The AP is reporting that the White House and the Senate's Republican leaders are still trying to strike a deal that would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and/or modify the National Security Agency's recently-disclosed domestic surveillance program to make the NSA program lawful, and head off any further inquiry into whether that program has up till now being breaking the law -- which could be an impeachable offense, since President Bush has proudly admitted to authorizing it. As I type, the Senate Intelligence Committee is heading into a meeting to decide whether to hold hearings on the NSA program, at which point we'll know how much good our efforts yesterday did. The Judiciary Committee also remains concerned with the issue.
Most interesting to me about this article is the indication that the Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter, wants the FISA Court itself to look into the NSA program's Constitutionality. That open numerous issues: on the one hand, that Court has been critical of the program, and if it slaps it down, that opinion will be compelling. On the other hand, there are both legal problems with that plan (courts normally do not decide abstract legal questions in the absence of concrete controversies, i.e., actual cases -- if the FISA Court opines that the NSA program is unconstitutional, will it then throw out all warrants, and all convictions, obtained in reliance on the fruits of that program?) and political problems with Congress abdicating its own oversight responsibility. What's clear from both Intelligence Committee Chair Pat Roberts' plan (no hearings at all) and Judiciary Committee Chair Specter's plan (punt to the FISA Court) is that the Republicans do NOT want Congressional hearings into the NSA surveillance issue before the November elections.
Glenn Greenwald is right: despite all their bluster that they intend to actually campaign on the issue as demonstrating their strength on national security measures, the truth is that the Republicans are terrified of the NSA revelations. The Vichy Dems and triangulating moderates who can't even read the polls showing Americans' strong opposition to the program should not be allowed to call the plays -- or even stray from the reservation. This is the time for true leaders to say, loudly and clearly, that Americans don't like being spied upon, aren't willing to sacrifice their liberties for a temporary security, and want wrongdoing to be publicly investigated and, if appropriate, punished. Even -- no, ESPECIALLY -- if that wrongdoing took place in the Oval Office.
We'll keep reporting on developments, and calling on you to apply grassroots pressure at key junctures, here at VichyDems.