Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 31, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

NSA UPDATE....Three weeks ago the Bush administration announced that it was ending the NSA's domestic spying program and replacing it with a new, more restrictive program that had been approved by the FISA court. Today, Alberto Gonzales agreed to make both the administration's legal briefs and the court's order available to Congress:

The decision to hand over the documents, which Mr. Gonzales confirmed to reporters today, will allow members of the House and Senate intelligence committees -- as well as select congressional leaders -- to review that court order.

....Administration officials cautioned today that lawmakers would only receive documents related to the most recent FISA court orders, and should not expect documentation related to future wiretap requests.

Two comments. First, this puts the Democrats who see these documents under some genuine pressure. Will they meekly go along with the administration's plans or will they offer up some genuine criticism? I hope for the latter but fear for the former.

Second, if I'm reading this right, the only thing Congress will see is information about the new program. They still won't have any idea what the original program was all about. Apparently we're all going to stay in the dark about that.

Kevin Drum 6:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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...the only thing Congress will see is information about the new program. They still won't have any idea what the original program was all about. Apparently we're all going to stay in the dark about that.

For now. However, I am thinking that items will undoubtedly turn up that will inspire Leahy and others to push even harder for more info.

The trickle over the dam will eventually grow to a much stronger flow. This is, after all, why the Bush admin fought this for so long. Like virginity, you can't give up just a bit.

Posted by: Keith G on January 31, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

I don't trust the Administration to turn over the full set of documents that comprise the "matter" before the FISA court. Congress should demand that the document return be made by the FISA court and certified as complete. Secondly, if they are saying upfront that future wiretap requests may be done by a different procedure, then absolutely nothing has been established. This is a pile of crap.

Posted by: bmaz on January 31, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

RIP, Molly :-(

Posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad on January 31, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

We have been led to believe that the NSA is only snooping on international calls. Not so.

“With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans.” USA Today 5/06


Legal or not, it sucks to think that there is now a gigantic data-base that can cross reference (probably) all calls made by US citizens.

If I say something like "Oh man that movie _______
was a bomb," in Gonzales's world, I'm a terrorist.

Not only has our DoD been building bases all over the planet, but government geeks have also completely infiltrated the virtual realm and have servers beyond your wildest imagination.

The NSA stuff is dangerous, especially when you consider the same folks brought us "torture-lite."

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 31, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Administration can't allow the public to find out the scope of the program. I suspect they sift through every international message they can get their hands on. In addition, I suspect they were spying on political enemies in the United States, as well.

If the American people realized how wide this blanket is cast, how much it costs, and how little it produces... Well I don't think it would be good for the Administration.

Posted by: Tuna on January 31, 2007 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am not in the dark what the program is about.
Neither should anyone be...

Bush and Cheney are nastier and more evil that Nixon.

Nixon spied on innocent American citizens that dared to oppose him.

What in the frug do you think prick-Dick and boy-George are up to?

Playing patty-cake?
Making nice?

Or digging up every bit of dirt they can on those who dare to oppose them?

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on January 31, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly there are privacy issues involved. If the Administration gave full access to all documents to the congressional committees, it would violate the privacy of people who were under surveillance. The Administration is just doing its job, protecting the privacy of Americans from congressional snooping.

Posted by: Al on January 31, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Alberto Gonzalez & Co. are -- excuse my language -- fucking absurd.

Why aren't we hearing more about this in the mainstream media? Right now, CNN and MSNBC are falling all over themselves to tell us that Paula Abdul was so stoned that she's being replaced on American Idol -- with Courtney Love ??!!?

Excuse me -- now they have America's Dauphin on MSNBC telling us that his patience with Iran is running out.

I think I'll join Paula for a few Cuervo shooters myself.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 31, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Amen and ditto, Ghost.

Molly was the progressive touchstone, our sense of humor and ray of hope in darkest days.

We won't see her like again in this life.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 31, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Al, do get along to the community area, as the picture of Emmanuel Goldstein will be up on the monitors momentarily.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 31, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yellow Dog, did you get your modem fixed?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 31, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK


Officials: White House Holding Back Report Detailing Iran's Meddling in Iraq

Posted by: axca on January 31, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it curious that we were told that the Bush/Cheney/Poindexter Total Information Awareness (TIA) Program was completely scrubbed and defunded; yet every element of that program seems to be alive and well. Just another example of the Bush Administration just mouthing words for public consumption and then blithely doing as they please. There is absolutely nothing that they say or do that can be given even a single grain of trust or credibility. It is simply incredible that an American citizen would ever be justified in making such a statement. If you haven't seen it yet, there is an excellent article in today's NYT by James Bamford on the illegality of the wiretapping program. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/opinion/31bamford.html

Posted by: bmaz on January 31, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Boy, there's no pleasing you libs, is there?

The White House made a MAJOR concession to you whiney libs, finally agreeing to hand over documents about the program.

What do we hear? Gratitude? Cries of victory? Nope, not our precious looney lefties. Like water over a waterfall, the libs cry "Look how terrible Bush is!"

By the way, don't think the latent anti-Hispanicism goes unnoticed in the greater community. What comes around goes around.

Posted by: egbert on January 31, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

I swear to god I adore Al. This is the funniest thing ever posted on Political Animal. No, really:

Clearly there are privacy issues involved. If the Administration gave full access to all documents to the congressional committees, it would violate the privacy of people who were under surveillance. The Administration is just doing its job, protecting the privacy of Americans from congressional snooping.

Posted by: Al on January 31, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: shortstop on January 31, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK


The Democrats will roll over like a refugee boat. The gutless cowards are going to let Bush's war crimes and illegal torture and renditions go unpunished. In most countries, a leader like Bush and an attorney general like Gonzo would be facing the gallows, but the loyal opposition here will be singing his accolades and contributing to his presidential library fund. Pathetic. I would vote Green if I thought they had a ghost of a chance of winning an election...


Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 31, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush asked for bipartisanship in the Congress. Looks like he's got it.

This from The Washington Post:


Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin agree on a nonbinding resolution that opposes President Bush's troop buildup proposal in Iraq.
–- Associated Press

Posted by: aj on January 31, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA might be going in the open, but who is going to take care of the FBI?

Posted by: buck turgidson on January 31, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

For the latest NSA scandal news, documents, legal filings, timelines and other essential materials, see:
"The NSA Domestic Surveillance Resource Center."

Posted by: AngryOne on February 1, 2007 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

If Shifty Gonzales had designed Saddam's Hidey Hole, we never would have found the bastard.

Posted by: Kenji on February 1, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

ECHELON continues.

Posted by: albertchampion on February 1, 2007 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

--that it was ending the NSA's domestic spying program

Kevin's words, not press or anyone elses, Bush hasn't end anything, he just said a judge gave him the okay to continue his warrentless spying.

Nothing has changed, its just that Bush sez he got a FISA judge to say it's okay for Bush to do whatever he wants.

Posted by: Cheryl on February 1, 2007 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

er, that should be Bush has ending his wiretapping program.

Bush didn't end anything Kevin, and Kevin knows this, so why is Kevin making this up?

Bush is using the same old cover-up tatics.

Posted by: Cheryl on February 1, 2007 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that the instructions have been faxed to all the usual useful idiots. When Congress asks for documents about the illegal wiretaps the response will be, "We've given you all the documentation available for the current program." And the right wing noise machine will start screaming that the Dems are on a fishing expedition. "The WH has turned over ALL the documents concerning the surveillance program and still the Congressional Dems want more??!!!"

It really is transparent at this point. The people who get their news from FAUX News and Rush Limbaugh will be convinced that Congress has already been given everything they asked for and are just fishing for something to hang Bush with, just as they are convinced that there were multiple recounts in FL in 2000 and Saddam was having tea with Osama in 2002. And all they really need to do is convince 50% of the population, right? Remember, the average IQ is 100.

Posted by: majun on February 1, 2007 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Gonzales.........he's been a busy boy...lots of irons in the fire he has...here's some:

Encouraging resignation of US attorneys.......

The Alberto Gonzales Seven - Gone and Out -

Why is this purge happening?

Alberto Gonzales: Gaming the System Again in Arizona?

Appointing U.S. Attorneys -- Then and After Reauthorization Patriot Act

Now remember, we just had an election....and the tinkering to wrest control back is happening....throughout the government......via political appointees and promises!

Posted by: avahome on February 1, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

That is the problem I have with impeaching Cheney, it would deprive the rotten apple of Washington of one of its worms, but only one.

The true legecy the Bush Administration will be in the leaving behind of tools like Gonzales, who will carry on in the holy mission of undermining the US people without repercussion.

Posted by: Zit on February 1, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Parsing this announcement it looks like only select memebers of congress will be briefed. Leading to the question, will they be briefed in secret under terms of a non-disclosure agreement, and if so should be be regarded as any kind of briefing at all. Because when he ca't talk about what you've been told, how is that different from not being told anything at all?

The only full disclosure would be a full and unredacted release of the agreement between the administration and the FISA court judge.

Posted by: beb on February 1, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Whose Side Is Bush On?

Chuck Baldwin
Thursday, February 1, 2007

There was someone in the gallery during President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech that he would not dare publicly recognize. Even though he knew she was there, I'm confident he never even bothered to look up at Gallery 5, Row B, Seat 9, because sitting in that seat was Monica Ramos, the wife of imprisoned former Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos. She was the invited guest of Republican California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Representative Rohrabacher is incensed at Bush's Justice Department for imprisoning Ramos and former Border Patrol agent Jose Alonso Compean for their actions in the shooting and wounding of a Mexican drug smuggler.

In case you missed the story, the two BP agents intercepted a Mexican drug smuggler who brought more than 700 pounds of marijuana (that we know of) across the border into the United States. In the process of attempting to capture the criminal, he pointed something at the agents, and they opened fire. He was apparently hit in the buttocks, as he turned to run. However, the smuggler appeared to not be injured, as he continued to run swiftly back into Mexico and into a waiting van. Both van and smuggler raced out of sight. The smuggler's weapon was not found.

Why, you ask, were the two agents imprisoned (for a term of more than 11 years each, no less)? For firing their weapons and not filing the proper paperwork. You read it right.

"TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing 1,500 agents, argued failure to report the discharge of a firearm is an administrative offense that, at the most, merits a five-day suspension," reports World Net Daily.

"How that translates into 11-and 12-year prison terms is beyond me," Bonner said.

Making matters worse, the Mexican drug smuggler was even granted full immunity by the Justice Department and brought back at U.S. taxpayers' expense to testify against the agents. He is even being allowed to sue the two agents for over $5 million for having his "civil rights" violated. No, he is not an American citizen. He is a Mexican criminal who entered the United States illegally for the express purpose of smuggling drugs.

More than 70 lawmakers signed a petition pleading with President Bush to pardon the two agents. To no avail. Agents Ramos and Compean began their prison terms on January 17.

Representative Rohrabacher called President Bush a "disgrace" for refusing to pardon the two BP agents. About Bush, he said, "This is the worst betrayal of American defenders I have ever seen." He further said, "He [Bush] obviously thinks more of his agreements with Mexico than the lives of American people and backing up his defenders."

Rep. Joe Wilson said, "Convicting Ramos and Compean is a slap in the face to every American who respects the rule of law and expects our government to enforce its own laws."

However, the story gets even more bizarre. Writing for World Net Daily, Jerome Corsi reports, "New evidence suggests prosecuting U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of El Paso lied about how the government found the fleeing illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, according to a Border Patrol advocate closely following the case of former agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Campean.

"Contrary to claims, no Mexican attorney was involved as an intermediary offering to reveal the identity of the drug smuggler and bring him back to the U.S. in exchange for given immunity to testify against Border Patrol, contended Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol.

"'It's shocking how much lying Johnny Sutton has done about Aldrete-Davila,' he told WND."

Ramirez said emphatically, "If the truth about how the government got their hands on Aldrete-Davila had been told to the jury, there is no way the jury would have believed a word of his story that he was unarmed."

Obviously, much of the prosecutor's cased hinged on the testimony of the drug smuggler that he was not armed. In the end, the jury had to decide in favor of a U.S. Attorney and a Mexican drug smuggler or the two Border Patrol agents. Pathetically, they chose to believe the Mexican criminal and the collaborating U.S. Attorney.

Worse still, President Bush ignored the pleas of members of Congress and the thousands of American citizens begging him to pardon the two agents.

In response to Bush's decision to leave the two BP agents behind bars, Rohrabacher's spokeswoman, Tara Setmayer, said that the "lives of two brave men, her husband Ignacio Ramos and Border Patrol agent Jose Compean, have been destroyed by an inexplicable policy of open borders and amnesty this administration has toward our southern border.

"If the Bush administration cared about securing our borders, these two law enforcement officers would not be behind bars, and U.S. prosecuting attorneys wouldn't be prosecuting Border Patrol agents while drug smugglers go free."

Congressman Rohrabacher even went so far as to say, "He [President Bush] talks about being a Christian, but he has shown no Christian charity." He went on to say that because of the decision of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and President Bush to prosecute the two Border Patrol agents, "The word is out that the southern border is undefended. Border agents won't dare to draw their weapons, and the drug cartel will double their effort to drive a wedge in our border."

Makes one wonder whose side George W. Bush is on, doesn't it?

Posted by: timeforchange on February 1, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK



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