Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt
(Never was any doubt in my mind that they would not go through with this. They already have the goods on these Republicans. - Susan)
The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.
They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. "It's been a full-court press," said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work.
An Arrogance of Power
The most recent example of politicized intelligence was President Bush's statement on Feb. 9 that the United States had "derailed" a 2002 plot to fly a plane into the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. Bush spoke about four al Qaeda plotters who had planned to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door. But a foreign official with detailed knowledge of the intelligence scoffed at Bush's account, saying that the information obtained from Khalid Sheik Mohammed and an Indonesian operative known as Hambali was not an operational plan so much as an aspiration to destroy the tallest building on the West Coast. When I asked a former high-level U.S. intelligence official about Bush's comment, he agreed that Bush had overstated the intelligence.
Bush and Cheney are in the bunker. That's the only way I can make sense of their actions. They are steaming in a broth of daily intelligence reports that highlight the grim terrorist threats facing America. They have sworn blood oaths that they will defend the United States from its adversaries -- no matter what. They have blown past the usual rules and restraints into territory where few presidents have ventured -- a region where the president conducts warrantless wiretaps against Americans in violation of a federal statute, where he authorizes harsh interrogation methods that amount to torture.
When critics question the legality of the administration's actions, Bush and Cheney assert the commander in chief's power under Article II of the Constitution. When Congress passes a law forbidding torture, the White House appends a signing statement insisting that Article II -- the power of the commander in chief -- trumps everything else. When the administration's Republican friends suggest amending the wiretapping law to make its program legal, the administration refuses.
Let's say it plainly: This is the arrogance of power, and it has gone too far in the Bush White House.
(Could not have said it better. I suspected from the start that the claims about the terrorist bombing of LA was fabricated or overblown. - Susan)