Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Republicans set to kill NSA spying investigation

[Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Background: Last week, Republicans claimed they were interested in a broad investigation of the Bush Administration's domestic wiretap program. After heavy political pressure from the White House, including meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently shot a man in the face, the same Republicans are pooh-poohing a serious investigation, claiming it would be "punitive". Interesting that the same executive that they are supposed to be investigating can persuade them not to investigate. Read more at the link in the first paragraph.]

From the article:

As for Rockefeller's bid, Hagel said: "If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I'm not so sure that I would support that."

The Republicans want to have it both ways: both a fair, honest inquiry to follow the truth to its resolution, and a non-punitive inquiry. What a load of crap. The two options are mutually exclusive. You can't follow the truth up to a point, only as long as it doesn't punish the President. You might as well prosecute the Mafia only as long as it doesn't lead to any convictions.

A punitive inquiry and a non-punitive inquiry are two sides of the same coin. One is biased to impeach the President and the other is biased to exonerate the President. The Republicans want the latter.

I want none of the above. I want subpoena power and fair judges. I want a special counsel independent of the Congress and the executive. I want the truth about the President's surveillance, even if the truth is far more innocent or far more sinister than we have been led to believe. I want transparency. I want oversight. I want checks and balances. I want a law-abiding president.

If the full Congress votes to soft-pedal its oversight of the NSA spying program, if the Republicans decide to shut down the investigation, Harry Reid should shut down the government. He was going to do it for the sake of the filibuster, remember; that was going to be the Democrat response to the nuclear option. He shut down the Senate for a day to protest the lackluster Phase II investigation. He should shut it down for nine months to protest the abuse of power by the executive.

What is at stake here is not just the power of a minority in the Senate to prevent laws from passing and judges from being confirmed. What is at stake here is even more important than learning whether or how politicians misled a country into war. What is at stake is the power of the full Congress to make laws at all. What is at stake is the unbounded, secret power of a wartime executive applied against the citizens he governs.

Twenty years ago, Senator Frank Church warned of the dangers of letting the NSA get involved in domestic intelligence gathering. He said that the "potential to violate the privacy of Americans is unmatched by any other intelligence agency." If the resources of the NSA were ever used domestically, "no American would have any privacy left.... There would be no place to hide. .. We must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is an abyss from which there is no return."

-- Bruce Schneier, on Project Shamrock and the spying scandal

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