcroft and attempted to persuade him to certify the program. When you failed, because Mr. Ashcroft refused, Mr. Corney testified that the program was nonetheless certified over the objections of the Department of Justice. That apparently prompted a number of high-ranking Justice officials to consider resigning en masse.

This incident obviously raises very serious questions about your personal behavior and commitment to the rule of law. Mr. Corney's testimony also demonstrates vividly how essential it is that this Committee understands the legal underpinnings of the surveillance
program that was the subject of that incident, and how the legal justification evolved over time. The stonewalling by you and the Administration must end. The Committee on the Judiciary is charged with overseeing and legislating on constitutional protections, civil and criminal justice, civil liberties, and the Judiciary, all subjects that this matter impacts. We intend to do our job.
This letter contains some damning charges and accusations against Gonzales about his compliance with the law and his questionable conduct.

The letter then goes on to detail how the White House and Justice Department has rebuffed 8 requests for documents, referring to their answers as "misleading".

This part of the letter in particular jumped out at me:
This Administration has asserted that it established its program of warrantless wiretapping by the NSA because it deemed FISA's requirements to be incompatible with the needs of the intelligence community in fighting terrorism. You testified in January that the warrantless wiretapping program had been terminated and that henceforth surveillance would be conducted pursuant to authorization from the FISA Court. To consider any changes to FISA, it is critical that this Committee understand how the Department and the FISA Court have interpreted FISA and the perceived flaws that led the Administration to operate a warrantless surveillance program outside of FISA's provisions for over five years.

(emphasis added by myself)
So it appears to me here that the Administration itself, at least according to the Judiciary Committee's summary of the Executive's responses to requests for information, has admitted that the program was not authorized under any existing laws.

Most rational citizens would know that if you deem a law to be insufficient, you don't proceed to exceed the scope of the law and worry about getting around to actually fixing the law later. I'm predicting that many people in the White House and Justice Department will be in some hot water sooner or later, either under the current administration or the next one. Any punishment will be well-deserved and long overdue.

In further NSA Scandal related news, the House Intel Committee has announced plans to investigate the program. More coverage on this from Ars.


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