Today on Holden’s Obsession with Last Friday’s Gaggle

From Holden:

I was on the beach so I missed the gaggle on Friday. Most of you have probably read the juicy bits, but I can’t let it go without comment. It’s an obsession, remember?

First off I noticed it was asterix day in the James S. Brady Briefing Room as Pony Blow overstated the number of casualties in the Bali bombing by a factor of ten.

Here’s what it [the Treasury Dept. trolling through your bank records for the past five years] has done — this is the concrete part, as opposed to the abstract, potential dangers. It helped capture Hambali, who was responsible for the Bali bombing which killed more than 2,000 people.*

And at the end of the transcript we learn…

*CORRECTION: 200 people lost their lives in the Bali Bombing.


Q You had mentioned that the intelligence committees were briefed. Can you talk specifically about how members of Congress were briefed about this program, and when? And if the types —

MR. SNOW: No. Because I don’t know.**

All eyes scan to the bottom of the page…

**Additional information: appropriate members of Congress were briefed from the start of the program.

Pony Blow continues, click Read More…

From Holden:

Helen Thomas lights Pony up.

Q Why didn’t the President seek congressional authorization for the program?

MR. SNOW: He didn’t need to.

Q Why?

MR. SNOW: Because, why would he need it? Under what statute would he need congressional authorization?

Q On what legal — what is your legal basis for —

MR. SNOW: The legal basis — no, the legal basis here is that you’ve got an executive order, and furthermore, if you want to get into the legal vagaries, I will send you over to the Treasury Department attorneys who have been working this.


Q Why doesn’t it —

MR. SNOW: It is legal, Helen.

Q What is the law that allows you to go into the private —

MR. SNOW: I’ll tell you what, we will attach — we’ll get our lawyers to attach all this and it will just —

Q No, no, just give me the law —

MR. SNOW: I am going to give you the law.

Go ahead.

Q You don’t even know —

MR. SNOW: You’re absolutely right, I do not know the specific statute, which is why I will present it to you.

Q But, again, why go to the extraordinary effort of trying to get news media to inform people what their government is doing?

MR. SNOW: Well, I’ll tell you what, does CNN disclose what it does with the financial information or personal information of the people who log onto its website? Does The New York Times? Does The L.A. Times? Your organizations all collect personal data on people who use your services. But there’s a second point —

Q Do you not understand the difference between private companies and governments, sir?

MR. SNOW: I understand. I do understand. But what I’m saying here is, what the public — I’ll tell you what, you ask the American public, do you want — do you think you have a right to know the specific means and methods by which —

Q That’s not —

MR. SNOW: Helen, will you stop heckling and let me conduct a press conference.

Q — argument.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, I’m making an argument, and you’re pestering the teacher.


Q Back to the banking transactions, how can you assure the American public that this isn’t what seems to be a broad net covering all Americans — you said no, subpoenas are needed, but warrants apparently weren’t used, either. Very similar, and apparently this is parallel to the NSA case, which gives the perception, if nothing else, that it’s an arrogance of presidential power and —

MR. SNOW: I think what you’ve done is just reveal the lens through which you’re looking at it, which is suspicious, skeptical, and doesn’t seem to understand that the word “terrorist” has real meaning, and furthermore, that somebody does have to have stated legal reasons and evidence to support it to enter the database.

I would suggest going back and actually reading more carefully the stories, because they do not convey the dark impression you try to convey in the question.

Q But you’re not conveying the legality of it. That’s the question here.

MR. SNOW: I’m not a lawyer, so I would suggest, if you want to get into the legal issues, talk to the Treasury Department lawyers and also to the legal —

Q We’re asking you.

MR. SNOW: I know, but I’m not a lawyer, Helen, and, frankly —

Q You don’t have to be a lawyer, you should have just gotten the information from inside, as to what they base it on.

MR. SNOW: Thank you, ma’am. Thank you.

Later, Pony reads his goddamn briefing notes…

Also, it is firmly rooted — and I apologize for this, I had not flipped my page, because I did have the brief on it — other statutory mandates and executive orders. These would include the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. I will repeat, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, and also the United Nations Participation Act. So those are some of the key bases legally for this program.

Q Tony, the critics are pointing to the emergency section of that second —

MR. SNOW: Well, look, you’ve got a war on terror. It is an emergency. They can — if they want to argue that terrorists are still —

Q He can do that temporarily, but then he needs to seek congressional authority to continue. It’s been going on for five year.

MR. SNOW: Let’s see how this proceeds.

Back to the ignorance defense.

Q It’s our understanding that the House intel committees weren’t really briefed until May, and that’s about the time that this thing started leaking out. So you really didn’t brief these guys until you had to.

MR. SNOW: As I said, you may want to ask them about whether they supported the publication of this.

Q The question is when did you brief them?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know.

And now, your Daily Les.

Q Tony, two questions. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York reports that after five different letters from dozens of congressmen to the President, the Department of Health and Human Services has written her on behalf of the President, conveying the administration’s support for “the availability of safe and effective products and services to assist responsible adults in making decisions about preventing or delaying conception.” And my question: Why did this answer take so long, and why did you and Scott McClellan evade it five different times?

MR. SNOW: Because there wasn’t an opportunity for a sixth until now. (Laughter.)