Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Senate Republicans Choose Bush Over Country on Domestic Spying

The GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted against a formal Congressional investigation of George W. Bush’s domestic spying program, despite almost-certain knowledge that the White House has violated key provisions of Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) laws over the last four years.

The vote, held in a closed session, was strictly on party lines with all seven Democrats voting for an investigation and the committee’s eight Republicans voting to let Bush off the hook.

"The committee — to put it bluntly — basically is in the control of the White House," said a visibly angry Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the committee. "Today was an important day. There was a lot at stake for our country and all Americans, but my Republican colleagues would prefer to operate in the dark."

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), also an Intelligence Committee member, cited this as just another example of the Republican Congress bowing to Bush and losing sight of their Constitutional duty to provide oversight on the executive branch of government.

“The Intelligence Committee's failure to authorize an investigation into warrantless surveillance is yet another abdication of Congress's responsibility to provide oversight and ensure accountability for this illegal program,” said Feingold in a statement.

Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), said he asked the committee to reject confrontation and accommodate an agreement with the White House to create a subcommittee of seven senators with broad oversight of the National Security Agency's terrorist monitoring.

"We should fight the enemy. We should not fight each other," Roberts said.

A bill proposed by Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) would temporarily exempt the president's eavesdropping program from the 1978 FISA law aimed at governing electronic intelligence collection inside the United States. The legislation would require the administration to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on U.S. residents unless the attorney general certified to House and Senate intelligence subcommittees that seeking court approval would hurt intelligence gathering.

But Rockefeller was steadfast in his opinion that none of this is about getting to the truth.

“It is apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent weeks to prevent the committee from doing its job,” he said. “Although some members of this committee indicate they need more time to decide on what action to take, I believe this is another stalling tactic.”

And you can’t say that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid didn’t see this coming a mile away, issuing a statement last Friday in which he strongly implied that the Intelligence Committee was merely a cooperative arm of the White House.

“When faced with strong evidence that the Bush Administration has misused intelligence, misuses that have made America less secure, time and again the Senate Intelligence Committee has ducked its responsibilities and refused to hold the Administration accountable,” said Reid. “The recent record of the Republican-controlled committee is most notable for its abdication of authority and responsibility.”

Sadly, that shoddy record continues.