Did Chimpy Just Blink?

Sounds like the Bush Assministration decided to follow the law on wiretaps.

The Justice Department, easing a Bush administration policy, said Wednesday it has decided to give an independent body authority to monitor the government’s controversial domestic spying program.

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this authority has been given to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and that it already has approved one request for monitoring the communications of a person believed to be linked to al-Qaida or an associated terror group.

The court orders approving collection of international communications — whether it originates in the United States or abroad — was issued Jan. 10, according to the two-page letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

“As a result of these orders, any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Gonzales wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

“Accordingly, under these circumstances, the President has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires,” the attorney general wrote.

This in no way legitimizes what they have been doing for the past five years or so (ie: violating both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Consitution).


6 thoughts on “Did Chimpy Just Blink?

  1. Like I said over at the Crack Den – no way do I believe for a minute that this means they are actually going to obey the law. I just don’t think this bunch has it in them.

  2. What is this? Is the Justice Department conceding? Is the administration afraid of the big bad Democrats?

  3. Thanks for that link, Jason. But by my reading, the letter does not indicate a standing order to wiretap. Instead, it would seem that a FISC judge okayed the administration’s rules by which the FISC would be involved in the process.
    I think this move is more Unitary Executive power play bullshit (which seems to be the dominant theme at the moment). Last year, a Republican senator (Arlen Specter, maybe?) was more than willing to promote just such an arrangement, with whatever rules the administration wanted. But that would have implicitly placed power in the Congress to determine the rules, and the Unitary Executive ain’t having none of that.
    So, to head off any Congressional meddling by the newly-empowered Dems, the administration quickly moved to keep the rules process just between them and their secret court. (Yes, the intelligence committees will be told about the new rules, but there may not be an opportunity for them to change the rules.)
    The move also has the secondary effect of offering a talisman against oversight investigations, since we all know it’s pure, pointless partisanship to investigate a problem that no longer exists, right?

  4. I think Ficus hit it on the head with the last paragraph. That’s the way the Bush administration (and its enablers — see Joe Lieberman for an example) thinks: “Hey, we stopped doing it, so you can’t investigate us, let alone punish us, for all the times we were doing it in the past.”

  5. Well, being a good liberal, I was going to come back and take a closer look at Ficus’ arguments, which certainly have merit. If I misread/misinterpreted Abu Al’s letter, I’m willing to admit it.
    Having just read this on TPM however, I’m going to stand by my previous reading.
    “The administration said it had briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees in closed sessions on its decision.
    But Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, who serves on the Intelligence committee, disputed that, and some Congressional aides said staff members were briefed Friday without lawmakers present.
    Ms. Wilson, who has scrutinized the program for the last year, said she believed the new approach relied on a blanket, “programmatic” approval of the president’s surveillance program, rather than approval of individual warrants.
    Administration officials “have convinced a single judge in a secret session, in a nonadversarial session, to issue a court order to cover the president’s terrorism surveillance program,” Ms. Wilson said in a telephone interview. She said Congress needed to investigate further to determine how the program is run.”

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