Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Informed vs. consenting

Senator Hatch told reporters today that two FISA judges were informed about the NSA spy program.

The difference between being informed, and consenting to the program is a chasm that must be understood. Senator Hatch is careful in his wording and later clarifies that to his understanding the judges never gave their approval to the program with this wording:
When asked if the judges somehow approved the operations, Hatch said, "That is not their position, but they were informed."
This then appears to be a repeat of the Congressional, so called, oversight of this program which the administration makes a point of harping on. Lets make this clear for any koolaid drinkers who might read this blog. If a person is advised of a program, but is not able under penalty of law and under threat of exposure of national secrets in contravention to their clearance, to make any sort of disclosure or correction to the program, then the person being briefed has in no way consented to the program.

The distinction between informed and consenting is truly the crux of the entire crisis facing the White House on this issue. Is there even one pundit who would argue that if the appropriate committees had given their consent, and/or the FISA judges had consented, that the President would be in the hot water he finds himself in now? There actually are not many pundits who would argue that the administration would not have been given this authorization if they had pushed for it immediately after September 11. The fact is that the Republican Congress is trying their best to give the administration this authority right now in an attempt to cover past transgression. What the administration chose to do at the time this could have been handled correctly however, was an attempt at providing themselves a veritable figleaf by being able to claim that the other branches were informed.

It is clear that the administration took the people who they felt ought to know, in order to provide the figleaf, and put them in a position where they were told the generalities of the programs but given no recourse to dissent. There are two examples of letters to the administration expressing concern about the program from Democrats after they were briefed. But if the administration takes someone to the secure room and tells them this is the way it is, you can't do anything about it, you can't even speak about this with your staff, and the secret letter you might write will not make an iota of difference, I fail to see how that fulfills an oversight role by either Congress, or the FISA judges. Clearly then, the only oversight conducted here is by the administration itself, with limited briefing of the other branches of government who are rendered powerless to conduct any oversight role in the program.

One of the principle architects of this anti-democratic abomination of a program is currently being considered by the Senate for confirmation as the new head of the CIA. Let there now be REAL oversight, and if General Hayden is not fully forthcoming in his responses, do not even allow him through committee to a vote on the floor of the Senate. If the Republican toadies in Congress do not get some back bone on this in a hurry, they have only themselves to blame for the coming certain ruin that befalls them with the November elections.

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