Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

In today’s gaggle Little Scottie refuses to discuss the president’s extra-consitutional order authorizing warrantless wiretapping of US citizens because there is an ongoing investigation…. or something.

Q Is it your position that legal authority is required —

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry should turn off his phone.

Q — for any surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, I’m aware of the reports that were in the papers this morning.

Q I hope so.

MR. McCLELLAN: This relates to intelligence activities and ongoing intelligence operations that are aimed at saving lives.

[snip]

Q Right, but all I asked you was whether it’s your position that it always requires a court order for surveillance of U.S. citizens.

MR. McCLELLAN: What it’s getting into — again, let me reiterate. The President is firmly committed to upholding our Constitution and protecting people’s civil liberties.

[snip]

Now in terms of talking about the National Security Agency or matters like that, that would be getting into talking about ongoing intelligence activities. And they’re classified for a reason, because they go to the issue of sources and methods and protecting the American people. And because they’re classified, I’m not able to get into discussing those issues from this podium.

[snip]

Q You mean you cannot say whether it’s lawful to spy on Americans or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a Constitution and we have laws.

Q We’re not asking for any details. We’re asking you —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s why I’m making a broad statement to let you know that we —

Q It is broad. Is it legal to spy on Americans?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a Constitution and we have laws in place, and we follow those —

Q You say you are abiding by the law?

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. And there’s congressional oversight of intelligence activities, there’s other oversight of intelligence activities.

Q Why do you have to have secret orders then?

MR. McCLELLAN: Does anybody have a question? Go ahead.

Q And how many secret orders have been issued by this President?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the American people appreciate what we do to work within the law to prevent attacks from happening. The Patriot Act is being debated right now.

Q It’s never been within the law to spy on Americans.

I for one am shocked to learn that the President has more intelligence than Congress. I mean — more intelligence than a handful of gravel, maybe, but all of Congress?

Q Scott, do you have a reaction to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service’s study that rejects the President’s frequent assertions that the Congress had access to the same intelligence — pre-war intelligence that he had? Apparently in this report it says Congress was routinely denied access to intelligence sources, collection, analysis methods, raw, lightly-evaluated intelligence, PDBs.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think it’s an accurate reflection.

Q That Congress does not get the same intelligence the President gets.

MR. McCLELLAN: We provide the Congress a lot of intelligence information, and they did have access to the same intelligence that we saw prior to making the decision to go into Iraq. And some have chosen to play politics with that now, people that had previously supported the efforts to go in there, and saw the same intelligence, the intelligence that other agencies around the world used. And I saw there was a reference to the Presidential Daily Brief, where the Silberman-Robb Commission already addressed that issue, and said that if anything, the Presidential Daily Brief was less nuanced than the intelligence that members of Congress saw and that we saw, as well.

Uh-oh, he should have never mentioned Silberman-Robb.

Q And also, a moment ago, you said that the administration has provided a lot of the same intelligence to Congress as they have, but you didn’t answer whether you had more intelligence than they had. And I just wondered —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well I think the issue that — one issue in that report was the Presidential Daily Brief, and that was something that they cited. And that’s why I pointed out what the Silberman-Robb Commission said about that. And, you know, there have been — we’ve seen some Democratic leaders who supported the decision to go into Iraq based on the same intelligence that we saw come out and play politics with that recently.

Q But they didn’t address pre-war intelligence.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q That particular commission didn’t address pre-war intelligence.

MR. McCLELLAN: They looked at the — it had access to information in the President’s Daily Brief.