Thursday :: May 11, 2006

Did The NSA Data Mining Revelation Blow Up Hayden's Nomination?

by Steve

Image courtesy of MSNBC

Well, it looks like the USA Today breakthrough story on the NSA’s data mining operation on purely domestic phone calls has landed like a missile inside the White House bunker this morning. First, the White House was forced to cancel General Michael Hayden’s scheduled visits on Capitol Hill today, because, well, Hayden was the man who implemented the data mining operation back in 2001. Second, Arlen Specter went off the reservation today, and immediately said he would convene hearings aimed not at the Administration initially, but at the phone companies themselves to squeeze them. Very smart. And Specter isn't the only Republican who is upset this morning over this.

Third, Patrick Leahy made the valid point, while holding up a copy of the USAT this morning, that the media is doing the job of congressional oversight because the GOP congress has abdicated its responsibility. This will have legs, because as I said last night, it is one thing to eavesdrop on phone calls with one overseas party that may be someone with suspected ties to “terrorists.” It is quite another to gather information on all domestic calls since September 2001 without probable cause, court approval, or congressional oversight or knowledge. And then to compound this problem for the White House, an ongoing investigation of the NSA spying program by the Department of Justice which was promised to Specter and others as a fig leaf by Abu Gonzales was shut down because Justice couldn’t get security clearances for its investigators from presumably John Negroponte. The last time I checked, these guys all report to the same man. Obviously, he doesn’t want Congress to find out anything of substance about the NSA spying program, and that should be a wake-up call for Specter, Leahy, and the entire Democratic caucus. Now, if only Dianne Feinstein would care about this …..

Here are some questions for discussion today:

This revelation obviously came from sources that the USAT felt were high enough and credible enough to withstand the expected “such leaks are treasonous” pushback from the White House, or else the USAT would not have gone with the story. But who would benefit from leaking this story, and at this time as Hayden was making the rounds on Capitol Hill, knowing that this data mining operation has his direct fingerprints all over it? And how does the White House continue with the Hayden nomination when he has been kneecapped like this on a program he ran for which he cannot provide answers? I mean, a whole bunch of "Senator, I cannot answer your question on that program because it is classified" at his confirmation hearing for the CIA isn't going to cut it, except to Pat Roberts and Dianne Feinstein.

Update: Bush issued a nondenial denial just now:

"Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaida and their known affiliates," Bush said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

First off, Mr. President, anything done by the NSA is an "intelligence activity". Second, if you are "not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans", then why not flatly dispute and deny the USAT story? Perhaps the reason why he didn't is that 1) he can't, because the story is true; and 2) he can't, because the White House has that sinking feeling that comes from not knowing who is leaking this information.

Steve :: 8:15 AM :: Comments (49) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!