Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congress Backs Down

WaPo is reporting that under pressure from the White House Congress is reconsidering an investigation into Bush’s domestic spying program.
Before the New York Times disclosed the NSA program in mid-December, administration briefings regarding it were highly secret and limited to eight lawmakers: the top Republican and Democratic leader of the House and Senate, respectively, and the top Republican and Democrat on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The White House characterized last week's closed-door briefings to the full committees as a significant concession and a sign of the administration's respect for Congress and its oversight responsibilities. Many Democrats dismissed the briefings as virtually useless, but senators said yesterday they appear to have played a big role in slowing momentum for an inquiry.
Color me skeptical, but I’m not convinced. Closed door-briefings with the “gang of eight” didn’t do much to regulate the Administration’s spying. Briefing the full committees doesn’t pull the shroud from domestic spying, it just lets a few more congressman peak underneath.

The article continues:
Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would "specifically authorize this program" by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations.

The administration would be required to brief regularly a small, bipartisan panel drawn from the House and Senate intelligence committees, DeWine said, and the surveillance program would require congressional reauthorization after five years to remain in place.
DeWine seems to miss the point. Congressional oversight is all well and good, but future authorization doesn’t change the fact that the White House has already conducted a domestic spying program without Congressional consent. We need an investigation to expose what the White House has done, not what it’s going to do.