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, March 06, 2006

One day left for the White House to squash an investigation

(updated below - updated again)

(1) Today is the first day for the supplemental guest posting necessitated by the circumstances I described over the weekend here.

I'm genuinely excited about the fact that a regular contributor over the next few weeks here will be the truly superb blogger Anonymous Liberal. A.L. (he loves it when you call him that) is a lawyer and is otherwise . . . anonymous. He has been writing some truly insightful posts on the NSA scandal since its inception, and has made some important analytical and evidentiary discoveries which reveal glaring contradictions in the excuses given by the Administration for its law-breaking. His first post is below.

There will also be some posts contributed by regular commenters here, beginning with Hypatia, who has a great post this morning on the way in which "conservatives," now that they control the federal government, are abandoning their previous, purported belief in federalism in order to impose federal control in every area, including those previously reserved exclusively for the states. She specifically analyzes what this intellectually dishonest reversal could mean for abortion if Roe is overturned.

(2) It appears almost certain that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to vote tomorrow in favor of Sen. Rockefeller's motion to hold investigative hearings into the operational questions surrounding the NSA program. Sen. Snowe's office has been confirming that she intends to vote for the motion, which would guarantee that it passes at least 8-7.

That development is certainly what is causing Sen. Frist (undoubtedly directed by the White House) to resort to such
extreme and frenzied threats in order to stave off what looks to be an inevitable investigation. They seem to be out of moves. After he single-handedly blocked an up-or-down vote on Sen. Rockefeller's motion on February 16, Sen. Roberts expressly promised to allow a vote to take place on March 7. Sen. Snowe previously proclaimed publicly that the Committee must investigate and has not backed off (despite what must be an avalanche of both promises and threats from the White House, which likely offered to send half the federal Treasury to Maine if she changed her mind).

Nonetheless, this is no time for complacency. Those who spent the last five years counting on the allegedly independent Republicans like Snowe (or Hagel) to take a meaningful stand against the Administration's excesses have nothing but a unanimous string of disappointments to show for it. Thersites at Vichy Democrats has all of the
information needed to take meaningful action today to ensure that this vote proceeds tomorrow.

For those with connections to Nebraska, here is an
excellent Nebraska blogger, Kyle Michaelis, who is working as part of our Roots campaign to coordinate action directed at Sen. Hagel. Kyle has some interesting Nebraska analysis and, if nothing else, please visit Kyle's blog and, in Comments, leave whatever suggestions or encouragement you think is helpful. Triggering local activities in the states of key Senators really can make a huge difference in how the NSA scandal plays out.

(3) The Heretik has a great discussion of the utter incoherence of Bush's confused and seemingly random actions with regard to India and Pakistan over the last couple weeks. The stakes are very high in that region and, as Heretik observes, our "foreign policy" literally seems to be made up as Bush goes along.

UPDATE: Thersites reports both in Comments here and on his blog that Snowe's office is refusing to say whether she will vote for Rockefeller's motion. My basis for reporting that her office was confirming her support for the motion is set forth here. At this point, who knows? As I said in comments, the only thing that would be surprising is if this turned out to be easy. If nothing else, this highlights the need to intensify the calls and the e-mails today.

It's a little difficult to imagine Snowe actually voting against the motion given her prior statement urging the Intelligence Committee to hold hearings (a statement also signed by Sen. Hagel), but given the pitiful history of the "independent" Republicans falling meekly and obediently into line behind every White House decree over the last five years, nothing is a foregone conclusion with them.

Speaking of which, the New York Times editorial page -- which, credit where it's due, has been highlighting as aggressively as anyone the corruption and danger which lies at the heart of this NSA scandal -- published an excellent editorial today (h/t Ommzms) excoriating Senate Republicans for their self-imposed humiliation and abdication of all oversight responsibilities, and urging a full-scale investigation and imposition of accountability for the Administration's law-breaking.

UPDATE II: Apparently, things are completely up in the air regarding what the Intelligence Committee will do (or won't do) tomorrow when they vote in closed session. According to this report from ABC News, the vote "could go either way." ABC also reports that "Republican leaders in the Senate have been working to convince moderates on the committee that a vote for an investigation is unnecessary."

The tenacious Thersites from Vichy Dems -- who has been relentlessly contacting Sen. Rockefeller and other Committee members almost to the point of stalking -- provides a full update worth reading, including this e-mail he received this afternoon from Rockefeller's office:

Wish I had some insight for you, but it’s really unclear what’s going to happen. My best guess is Republicans will come up with some alternative proposal for a review and that they’ll try and get Hagel and Snowe to vote for that version. It’s really up in the air at the moment.

One truly hilarious sentence (in a demented and perverse sort of way) from the ABC report was this: "Majority Leader Bill Frist and committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas have recently been trying to play peacemakers." Is that what they call people these days who try to block investigations into allegations of law-breaking by the President of the United States? "Peacemakers"?

And is an example of Sen. Frist's solemn efforts to bring peace to this nasty conflict the threats he made on Friday to transform the Senate Intelligence Committee into yet another partisan rubber-stamping tool for the White House unless it called off its investigation -- a threat which, just by the way, still has not (to my knowledge) been reported by a single establishment media outlet. The ABC News report certainly didn't mention it when reporting on Sen. Frist's peace missions.

Regardless of what one's views are on the NSA scandal, surely one can agree that it constitutes at least noteworthy news -- something that merits just a small mention -- when the Senate Majority Leader threatens to radically restructure the 30-year-old operating framework of the Intelligence Committee unless that Committee agrees not to investigate a controversial program of eavesdropping on American citizens secretly ordered by the President of the United States in violation of the law.

The blogosphere seemed to instantaneously recognize without any difficulty just how newsworthy that development was. Really, the significance of it is self-evident. And yet the media just breezes right past it, even calling Sen. Frist's role in this conflict that of a "peacemaker." Our national media really is so dysfunctional, slothful, inept and sometimes just outright stupid, that it is actually hard to believe, no matter how many examples one sees of it.

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