I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Live blogging the NSA hearings

The logistics of live-blogging from the Committee room were too complicated, so I am live-blogging the hearings off-site. I may be able to do it from the Committee room itself for the afternoon session, but I'd rather have full blogging abilities outside of the room than be in the room.

I understood that Gonzales was going to be sworn in. Apparently, Specter decided that he did not want him to be. I think that's a good debate to begin with -- why are Republicans so eager to avoid putting Gonzales under oath ? He's testifying as a fact witness, and his prior statements at issue -- including his false assuarances to Sen. Feingold at his confirmation hearings -- were under oath, so this testimony should be, too.

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Feingold is doing exactly what he should be doing - creating a hostile and confrontational atmosphere, rather than a boringly congenial one where the Democrats meekly accept everything (see the Alito hearings). Feingold has been seriously heroic on several of these issues, and it is excellent to see him continuing that right from the beginning at these hearings.

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As I said last night, if you have hope for Specter's independence and objectivity, just make it easy on yourself and give up those hopes and accept that he is going to be a shill for the Administration. If you are looking for Republican scrutiny, look to Brownback and, to a lesser extent, to Graham.

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Of course Gonzales begins his Opening Statement by quoting Osama bin Laden and Zawahri. We used to quote Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln to decide what the principles of our Government are going to be. Now we quote Al Qaeda. The Administration wants Al Qaeda and its speeches to dictate the type of Government we have. It is the centerpiece of everything they do and say.

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Gonzales is smug and thinks he can just spew the standard Bush talking points about defending the nation and Al Qaeda. I think he's going to have to do more work than that here (if he can) to satisfy the Senators.

Can someone please tell Arlen Specter that even if they're only eavesdropping on Al Qaeda members talking to Americans, it's still against the law to do it without warrants, and that it's exactly then when it would be incredibly easy to get warrants from the FISA court?

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Gonzales clearly said in his Press Conference with Gen. Hayden that they were told that they could not get the amendments to FISA they wanted. He's now falsely claiming that all he meant was that they couldn't get those amendments without disclosing national security secrets.

It's interesting how they keep having to "clarify" their statements becasue the statements they made statements which were false.

It's also ludicrous that FISA couldn't have been amended without disclosing operational details. Senators introduced amendments to amend FISA and the Administraiton supported certain of those amendments, and even proposed some of their own.

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Leahy's anger is excellent, real and poignant. As always, the Administration wants to imply that only they care about 9/11 and remember it. Leahy has had enough of that - he works in Washington every day, was in the Capitol when 9/11 happened, and everyone should be sick of the Administration's exploitation of 9/11 to defend itself politically. It looks like Leahy is.

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Leahy makes another crucial point - FISA was amended by the Patriot Act based on the requests of the Bush Administration - Democrats and Republicans got together in the wake of 9/11 to give the Administration everything they said they needed in amended FISA - and then he went and violated it anyway.

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How funny that Orrin Hatch seems to think that Congress has no right to restrict the President's eavesdropping powers. I wonder why he voted in 2001 to amend FISA to define the restrictions on the President's eavesdropping activities if Congress has no right to regulate them. Voting for FISA seems to be an odd thing to do for someone who believes that Congress has no right to regulate the Executive's eavesdropping activities.

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Michael DeWine thinks it's too bad that they violated the law, but since they did, maybe they would consider letting Congress change the law to make what they are doing legal. That's very nice and accomodating of him.

Gonzales thinks there's too much annoying paperwork (an inch thick!) to get FISA warrants, so they just didn't. What's the problem?

(I was in a meeting - sorry, I'm back to live blogging)

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