Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate Summary - September 8, 2006

Presently the order of business ...

H.R.4954 - Security and Accountability For Every Port Act

That being a fairly boring subject, to me at least, I choose to review and comment about different subjects.

UPDATE @ 14:05

Links ...

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence
Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and
Links to Terrorism and how they Compare with Prewar Assessments

--- and ---

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence
The Use by the Intelligence Community of
Information Provided by the
Iraqi National Congress (INC)

The first report is a 6.3 Mb scanned in PDF - but only 151 pages and those of fairly big print. The second report is 9.7 Mb, also a scanned-in PDF, this one running about 210 pages. If I can obtain non-scanned renditions, it will be easy to cut and paste the text of various sections.

Interesting that the vote on adopting the findings and conclusion of the WMD report was 14-1, with Senator Lott casting the sole "Nay" vote. The INC report was adopted by very close votes, and as far as showing open "flaming" between the Senators, is a far more entertaining read.

The "Additional Views" sections -- at the end -- are the best place to start reading. They set out the differences of opinion among the members of the Committee, and help frame the discussions in the beginning parts of the reports.

For example, the INC report has a completely redacted page 173, where the redaction is related to reports of a meeting in Prague between Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi "handler" or whatever. Page 174 has the following paragraph of explanation (under Additional views of Rockefeller, Levin, Feinstein, Wyden, Bayh, Mikulski and Feingold which start on p158), italics in original:

We have concluded that the intelligence community's decision to classify the CIA document about the alleged Atta-al-Ani meeting in Prague discussed in the three paragraphs above and the underlying Committee report to be without justification. The intelligence community is unable to demonstrate to the Committee that disclosing the information would reveal sources and methods or otherwise harm national security. We believe the decision to keep from the public this revealing information about the use of intelligence information prior to the war represents an improper use of classification authority by the intelligence community to shield the White House.

That's accusatory and inflammatory, all right.

The second report (the INC report) also has some scathing criticism by Senators Bond, Lott and Chambliss, criticism directed to the nature of the investigation and report by the Intelligence Committee. The activity is labeled as an exercise in finger pointing, without the objective of improving the performance of the country's intelligence-gathering apparatus. I'm sure the various Senators will be flapping their gums using these reports as a backdrop, and equally sure that the vast majority of the listening public won't bother to obtain, let alone read or scan, the reports.

If you want only a summary, aim for the Senators' websites. For example:

Old parts of the day's post below the maroon line ....

Judge Won't Dismiss Eavesdropping Suit
By TIM FOUGHT - Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A federal judge [U.S. District Judge Garr King] Thursday rejected a Bush administration plea to throw out a lawsuit over the government's warrantless surveillance program, saying he is not convinced going ahead with the case would harm national security. ...

Last month a Detroit judge ordered an immediate end to the program ... A Chicago judge agreed with the government that state secrets would be exposed if a case went forward, but a San Francisco judge said the surveillance is already so well known there was no danger of spilling secrets.

The Portland case turns on what King called the "Sealed Document," information that government lawyers accidentally gave Al-Haramain lawyers in 2004 before demanding it back. King said the document is now in a secure room at the FBI's Portland office.

The "Sealed Document" contains evidence that the US monitored domestic calls without a warrant. I've maintained for some time that the administration's "international/domestic" delimiter is convenient as it provides a more-easily defended warrantless incursion (If you're talking to terrorists overseas, we want to know that); but is asinine as a practical matter of preventing domestic terrorist attacks. It makes no sense to listen to ONLY the international calls of people who have been talking to terrorists overseas. One would also want to listen to the domestic calls that followed the international contact.

Under FISA, once a person is deemed to be an agent of a certain SPECIES of foreign power, they can be under surveillance without resort to a judicial warrant. The difficulty is that FISA expressly puts terrorists in the group of foreign powers for which a warrant IS required. Thank Congress for that one. (Relevant clauses of FISA deconstructed here)

The current language of FISA, especially 50 USC 1802(a)(1)(A)(i), is complex enough that simply including terrorists organizations (category 1801(a)(4)) is inadequate as a means of providing statutory authority for the NSA terrorist surveillance program. The limiting factor of "means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers" in combination with a requirement that "there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party" have to be addressed as well.

Also for the purposes of surveillance, 50 USC 1801(c) limits international terrorism to activities that "occur totally outside the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum." I'm not sure what it takes to "transcend national boundaries," but the planes that struck the WTC and the Pentagon didn't transcend a national boundary, the persons intended to be intimidated were Americans, and the locale of the perps seems irrelevant to my way of thinking. They sure weren't seeking asylum.

The Jurist - Specter domestic surveillance bill hits wall in committee

... Sponsored by committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), the legislation [S.2453] would have increased the secret warrant time limit from three to seven days, required progress reports from the US attorney general twice a year, and would have submitted the surveillance program for a one-time constitutional review. After Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) criticized the bill at length and introduced four amendments, Specter voiced his displeasure at what he felt was a strategic move to filibuster the legislation.

US House and Senate lawmakers are considering other bills [JURIST report] relating to the controversial program, including one proposed by US Rep. Heather Wilson [H.R.5825].

And yesterday, in the Senate, the following bills were read the first time:

  • S. 3874. A bill to provide in statute for the conduct of electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists for the purposes of protecting the American people, the Nation, and its interests from terrorist attack while ensuring that the civil liberties of United States citizens are safeguarded, and for other purposes.
  • S. 3875. A bill to provide real national security, restore United States leadership, and implement tough and smart policies to win the war on terror, and for other purposes.
  • S. 3876. A bill entitled the National Security Surveillance Act.
  • S. 3877. A bill entitled the ``Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006''.

A front page article in today's Washington Post, Bush Calls For Greater Wiretap Authority, includes links and summaries of several related court decisions, as well as discussion of President Bush's speech from yesterday.

Howard Bashman at HowAppealing has a good list of articles relating to Interrogation Methods and Detainee Trials. The side-taking by Senate players on this issue resembles the break-out on immigration reform -- McCain, Graham, etc. siding with the Democrats, and Sessions, Kyl and others taking the other side. But the administration siding on the detainee trials and interrogation methods is unlike immigration, where McCain and Graham (and the Democrats) were in alignment with the administration.

If you seek substantive opinion and analysis, I again point to Balkin, this time at Draft of Warner-Graham Bill on Military Commissions. The administration's version is introduced here.

UPDATE @ Sept 11

More article links ...

CIA still hiding 'ghost' captives
Sunday Times - Times Online

Weaving a tangled judicial web
By David Scheffer - Chicago Tribune Op-Ed

Out From the Shadows
The president announced he's emptying the CIA's secret prisons

Jurist: Europe rights body urges US to end secret prisons for terror detainees

Senate panel scrubs vote on Bolton as U.N. envoy
Thu Sep 7, 2006 - By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate committee scrubbed its planned vote on Thursday on keeping John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, as a key Republican remained undecided on the nomination by President George W. Bush.

Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the only Republican who has not publicly committed to supporting Bolton, sought more time, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. ...

Regarding the Bolton nomination, also see The Jurist - Bolton confirmation vote delayed

I won't reinvent the wheel, Dafydd at has a fun speculative read and opinion at his post, Prediction: Lincoln Chafee Will Vote Against Bolton in Committee.

I disagree as to the outcome. I believe Bolton will come out of Committee and be confirmed, and we'll be treated to some wailing by Senator Dodd (and others) during the process.

Inside Politics By Greg Pierce - September 8, 2006

The owner of DataUSA Inc., a company that conducted political polls for the campaigns of President Bush, Sen. Joe Lieberman and other candidates, pleaded guilty to fraud for making up survey and poll results. ...

According to a federal indictment in Bridgeport, Conn., Costin told employees to alter poll data and managers at the company told employees to "talk to cats and dogs" when instructing them to fabricate the surveys.

Now that is LOL funny.


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