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17 February 2006

NY Times gets annoyed about something for a change

Yo RevJJ -- don't have a stroke over this one.

At least The Times woke up about something. They had the warrantless NSA wiretap story for a year before they got the cojones to print it.

The White House asked them not to print the story. Who runs The Times these days, Casper Milquetoast? Mister Peepers? Barney the Purple Dinosaur?

Everybody e-mail Senator Roberts and tell him he blows dead rats. If he wants to be a big cheese in a totalitarian police state, tell him to get a job with Yahoo and move to China.

===================

The New York Times
Friday 17 February 2006

Editorial

Doing the President's
Dirty Work


Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?

For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. It was supposed to start after the 2004 election, but Mr. Roberts was letting it die of neglect until the Democrats protested by forcing the Senate into an unusual closed session last November.

Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse.

Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry.

Stifling his own committee without even bothering to get the facts is outrageous. As the vice chairman of the panel, Senator John Rockefeller IV, pointed out, supervising intelligence gathering is in fact the purpose of the intelligence committee.

Mr. Rockefeller said the White House had not offered enough information to make an informed judgment on the program possible. It is withholding, for instance, such minor details as how the program works, how it is reviewed, how much and what kind of information is collected, and how the information is stored and used.

Mr. Roberts said the White House had agreed to provide more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee -- hardly an enormous concession since it is already required to do so. And he said he and the White House were working out "a fix" for the law. That is the worst news. FISA was written to prevent the president from violating Americans' constitutional rights. It was amended after 9/11 to make it even easier for the administration to do legally what it is now doing.

FISA does not in any way prevent Mr. Bush from spying on Qaeda members or other terrorists. The last thing the nation needs is to amend the law to institutionalize the imperial powers Mr. Bush seized after 9/11.

- 30 -

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Olson said...

Jah, jah, I saw this one over on AmericaBlog this morning and blew a gasket over there.

It's clear to me that the United States Congress no longer views itself as a separate branch of government that has oversight responsibility.

It's too bad, really, America used to be such a cool place.

16:34  
Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Well, it's happened before. In Rome, when it was a Republic, the Senate was the all-powerful decision-making institution. During crises and wars, the Senate regularly gave individual Romans (generals) dictatorial powers -- but when the crisis was over, the dictators always willingly returned their powers to the Senate.

But after Julius Caesar, the dictators kept their powers and became Emperors (and usually Gods). The Senate remained, but it let itself become a weak, powerless and silly symbolic institution that just lingered to keep up nostalgic appearances, and rubberstamp the dictatorial whims of the Emperor. (Caligula appointed his horse to be a Senator.)

Psychologically, maybe the majority of members of an institution like the Senate just has trouble bearing all the responsibility of making the Big Decisions for a powerful nation. As long as they keep getting the limos and the prestige and the big salary, there don't seem to be many U.S. Senators who really clearly understand how important their Constitutional duties are. When the people get frightened, most of the Senators get frightened, too, and they're just as tempted as anyone to turn over all the Responsibility to A Strong Man.

Although he's about 109 years old, the U.S. Senator who most clearly stands up for the Constitutional Powers and Responsibilities of the Senate is Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Since 9-11 he's made some remarkable (and very lonely) speeches demanding that the Senate stand up for itself and not fade away into a silly rubber stamp. He was nearly the only voice in both houses of Congress to stridently oppose the Iraq War before it even began.

This is beyond Party Politics. Look at Hillary -- she spends her time as a U.S. Senator not noticing the Iraq War, but trying to save Our Precious Children from non-existent toon poon pixel porn in violent video games. She's not the worst, she's just riding the trend of the Senate as it goes the way of the poor Roman Senate.

Once an institution like the Senate gives its powers away to A Strong Man, and lets itself become a Silly Rubber Stamp Club, they'll never have the clarity or the courage to get out of their limos and stand up for themselves and take back their Constitutional responsibilities. Pretty soon when you watch the Senate on C-Span, you'll notice a beautiful white horse sitting at one of the desks. And none of the other 99 Senators will complain or even notice.

17:59  
Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Check out some of Sen. Robert C. Byrd's speeches:

http://byrd.senate.gov/speeches/speeches.html

... and compare them to some of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's speeches. Giggle.

But the pathetic comparison is just a symptom of the Senate sliding headlong into irrelavence. Don't blame it on Bush and the Bushies, the slide began long before them. Every president just naturally wants more power. It's the job of the 100 U.S. Senators to say, "Well, Sir, you can't have our power, the Constitution gave us these responsibilities, and we have no choice but to continue to discharge them. We swore an oath."

18:05  
Anonymous Jim Olson said...

Indeed.

Despite Byrd's questionable past (all Southern Democrats belonged to the KKK in the 50's...), he has become perhaps the last great Senator. It used to mean something to be elected to the Senate...that your fellow state-persons thought enough of you to send you to Washington to speak on their behalf. And, for the rest of your life, even after you retired (and Senators used to do that...), you were still called Senator.

More and more, I fear we are sliding down the same path that the Roman Republic did. The only thing that saves us now is that Bush is such an idiot, the people would not have him as Emperor. But if we ever do elect a President who is really, really smart, and the people like him or her, it would be a small step from Republic to true Empire.

That is not an America I would wish to live in.

America used to be such a nice place.

20:29  

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