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Dems, Redeem Thyselves

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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August 13, 2007

Saturday’s Times had this extraordinary editorial demanding that the White House disclose sufficient information to allow Congress to deal with the FISA eavesdropping expansion with at least some sense of what it’s doing.

First, note this mention of Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia:

Instead of answering these questions, the administration has done its best to ensure that everyone stays confused. It has refused repeated requests by Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for documents relating to the president’s order creating the spying program, and the Justice Department’s legal justifications for it.

Many of the House Democrats who caved to Bush on FISA expansion cited support by security-cleared Dems on the Senate Intelligence Committee as justification for their votes. But, if even the Senate Intel Committee members deliberated based on less than perfect information, the rest of the Congress did also.

As the Times opines, if Senator Rockefeller wants this information in order to make an informed decision about spying in America, the White House needs to stop stonewalling.

Second, the Times calls out the administration for deliberate tactics of obfuscation, to keep opinion leaders and lay watchers confused as to what precisely the new law is all about.That cannot be emphasized enough. Just as this administration used clever wordgames to link 9/11 and Saddam Hussein prior to the Iraq invasion, the White House has spin doctored the news on FISA to convince voters that the warrantless surveillance won’t capture American conversations on American soil, when nothing could be further from the truth.

If you go back and read the law as signed by the president, it permits the (increasingly infamous) Attorney General Gonzales to authorize eavesdropping on your phone calls or emails without any real court review.The plan is all about taking the gloves off here at home, not about unshackling the NSA overseas, as the politicos would have you believe.

Keep up the pressure, Democrats. You may have caved this time, but opportunities at redemption come along every day.