Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Damn. Nobody asked Scottie about his mom turning her back on the Texas Republican Party. What’s wrong with our press corps?

At least they pressed him on Chimpy’s extra-constitutional snooping

Q First of all, all of those checks that you mentioned are not checks; it’s all within the executive branch. There’s no check from another part of the government.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s in the legislative branch, as well.

Q Well, but you say you briefed members of Congress. What you did is you pulled them into a room and said, this is what’s happening, now thanks and don’t tell anybody. I mean, that’s not —

MR. McCLELLAN: More than a dozen times on the activities conducted under this authorization.

Q But wait a minute. Even if they said it’s a bad idea, what were you going to do, say, okay, well, we’ll take that under advisement.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, clearly, the American people strongly support the efforts that we’re undertaking to save their lives.

Q But you don’t know that, and I’m not asserting whether that’s the case or not.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there actually was a poll last week that showed more than the 60 percent of the American people support —

Q Oh, now you embrace polls. Okay, I’ll tell — I’ll note that for the record. (Laughter.)

Ooops! Scottie forgot that the Steely-Eyed President does not pay any attention to popular opinion.

Now, does the Chimp in Chief have any other surprises in store for us?

Q Has the President signed any other orders that affect the daily lives of Americans, intruding on their privacy, and so forth, that are still secret?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes we must act in a way that protects our liberties and save lives, and that’s what we are committed to doing.

Q Does he believe in following the law —

MR. McCLELLAN: The Patriot Act is a law that meets both those commitments and it is —

Q Has he signed any other executive orders that intrude on the lives of Americans?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you’re asking me talk about classified programs, I can’t do that; you know that I’m prohibited from doing that. But —

Q But not yet leaked.

The limits to presidential power — are there any?

Q Scott, do you believe the President has the legal authority and the power to tap into phone calls or email communications between two Americans on United States soil without a warrant?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the program that we’re talking about here in the NSA authorization is relating to one party being outside of the United States. So one component of that has to be international —

Q I understand that. But you say, will do anything in his power to protect Americans.

MR. McCLELLAN: — in nature. And I haven’t talked to lawyers about that specific issue. There is authorizations —

Q So you’re not sure whether he has the legal authority to do that, or could?

MR. McCLELLAN: — under the Patriot Act that the President can take, and we are making use of those authorities to help break up cells and save lives. And we will continue to do so. The President will continue to do everything within his lawful power to protect the American people. I just don’t have any more —

Q So you’re not sure whether he has the power to do that or would use that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t heard any discussion of that.

The ACLU done it!

Q A moment ago you said that opponents of certain sections of the Patriot Act are putting politics over national security. But my understanding is that those that are opposed to certain sections, and possibly the amendment of this Act, are concerned about unchecked invasions of privacy, because certain warrant-less surveillances were done without having any contact whatsoever within 72 hours of the secret court that was established by law. And that is what my understanding is —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think they’re just engaging in politics.

Q My understanding is, they’re concern is that the administration did not abide by existing law by not contacting this secret court within 72 hours as required by law.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is oversight in place. And as I pointed out, the Inspector General has looked into this and has found nothing to substantiate any allegations of abuse.

Q The issue is not oversight, it’s abiding by the law, which requires this administration to contact the Supreme Court within 72 hours of a warrant-less surveillance. And I would like to know —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s one of the issues that’s been addressed in the negotiations and in the discussion as the conference committee was moving forward. So I reject your characterization.

Q I would like to know why you’re depicting this as politics —

MR. McCLELLAN: Because that’s what it is. Because we heard the Senate Democratic leader boast to his political supporters that Senate Democrats had “killed” the Patriot Act. Those were his words, not my words. Those were his words, because they’re beholden to special interests. They want to undermine and weaken the Patriot Act. And the Patriot Act has been a vital tool to saving lives. And that’s why the President looks forward to meeting with these U.S. Attorneys and hearing about how they have used the tools within the Patriot Act to disrupt plots and break up terrorist cells. And I cited three specific examples.

Les thinks the ACLU done it, too.

Q In a full-page ad in The New York Times, the ACLU quotes the President on April the 20th of 2004 as saying, “When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” And my question: Did the President say that, on that date? And what is your reaction to the ACLU charging that the President, “lied to the American people and broke the law”?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. I addressed this question previously. The President addressed this question again just the other day. That speech was on the Patriot Act, and the President was talking about roving wire taps in the context of the Patriot Act, so we’ve already addressed that.

The ACLU — this is one of the special interest groups that Democrats in the Senate are trying to appease because they want to weaken and undermine the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is vital to saving lives, and the President is going to hear about how the Patriot Act has helped save lives. It has also met an important commitment to protect people’s civil liberties.