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December 18, 2005

Talking Point: Dems Knew and Approved

Shakes here...

I was emailed by a reader who wrote: “About an hour ago on Fox News, some ‘media analyst’ claimed ‘the Senators who are up in arms’ about this program were actually briefed about the program before it started. Have you heard anything similar to this and do you know if anyone, especially US Senators, were actually briefed on this program either before it started or while it was ongoing over the past three years?”

Well, yes—I’ve heard something similar. The WaPo article to which Ezra linked below includes, in part, reaction from former senator and Senate intelligence committee chair Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who asserts that he recalls no discussion about

expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of U.S. citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States" -- and no mention of the president's intent to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said…

Graham said the latest disclosures suggest that the president decided to go "beyond foreign communications to using this as a pretext for listening to U.S. citizens' communications. There was no discussion of anything like that in the meeting with Cheney."

In return, yet another in the endless stream of anonymous high-ranking intelligence officials, who “spoke with White House permission,” accused Graham of “misremembering the briefings” and

said they were intended "to make sure the Hill knows this program in its entirety, in order to never, ever be faced with the circumstance that someone says, 'I was briefed on this but I had no idea that -- ' and you can fill in the rest."

By Graham's account, the official said, "it appears that we held a briefing to say that nothing is different . . . . Why would we have a meeting in the vice president's office to talk about a change and then tell the members of Congress there is no change?"

Very clever. Except we all know that after Colonel Jessup ordered that Santiago wasn’t to be touched, Lieutenant Kendrick told Dawson and Downey in secret to give him the code red. Aaron Sorkin should totally sue.

Anyway, welcome to the new talking point. The Dems knew this was going on all along, so they can’t cry foul now. The White House is going to claim it briefed people fully, and those people are going to claim the abandonment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was never addressed. It appears to be a game of he said/he said at this point, and so I'm not about to make the call either way (irrespective of my suspicions).

I’m shocked—shocked!—that Fox would not have the same standards.

December 18, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 18, 2005 4:18:16 PM


Well, now we've heard from Lindsay Graham. So, let's hear from the others that were cited as being informed, unless it's just easier to take Lindsay at his word with no other evidence. You never did before.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 18, 2005 3:02:31 PM

That's Bob Graham, Fred. Really, you should stop to read the names first before you post.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Dec 18, 2005 3:07:47 PM

I meant BOB Graham!!!! Sorry...

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 18, 2005 3:08:20 PM

Positioning Statement: As an R, and as a citizen, IF the allegations prove true that the Admin targeted U.S. Citizens with illegal wiretaps, then I will not vote for any R who says it was no big deal.

However, the initial NYT story was little murky about who was targeted and what the legal authority was. I have read other reports since then, and perused the Act, and three things pop out: 1)there were initially 500 names and phone numbers that started this program from a laptop of a captured terrorist in Pakistan, so, we don't know yet whether the persons targeted were actually U.S. persons according to the definition of the Act, 2) the Act allows for warrantless searches for up to a year under I think section 1802, with certain safeguards, and some of the newspaper reports indicate that the AG was involved with certification of names/lists, etc. which is proper, and 3)the newspaper reports also indicate that the Admin got warrants when it became clear that purely domestic communications were involved.

So, until the facts are in, I gotta stay on the fence on this one.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 18, 2005 3:21:39 PM

Graham "misremembering" the meetings? Oh, that's rich. That's really rich. Anyone who knows anything about Bob Graham knows that he keeps DETAILED NOTEBOOKS about everything he's ever done - including what he had for breakfast. The media made a big fuss about it when he was running for president. That's bold for the Repubs to accuse him of "misremembering" anything. I hope Graham comes back waving one of his notebooks in their face.

Posted by: Pepper | Dec 18, 2005 3:46:54 PM

Fred - do you actually bother reading posts before you start in with the partisan attacks?

It appears to be a game of he said/he said at this point, and so I'm not about to make the call either way (irrespective of my suspicions).

If any Dems knew about this, I'll be just as pissed at them as I am at Bush. The point of the post was to address what the GOP talking point was, not determine who's telling the truth, because, as I said, I don't know.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Dec 18, 2005 3:59:37 PM

Re: Dems knowing in advance, I call bullshit. Except for Lieberman.

When has the Bush Administration cared about informing the Democrats about anything? When has the GOP Congressional leadership (in the last 5 years or so) cared one bit about keeping their Democratic counterparts in the loop? I'm talking about even petty stuff. We've had years of Democrats complaining about not being informed of the smallest of details, and the GOP leadership saying "so what?"

But now, all of the sudden, with this super-double secret program that is so very illegal that it was actually halted for a while in order to find the right lawyer-language to justify it (unlike all of the other super-secret illegal stuff like torture and illegal imprisonment), this is the one thing they want to make sure they tell all the Democrats. All those Democrats who are tirelessly looking for something bad to pin to Bush, something that they could use to splinter the current GOP coalition of religious conservatives, big business and conservatarians, yeah, let's tell them about the secret, illegal domestic spying program.

You know, I don't have to believe that Bush is the illegitimate child of Satan and a coked-up Barbara Bush to know that he isn't going to tell the Democrats a damn thing about this.

This doesn't require a bunch of brainpower people. It's just common sense.

Posted by: Stephen | Dec 18, 2005 4:52:27 PM

the Act allows for warrantless searches for up to a year under I think section 1802, with certain safeguards, and some of the newspaper reports indicate that the AG was involved with certification of names/lists, etc. which is proper

1802 allows for warrantless eavesdropping for the groups referenced in 1801 (a) 1-3, all of which are foreign governments or groups controlled by foreign governments. 1801 (a) 4, which refers to nongovernmental bodies--which would include Al Qaeda--is not referenced by 1802. So, your "certain standards" in no way would allow for spying on U.S. citizens, unless they were members of a group controlled by a foreign government (i.e., not a terrorist group).

To cite further from the legal analysis here,

Thus, contrary to the only point made in Al Maviva’s "legal analysis" to defend the Bush Administration, there is no basis whatsoever for asserting that FISA authorizes the Administration to eavesdrop on individuals suspected of working with terrorist organizations. Such eavesdropping unquestionably requires a warrant or compliance with the 72-hour emergency procedures of section 1805.

The administration, following Yoo's advice, violated FISA (which, by the way, does allow for 72 hours surveillance w/out a warrant if there's an emergency).

As for this claim, the newspaper reports also indicate that the Admin got warrants when it became clear that purely domestic communications were involved, and maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it seems that you're basing this on something "administration officials" say ("Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States."). I don't see any reason why I should trust these officials. So far as I can tell, Bush's own opinion provides no guarantee that domestic spying will be limited by questions of legality: "Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation." "warrantless eavesdropping" on U. S. Citizens clearly breaks the law!

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Dec 18, 2005 4:59:06 PM

"newspaper reports also indicate that the Admin got warrants when it became clear that purely domestic communications were involved."

Would someone help me with technicalities? When a phone was tapped, did it automatically come on when a overseas number was dialed, and the tap automatically shut off when a domestic number was dialed. So absolutely guarenteeing that no domestic conversation was ever overheard or recorded? Will we get incontrovertible proof that such a process was always scrupulously followed? Just wondering.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 18, 2005 4:59:33 PM

For all those Bush apologists out there I have three words: President Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Dec 18, 2005 5:58:02 PM

For all those Bush apologists out there I have three words: President Hillary Clinton.

They're not worried about a Democratic president with these powers, because such a creature will never be allowed to exist.

When one party makes permanent, structutal changes in the government that would redound to its disadvantage whenever it went back into oppositionyou can rest assured that it has no intention of ever returning to opposition.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Dec 18, 2005 6:06:15 PM

Let's hypothesize that some Democrats in Congress WERE informed that FISA's requirments were being waived by Bush.

Does that in any sense make Bush's acts less unlawful. The law is the law, right?

If the hypothesis is true, then the conspiracy charge should be enlarged to include those Dems as well as the Attorney General, the White House Counsel, and any other executive branch officials who participated in the lawbreaking. Bush?Cheny may be exempt from criminal prosecution (being only subject to impeachment), but the others should go to jail.

What is the penalty for breaking the FISA act? What is the penalty for conspiracy to violate the FISA act?

It is independent special counsel time.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Dec 18, 2005 6:10:17 PM

FWIW...I don't know how accurate this is, but I spoke to someone yesterday who seemed to know what he was talking about. He said that the only Senators who would have been briefed on the new policy were the top two senators on the intelligence committee. That would be Roberts and Rockefeller.

Posted by: MrBigShot | Dec 18, 2005 8:03:03 PM

You know what they say about good intentions...

Whether they intend to relinquish power or not, it can be taken from them. Tough Noogies.

Posted by: Andrew | Dec 18, 2005 9:18:25 PM

They're not worried about a Democratic president with these powers...

No, they are not. It is one of the strong suits of the Democratic party. What they are worried about is the weakness of the Democratic party when the issue of national security is raised. The well deserved perception is that they would protect the enemy to the detriment of the US. That they would not prosecute any action against any foreign or domestic enemies.

That is one of the weak suites of the party.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 19, 2005 8:33:25 AM

That is one of the weak suites of the party.

You mean the one that ignored the Aug 6 2001 PDB and gave a speech of missile defense on 9.11.2001?

You mean the party that let Osama bin Laden get away?

You mean the party that refused to kill Zarqawi when it had the chance?

You mean the party that put Stewart Simonson, a political hack, in charge of protecting us from Avian Flue?

You mean the party that let an American city be destroyed by a natural disaster that everyone knew was coming? (I mean, really, what confidence does that give you that this party could protect us from an attack they didn't see coming?)

You got to be kidding me, right?

The point Fred, Mr. Situational Ethics, Mr. Relativist, is that Bush broke the law. Please don't distract us with pointless hypotheticals. If a unicorn had a diamond ass, it could fart pastry: who cares?

He violated the constitution. End of story.

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Dec 19, 2005 11:07:52 AM

He violated the constitution.

As I have stated, Mr. Bush needs to explain himself and his sources of law.

End of story

Actually no. Regardless of your enlarged ego and sense of self-worth, a judge will decide this. We haven't heard the story yet. I gave Clinton the benefitr of the doubt until the evidence surfaced against him.
I will do no less with Mr. Bush. I do, however wish to see the evidence.

As far as the public perception of the Democratic party...you will have to take it up with them. The perceptions are what they are....

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 19, 2005 12:29:50 PM

I like others, would like to hear the legal argument for the actions that Bush has taken.

When taken into historical account, they don't, however, seem too surprising. Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus (no, it wasn't by congress as Bob-the-Dope believes) and check those actions taken by FDR.....


Every choice made in the New Deal, whether it was one that moved recovery or not, was a choice unerringly true to the essential design of totalitarian government -

To extend the power of executive government, to rule by decrees and rules and regulations of its own making; between 1933 and 1943 FDR issued 3,556 Executive orders
To strengthen its hold on the economic life of the nation;
To extend power over the individual - the domestication of individuality;
To degrade the parliamentary principle;
To impair the independent Constitutional judicial power;
To weaken all other powers - private enterprise and finance, state and local government.
It is almost amusing that FDR built a cult of personality just as Hitler and Stalin did - it is necessary in a tyranny because in rule by men, loyalty is not to law or country but to a person. Power then depends on such a cult.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 19, 2005 4:02:46 PM

"ohh, that's scary, boys and girls!"

Count Floyd.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Dec 19, 2005 5:44:22 PM

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