Thursday, February 09, 2006

Specter wants FISA to judge constitutionality of NSA program.

I note in a radio report and then again in this link that Senator Arlen Specter is drafting legislation to address the constitutionality of the NSA wiretapping program.

::::::::The shift came as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced he was drafting legislation that would require the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of the administration's monitoring of terror-related international communications when one party to the call is in the United States.

It also came as Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., chairwoman of a House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA, broke with the Bush administration and called for a full review of the NSA's program, along with legislative action to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
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The shift they're talking about is the White House's provision of more details on the program and to the full Intelligence committees of both the House and the Senate. Previously, the White House briefed the leaders of those committees and not the full group.

I must question why the White House is to blame for the full Intel committees' not getting all the facts that were imparted to the leaders of both parties and both houses of Congress. Is it unreasonable to provide information to the chairmen and vice-chairmen of a committee and think that, perhaps, those leaders will brief the full committee, if they deem it necessary, at a time and place of their choosing? Perhaps, for example, when said committee meets in session? Aside from the perceived slight on the part of those committee members who didn't get to sit in on the briefing, where's the issue here? Were I a member of that committee, and I found out that my chairmen were briefed on a topic that I felt should have been granted to the full committee, I'd be directing my first ire at the chairmen of the committee who failed to pass it along. The question arises whether the chairmen of the committee were explicitly told by the White House to not inform the rest of the committee. Were I one of those chairmen, I'd politely tell the briefers who made such a request to stuff it, unless they had specific evidence that one or more members of the committee couldn't be trusted.

Speaking of trust, these members of these committees are reportedly upset that the White House obviously feels they can't keep secrets. Are you kidding me? Can you say "Jay Rockefeller?" And that's just the most recent and egregious example. Congress leaks confidential matters like my kitchen collander leaks water, which is to say: very effectively. Still, these committee members hold security clearances and are, I believe, entitled to the information. My complaint is that their complaint seems to lie completely on the White House. They should look a little closer to home.

I actually feel that checking into the constitutionality of the NSA program is a fine idea, but I think Specter is aiming too low when it comes to the court he wants to make that decision. Let's skip all the preliminaries, shall we? Take the issue to the Supreme Court, whose job it is (or should be) to determine whether a given application of law is permissible with regards to the Constitution. Send it over there and argue the case once and for all, rather than several times through long appeals.

And, finally, I agree with Hugh Hewitt on the matter of putting the program to a vote in Congress. Let the members of Congress step up and state whether they are for the program or against so that we, the people, know both where they stand and where we should put our votes next time.