Specter Challenging Pat Roberts On Whitewashing NSA Spying Illegalities
"They want to do just as they please, for as long as they can get away with it. I think what is going on now without congressional intervention or judicial intervention is just plain wrong."
--Arlen Specter, yesterday, to the AP
Despite attempts to insist the opposite, it appears that a schism is developing between Arlen Specter and Pat Roberts over the issue of congressional oversight of the administration’s circumvention of existing law in the NSA spying mess. As we all know, Roberts and his whipped GOP brethren Mike DeWine, Olympia Snowe, and Chuck Hagel all got pushed by the White House into eating any objections they had over the domestic spying program by offering a proposal through DeWine that would not only make the illegal programs retroactively legal, but would also now grant the administration up to 45 days to keep spying without a warrant before telling Congress or the courts anything. But Specter, whose Judiciary Committee held hearings and dragged Abu Gonzales to testify, has watched the whitewash from Roberts’ committee from a distance and has decided that he will be undeterred in trying himself to rein in the White House and reestablish congressional oversight, with or without Roberts’ acquiescence.
Specter is pressing ahead with his plans to push legislation that would transfer oversight of the domestic spying programs to the existing FISA court, rather than the “do whatever the hell you want” approach favored by DeWine, Hagel, Snowe, and Roberts. In fact, Specter is making it known that he thinks the Intelligence Committees in both houses have allowed the Administration to eviscerate them, and Roberts apparently is now miffed that Specter is still playing in this sandbox and calling Whitewasher Pat out on his failings. Roberts is insisting that any proposal by Specter through his committee be reviewed and presumably gutted at White House direction by Roberts, but Specter knows that he will prevail here because Specter will get bipartisan support, whereas Roberts will not.
If Jay Rockefeller was smart, and unfortunately he hasn’t shown it or any ability to derail Roberts to this point, he would find a way to manipulate this growing wedge between Roberts and Specter. For example, Roberts claims that all the members on his committee now are receiving the intelligence briefings from the White House that they need on the NSA spying program. Specter, on the other hand, claims rightly that the White House will do whatever it wants right under Roberts’ nose and that both intelligence committees will be stiffed and ignored again and again. If Rockefeller and Jane Harman in the House were clever enough, they would pivot towards Specter’s position on this issue, and publicly challenge any assertion by Roberts that the two committees are receiving adequate briefings. This allows the Democrats to fight the administration’s spying efforts on the safer ground of congressional oversight, rather than be perceived by the Mighty Wurlitzer as being against surveillance of Al Qaeda contacts inside this country.
And, if the Democrats were smart, which they haven't shown it yet, they would see that by siding with Specter here on his demands for FISA court oversight of the domestic spying programs, they can establish a trigger for Russ Feingold's censure resolution. If the White House refuses Specter's reasonable demand for secret court oversight of their domestic spying programs, then Democrats can pivot much more easily to the position that Bush's refusal must stem from his need to hide something and avoid any real accountability and oversight at all, and therefore censure is appropriate because Bush is breaking the law.
But, as I said, are the Democrats this smart?
Hat tip to Raw Story and Crooks and Liars