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Tilting at Windmills

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June 7, 2006

SPECTER HANGS UP ON NSA OVERSIGHT....In May, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) talked tough in response to revelations about Bush's legally dubious surveillance efforts. At one point, Specter even complained publicly, "[T]here really has to be in our system of law and government, checks and balance, separation of powers, congressional oversight and...there has been no meaningful congressional oversight on these [surveillance] programs."

Of course, Specter has a track record of not exactly walking the walk when it comes to follow through on administrative oversight. A few weeks ago, Specter cut a weak deal with conservatives on the committee on legislation on NSA surveillance, and yesterday, the other shoe dropped.

After weeks of anticipation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter deferred a decision about whether to force executives from three telecom companies to testify about their involvement in the National Security Agency's terrorist-surveillance program. His decision came as a total surprise to Democrats on the committee, leading Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin to suggest Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, had succumbed to a "June swoon."

According to those in attendance, Specter said he'd been "advised informally" that the phone companies they planned to subpoena -- BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T, would be precluded from providing any information about the secret program by the government. Thus, a vote was therefore postponed on the matter, Senate staffers said.

Instead, Specter said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had extracted a promise from Vice President Cheney himself to work with the Senate on proposed legislation related to the NSA and its oversight.

How utterly predictable. Instead of meaningful oversight, Hatch has invited Dick Cheney to "help" the Senate Judiciary Committee determine how it can exercise its oversight responsibilities.

I'm sure the Vice President will be forthcoming and ensure the NSA's activities are open to scrutiny, right?

Steve Benen 10:14 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

Specter is a lapdog. He yips on occasion but is easily cowered or bought off with some 'doggie' treats.

History will not be kind to the jellyfish who presided over the dismantling of the constitution.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on June 7, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK


As Harry Reid said of Specter, "He's with you except when you need him."

Posted by: john s. on June 7, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Who was it who was writing things like "the future of our constitution is now in Specter's hands?"

Well I guess we just saw the future.

Posted by: Alan on June 7, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The whole point of Specter's fake criticism is to serve the administration by pretending to be upset about the same things that generate controversy more widely, but then to be satisfied by administrations empty symbolic concessions in order to send the message that the concerns that were raised were addressed, and its time to move on.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 7, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Living in the U.S. has become like one of those dreams where monsters are chasing you, you run to various people for help, and each of them in turns reveals himself as...just another monster.

We have no redress from these craven criminals. We have no representation. We have no decency, honesty, integrity or courage in Congress.

She was a great country while she lasted.

Posted by: shortstop on June 7, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Specter is exactly what his name impliesa phantom Senator.

When will someone put Specter out of his/our misery.

I was reallly hopeful that after a battle with cancer, the fact that he is never running again and his general irascibility meant he would start standing up to these guysHe always starts out in the right place (relatively). I mean, what exactly are they holding over him at this point? Is he that afraid of losing the Chair he refuses to actually use?

At this point just toe the White House line from the beginning, Arlen. Talking a good game and then caving is not making you any friends, nor is it helping your legacy much.

Posted by: Mr Furious on June 7, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I mean, do you want to be remembered as a tough maverick or a loyal soldier, because you're actually splitting the difference and ending up a complete disappointment.

Posted by: Mr Furious on June 7, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

When Senator Feingold recently walked out on one of Specter's little subcommitee charades, I couldn't have been more proud to have voted for Russ. One thing that Arlen Spector will never have that Russ Feingold has plenty of: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Posted by: David W. on June 7, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Feingold is wonderful. But he can't do it on his own...or nearly on his own.

Posted by: shortstop on June 7, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

spector is a whore, and that's probably an insult to whores

Posted by: marblex on June 7, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

The MSM will portray this as another heroic Republican standing up to the invincible likeability and popularity of his own party's President.

I really do wish Specter had died when he had the chance.

Posted by: brewmn on June 7, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

There is no such thing as a moderate Republican anymore.

The modern Republican party is composed of radicals, corrupt crooks, and enablers.

We need to stop comforting ourselves with delusions that moderate Republicans can or will do anything to contain the Republican party. They can't or they won't, and at this point they're nothing but enablers.

Posted by: theorajones on June 7, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the Vice President will be forthcoming and ensure the NSA's activities are open to scrutiny, right?

Dear Senator Specter,

Go fuck yourself.

Sincerely,

Richard Cheney

Posted by: uh-huh on June 7, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

It is obvious to me that the some of the first people spied on by Bush were the "moderate" pugs.
Bush has some dirt on these people who waffle and crap on the constitution... at this point in time there is really no other conclusion to make.
fala

Posted by: fala on June 7, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

His decision came as a total surprise to Democrats on the committee...

Where have they been, these past few years?? Maybe we should call them the "Rip van Dems" since they seem to have slept through so much of our recent history.

Posted by: RT on June 7, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Step right up and see the amazing Arlen 'El Foldo' Specter, the Human $7.99 Wal-Mart Aluminum Lawn Chair!

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 7, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Step right up and see the amazing Arlen 'El Foldo' Specter, the Human $7.99 Wal-Mart Aluminum Lawn Chair!

Heh. Made in Honduras. Brought to you by John Negroponte, Inc.

Posted by: shortstop on June 7, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Instead, Specter said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had extracted a promise from Vice President Cheney himself to work with the Senate on proposed legislation related to the NSA and its oversight.

So he's extracted a "promise" from the Vice President to comply with the laws he's already breaking and claims don't apply to him?

It makes one nostalgic for that "rule of law! rule of law!" parrot yawp we got from the Republicans in the '90s -- of course, their touching concern for the rule of law seemed to disappear right about when Bill Clinton left office.

Posted by: Stefan on June 7, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I think it would be wise to refain from wishing people dead and / or asking when someone will put them out of "his/our misery", regarless of their political stance. It only gives conservatives side amunition to lable this whole forum as a bunch of radical nuts.

Posted by: bushburner on June 7, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry I should re-read before posting that is refRain, regarDless ammunition and label.

Posted by: bushburner on June 7, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

According to those in attendance, Specter said he'd been "advised informally" that the phone companies they planned to subpoena -- BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T, would be precluded from providing any information about the secret program by the government. Thus, a vote was therefore postponed on the matter, Senate staffers said

I find this a curious statement. How would the telcos be "precluded" from testifying? Is Bush applying the "State Secrets Priviledge" to Congressional investigations? Can he do that? Why can't the telcos testify tio when they were approached, who approached them, what data was sought, how was it collected? Certainly most of these answers don't compromise state secrets

Posted by: beb on June 7, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

It only gives conservatives side amunition to lable this whole forum as a bunch of radical nuts.

Look, conversatives will label this whole forum a bunch of radical nuts no matter what we say -- just as they labelled war hero John Kerry a coward and labelled pro-gun economically conservative Howard Dean an insane communist. You can't defend yourself from these people with the truth, you can't defend yourself by being calm and polite and hoping they don't hit you -- it's only an invitation to them to kick your teeth in. The only weapon they understand is force, and we have to hit them back twice as hard as they hit us.

Posted by: Stefan on June 7, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Besides, alot of Republicans have probably said the same thing.

Posted by: brewmn on June 7, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

beb: Certainly most of these answers don't compromise state secrets

Probably not state secrets, but political secrets nonetheless. Over time we keep learning more stuff the administration is doing that they don't want us to learn about. The same here.

You think they're upset for us to just hear more details about what we've already learned? No, they don't want people to testify because then we'd learn about other things.

Posted by: nerd on June 7, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Nevermind Strikes Again!

Posted by: david on June 7, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I know you folks are not interested in this but you might think for a nanosecond about whether there really are people out there who want to kill us and how we find them.

Posted by: Mike K on June 7, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K,

It's not that we don't want to think about it, or that we don't think there are terrorists out there. What is at question is the efficacy of this NSA program and whether it really makes anyone safer.

One thing to remember is that the NSA intercepted a transmission on 9/10 saying that 9/11 would be zero hour, but the NSA didn't translate that transmission until 9/12. Also there have been complaints out of the FBI that the NSA was sending them on wild-goose chases that didn't result in any arrests or involve any subjects that were worth putting under surveillance.

Then of course there's the issue of why we can't come up with a solution that will fit inside a legal framework. Why do we have do an end-run around judicial and congressional oversight?

Posted by: cyntax on June 7, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when Cafferty said the Specter "might be all that's standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country"?

He now sees Specter as "yet another gutless Republican worm". CanOFun has the video.

Posted by: netro on June 7, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Update: Crooks & Liars now has the Cafferty vid up in two formats. (CanOFun is streaming Windows Media).

Posted by: netro on June 7, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not that we don't want to think about it, or that we don't think there are terrorists out there. What is at question is the efficacy of this NSA program and whether it really makes anyone safer."

The Arabs who ran out to buy throw away cellphones last December, after the NSA story broke in the NY Times certainly thought so.

"One thing to remember is that the NSA intercepted a transmission on 9/10 saying that 9/11 would be zero hour, but the NSA didn't translate that transmission until 9/12."

You're visiting those conspiracy web sites again. That was Pearl Harbor and it was 65 years ago.

" Also there have been complaints out of the FBI that the NSA was sending them on wild-goose chases that didn't result in any arrests or involve any subjects that were worth putting under surveillance."

Where do you get your info ? My daughter is an FBI agent working on terrorism and knows nothing of this. She did tell me last year about how the gas station robberies turned out to be terrorism connected.

"Then of course there's the issue of why we can't come up with a solution that will fit inside a legal framework. Why do we have do an end-run around judicial and congressional oversight?"

Maybe you should read the FISA opinion on the sealed case in 2000 that says it is legal.

Posted by: cyntax

Posted by: Mike K on June 7, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K,

The Arabs who ran out to buy throw away cellphones last December, after the NSA story broke in the NY Times certainly thought so.

Speaking of proof, why don't you provide some for this claim?


--One thing to remember is that the NSA intercepted a transmission on 9/10 saying that 9/11 would be zero hour, but the NSA didn't translate that transmission until 9/12.

You're visiting those conspiracy web sites again. That was Pearl Harbor and it was 65 years ago.

You mean conspiracy sites like CBS News? Granted it's not Bill O'reilly but I find it creditable:
"The messages, which were in Arabic, were not translated until Sept. 12, and they have been brought to the attention of the House and Senate intelligence committees that are conducting a joint inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks."

--Also there have been complaints out of the FBI that the NSA was sending them on wild-goose chases that didn't result in any arrests or involve any subjects that were worth putting under surveillance.

Where do you get your info ?

From the New York Times:
"We'd chase a number, find it's a school teacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former FBI official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."


Maybe you should read the FISA opinion on the sealed case in 2000 that says it is legal.

Quid pro quo. I've given you my links, time for you to share yours.


Posted by: cyntax on June 7, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

beb @ 12.09 and nerd @ 103:

be afraid. be very afraid.

in the early 70's when cheney and rumsfeld worked for nixon, they tried the same "unchecked executive" or "unitary decider" or whatever. but it was the same nazi b.s as today, just a different name. unlimited power for the president.

at the time, some telecoms that ran international and national cable and telegraph operations were doing lotsa dirty deeds for the nsa and other cells conrolled by rumsfeld cheney etc. they got caught, and when a bipartisan commitee threatened to investigate this rig, cheney rumsfeld looked forward to this with glee. it would give them the perfect oppurtunity to roll out their doctrine of the supreme being. in fact the executives power and privilege was so vast that it extended to private business. since the telcos were working with the executive regarding matters of national security, the telcos COULD NOT be compelled to release data on this illegal program to ANY BRANCH OR POWER, judical or legislative.

Posted by: mike on June 7, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

"According to those in attendance, Specter said he'd been "advised informally" that the phone companies they planned to subpoena -- BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T, would be precluded from providing any information about the secret program by the government. Thus, a vote was therefore postponed on the matter, Senate staffers said."

IOW, Specter is a WATB, and when Cosigliere Cheney comes and makes him an offer he can't refuse, he says "Oh, yeah, that's what I was really saying ... you know ... I didn't mean that sh*t."

Cheney told him the maladministration would force a "state secrets" (or "executive privilege") showdown ... and Specter should think about that horse head in his chairman's seat.

Of course, if Verizon, BellSouth, and AT&T weren't shovelling over all the telephone logs for the whole country to the maladministration, there would be no problem having them testify to that....

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on June 7, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K.:

I know you folks are not interested in this but you might think for a nanosecond about whether there really are people out there who want to kill us and how we find them.

"Straw man". *sheesh* If you have terrorist suspects, by all means go and surveille them. Just follow the law if you do. You know, like get a warrant? It's not like any FISA warrant application has ever been turned down....

FWIW, for all the ballyhoo about those folks in Canada, they don't seem to have been particularly competent ... certainly not on the same level as -- saaaayyyyy, Timothy McVeigh. So do tell, are we snooping all the RW nutcases and their buddies nowadays so that we don't have another 200 killed?

Cheers,

Cheers,

Posted by: Arne Langsetmo on June 7, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Spector can always be counted on to go to bat for us. The only problem is that he never swings. He shows all the sypmtoms of battered wife syndrome.

Posted by: robertl on June 7, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is the guy who created the "single bullet theory" for god's sake. What do we expect?

Posted by: Pat on June 7, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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