Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Return from Recess - Summer of '07

The Senate has "appropriations" on its plate, a sideline to the prime directive of self-congratulation.

I listened with about a quarter of an ear yesterday, enough to pick up Nussle being confirmed as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (after some predictable opposition from Democrats); accolades to Senator Kennedy (15,000th vote); and a Lamar Alexander "withdraw from Iraq" speech. In short, nothing striking or new.

The formal legislative business of the Senate is ...

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008
(PDF of text for page number references)

House Report 110-186
Senate Report 110-85
White House Statement of Administration Policy

Sept 4, 2007: S.Amdts. 2656-61
Sept 5, 2007: S.Amdts. 2662-88

Debate of Sept 4, 2007: Part I
Debate of Sept 5, 2007: Part I - Part II
Debate of Sept 6, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV
Debate of Sept 7, 2007: Feingold
Text of H.R.2642 as passed by the Senate

Off-floor Action - Committee Meetings and Hearings

The ghost of Gonzales will provide entertainment for months to come. Subjects are old -- the replacement of US Attorneys, and the conducting of what used to be called electronic surveillance. The battle is currently over subpoenas (i.e., the presence or absence of evidence), not over the substance of evidence.

See S.1845, A bill to provide for limitations in certain communications between the Department of Justice and the White House. It's on the agenda for the September 6th Judiciary Committee Executive Business Meeting.

Speaking of ghosts, there goes Senator Craig's intention to resign. Absolutely nothing a politician says or passes into law is what it first appears to be. Parse (construe) all of it with care. I add a dose of cynicism, but that's a personal preference.

For Senator Craig, this is just a twitch of a rapidly dying career. Reversal (resignation to no resignation) on top of reversal (guilty plea to "I am not guilty") on top of "do you know who I am?" on top of denial of coded solicitation. Get the hook, and move the man and his family out of public view.

Hat tip to Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO, this WaPo article by Aaron Belkin, A Sting He Didn't Deserve discusses the general problem with penalizing activity that stops short of "the evil act." Used to be, the sting operators "went all the way." Sign me up for the heterosexual enforcement brigade.

Looking for clues for future business other than appropriations (there is plenty of appropriations work), I happened to notice last year's legislative calendar ... nineteen days of business for September, followed by a recess for the entirety of October, then five days each in November and December. That was it.

Little new material has been added to the legislative calendar since August 4th.

Excerpt from Senate Legislative Calendar
Cal No. Bill No. Description History
335 S.1233
Messrs. Akaka and Craig
A bill to provide and enhance intervention, rehabilitative treatment, and services to veterans with traumatic brain injury, and for other purposes. Aug. 29, 2007.--Mr Akaka, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute ... (Rept. 147.)
336 S.1315
Mr. Akaka
A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance life insurance benefits for disabled veterans, and for other purposes. Aug. 29, 2007.--Mr. Akaka, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, and an amendment to the title. (Rept. 148.)
337 S.Res.22
Ms. Collins and others
Resolution reaffirming the constitutional and statutory protections accorded sealed domestic mail, and for other purposes. Sept. 4, 2007.--Mr. Lieberman, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, without amendment, and with a preamble. (No written report.)
338 H.R.3162 An act to amend ... the Social Security Act to extend and improve the children's health insurance program, to improve beneficiary protections under the Medicare, Medicaid, and the CHIP program ... Sept. 4, 2007.--Placed on the calendar. (See also Order No. 288.)

Woo hoo! Senator Collins's mail privacy resolution finally made it to the calendar! She raised this subject on January 10th. For a parallel, there are statutes that purport to protect telephone privacy, but Congress is about to give retroactive immunity to telecommunications carriers in case they violated them. I won't hold my breath for a credible explanation of how any privacy law has teeth against secret government snooping activity.

... if there is any doubt in the public's mind that the Government is not protecting the constitutional privacy accorded their mail, if there is suspicion that the Government is unlawfully opening mail, then our Nation's confidence in the sanctity of our mail system and, indeed, in our Government will be eroded.

Cry me a river. Confidence in government should be eroded. Not that it will be.

I don't buy that secret snooping causes erosion in confidence, either. Many Republicans think that the NYT should be penalized for disclosing secret snooping -- ergo, there is support for secret snooping. For many people, the activity of secret snooping enhances their confidence in government.

Not mine. Not that I mind privacy erosion. But I prefer it to be above-board, like the mail censorship of WWII was. When the government doesn't trust the public enough to tell it what's going on, the public shouldn't trust the government.

Somewhat an irony, the Senate passed S.849 - the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (ostensibly to modernize the Freedom of Information Act) on August 3.


On NYT - Rosen "Conscience of a Conservative" relating to Jack Goldsmith's upcoming book ...

UPDATE @ 10:09

Senator Reid says the following items will be completed this week:

  • Military Construction Appropriations - hopefully without a need for cloture (President Bush says he will not veto it in its present ?-bloated-? form) [Passed on Sept 6]
  • H.R.2764 - Foreign Operations Appropriations (White House Statement of Policy) [Passed on Sept 6]
  • S.1762 - Higher Education Access Act of 2007 (Education Reconciliation) (White House Statement of Policy) (See also S.1642, passed by the Senate, held at the desk in the House)
    See instead of S.1762 ... H.R.2669 - College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 (Education Reconciliation) [Passed on Sept 7]

Looking to next week (a three day week - Thursday and Friday off):

  • Monday: Votes in the morning (I presume on Education Reconciliation, but could be Transportation Appropriations)
  • Tuesday: H.R.3074 - Transportation Appropriations (White House Statement of Policy - veto threat due to spending level and volume of earmarks)
  • Wednesday: No votes after mid-day, in recognition of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah

Two more bills read a second time and placed on the legislative calendar:

The short titles for the "New Direction for Energy Independence" bill are a hoot.


More withdrawals ...

Charles W. Grim, of Oklahoma, to be Director of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services ... which was sent to the Senate on May 21, 2007.

Scott A. Keller, of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ... which was sent to the Senate on January 9, 2007.

David Palmer, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ... which was sent to the Senate on January 9, 2007.

UPDATE @ 15:39

Welcome back, Senator Johnson! Prayers for your continued recovery. P.S. I won't feel guilty making fun of your policy positions.


The House Judiciary Committee held a Hearing on Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act today. The prepared statements by the witnesses are worth reading.


Game of guts between Senator Coburn and the powers that be? Not on this bill. His "hold" is on a different bill, H.R.327 - Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. (Coburn objection, Harkin/Reid rebuttal)

Senator Reid says that either the Senate will vote on final passage of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill tonight, or he will file a cloture motion to move to the vote.

UPDATE @ 19:02

A fairly lengthy UC agreement was reached, whereby consideration was limited some 15 amendments, with roll call votes to be conducted on 4 of them tomorrow, followed by a vote on the bill tomorrow, followed by moving to H.R.2764 - Foreign Operations Appropriations.


Jeralyn Merritt has a good summary of the details pertaining to the resurrection of Senator Craig's Senate career at Larry Craig to McConnell: I'm Staying if My Plea is Withdrawn. It looks as though we get a couple more years of Larry Craig sex jokes. All he needs to do is have the guilty plea withdrawn. I have no idea if he'd resign if he was found guilty on the charge, or if he'd just "intend" to resign.

UPDATE @ 19:41

After Senator DeMint's No. 2686 was tabled on a 66-25 vote, Senator Reed of Rhode Island and a couple other senators disposed of ten amendments by passing them on voice votes (Feingold 2661 (a study on mental health care for female veterans), Obama 2658 (to require contractors to certify tax code compliance), McCaskill 2660 (to establish an internet-based facility for anonymous tipping to VA waste and fraud), Murray 2677 (promote training for treatment of PTSD), Landrieu 2679 (reports on progress in rebuilding hurricane damaged VA facilities), Stabenow/Levin 2680 (naming Lieutenant Colonel Clement C. Van Wagoner clinic), Hutchison 2681 (12 million dollars to implement August, 2007 Study of South Texas Veterans' health care), Tester/Brown/Johnson/Salazar/Byrd 2669 (125 million dollar increase in Veterans Beneficiary Travel Program), Stevens/Inouye 2682 (report on access to VA care for veterans in remote rural areas), Allard 2688 (to convert a parcel of recreational land in Aurora, Colorado to construction of a medical facility)), leaving 5 amendments pending.

  • Coleman No. 2687 (100 million additional dollars for security at Democratic and Republican national conventions) [Passed 76-15]
  • Sanders No. 2664 (No dollar rounding "down" for disability, dependent allowance, clothing allowance) [Passed on voice vote]
  • Salazar No. 2662 (No funds from this act may be used for any action that is related to or promotes the expansion of the boundaries or size of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado) [Passed 47-45]
  • Brown No. 2673 (No funds from this act may be used to study the cost effectiveness of a VA provided medical service (38 USC 8110(a)(5)) or any other function (Sec. 842 of P.L 109-115)) [passed 52-39]
  • McConnell No. 2666 (increase spending by $17,000,000 and make all of that available for the construction of a munitions demilitarization facility at Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky) [Withdrawn on September 6]

UPDATE @ 19:59

The Senate passed H.Con.Res.196, permitting use of the Capitol Rotunda for a ceremony presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dali Lama.

UPDATE @ September 6

At Larry Craig to McConnell: I'm Staying if My Plea is Withdrawn, Beldar has several comments on the procedure and likelihood of Senator Craig beating back his own guilty plea. He also asks (based on a news report) Has Larry Craig hired the part-time prosecutor who filed the complaint against him?.


Brief descriptions of amendments added above.

As for the delay in getting to the final vote on Military Construction Appropriations, Senator Coburn's "objection" was to a different bill.


There are four judicial nominees on the Senate's Executive Calendar. William Osteen (MD NC), Martin Reidinger (WD NC), Janis Sammartino (SD CA), and Leslie Southwick (5th Cir). The District Court nominees were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 24, Leslie Southwick was voted out on August 3rd.

Senators Specter and Hatch have applied public pressure to move the Southwick nomination to a vote. Here are a couple further articles on the subject:

Derailing Southwick may take filibuster
By Ana Radelat - The Clarion-Ledger - September 5, 2007

Majority Leader Harry Reid, who sets the agenda for the Senate, said he would schedule a vote on the nomination before the Senate's next break in mid-October.

"We have a lot of things to do, and this is definitely one of them," said Reid press secretary Jim Manley.

GOP's Specter lobbies for judge
By Ana Radelat - The Clarion-Ledger - July 27, 2007

"If there's a filibuster on Leslie Southwick, it will be open warfare," said Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

UPDATE @ 11:34

Coleman's S.Amdt.2687, for an additional 50 million federal dollars to each of the cities who will host (probably bid for the convention on speculation it would bring money in) national nominating conventions for the Democrat and Republican parties [what, no money for the Libertarians? Greens? Whigs?], was
PASSED on a 76 - 15 vote.

Vote on final passage started at 12:17. Passed 92-1 at 12:38 (DeMint). Text of H.R.2642 as passed by the Senate On to the next battle.


Meanwhile, over at a Federal Courthouse in the Southern District of New York, the AP reports that Judge Victor Marrero has (again) struck down part of the USA PATRIOT Act (a part that provides for the issuance of National Security Letters) as being an unconstitutional infringement of the fourth amendment. I'm off to grab copies of the opinions ...

Doe and ACLU v. Ashcroft et al., No. 04-CIV-2614. SDNY Decided Sept. 29, 2004.

Doe and ACLU v. Gonzales 05-0570-cv(L) and 05-4896-cv(CON) (2nd Cir. 2005) (text of Judge Cardamone's concurring opinion)

Here is the docket entry for the opinion and order issued today. The Opinion, Decision and Order runs 106 pages. I'm looking for a public link on the SDNY website.

      John Doe, et al v. John Ashcroft, et al

      Assigned to:         Judge Victor Marrero
      Related Case:        1:07-cv-06097-VM
                           (American Civil Liberties Union et al
                           v. Department of Defense et al)
      Case in other court: U.S.C.A. 2nd Cir., 05-02352
      Cause: 18:2709       Counterintelligence access to telephone 
                           toll and transactional records
      Date Filed:          04/06/2004
      Jury Demand:         None
      Nature of Suit:      440 Civil Rights: Other
      Jurisdiction:        U.S. Government Defendant

      Date Filed   #       Docket Text

      09/06/2007   160     OPINION DECISION AND ORDER denying re: 
                           [144] MOTION to Dismiss, filed by Alberto 
                           Gonzales, Robert Mueller; granting in 
                           part and denying in part [134] MOTION for 
                           Summary Judgment, filed by American Civil 
                           Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties 
                           Union Foundation. The Clerk of Court 
                           shall file this Decision and Order on the 
                           public docket. The Clerk of Court shall 
                           enter judgment accordingly but stay 
                           enforcement of the judgment pending any 
                           appeal, or, if no appeal is filed, for 90 
                           days from the date of this Order. The 
                           Clerk of Court is directed to close this 
                           case. (Signed by Judge Victor Marrero on 
                           9/6/07) (cd) (Entered: 09/06/2007)
Orin Kerr (Volokh Conspiracy) weighs in with "Revised Nondisclosure Provisions of NSL Authority Still Violate the First Amendment," including a link back to his (Professor Kerr's) review of Judge Marrero's 2004 decision in the same case.

Foreign Operations Appropriations
(PDF of text for page number references)

House Report 110-197
Senate Report 110-128
White House Statement of Policy

Sept 6, 2007: S.Amdts. 2689-2789

Debate of Sept 6, 2007: Part I - Part II
Text of H.R.2764 as passed by the Senate

I'm interested in the outcome of the vote on Senator Brownback's S.Amdt.2708 relating to the Mexico City agreement, whereby it will be the (continued) policy of the US to not fund abortions overseas.

REJECTED on a 41 - 53 vote.
GOP Abortion-funders: Collins, Lugar, Murkowski, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Warner

UPDATE @ 19:30

Before I wander off for the night, I note, with interest, Senator Vitter's amendment which prohibits using funds from this bill to any international organization (United Nations) that aims to tax or register firearms. It was a stand-alone bill as S.1488 in the 109th Congress.

Vitter's right, if an organization has no intention to register or tax firearms in the US, then this language has no impact. In other words, there should be no concern about passing it. This will be a good vote to see which senators are overt gun grabbers.

UPDATE @ 20:14

Vitter's S.Amdt.2774, to deny funds from this bill to any international organization that has a policy of requiring the registration or taxing firearms of US citizens, was
PASSED on a 81 - 10 vote.
Overt Gun-grabbers: Durbin, Feinstein, Harkin, Kennedy, Lautenberg, Levin, Menendez, Reed, Schumer, Whitehouse

Ten bucks says this is stripped out in conference. If I lose, I'll buy my favorite charity a twelve pack of bier.

UPDATE @ 20:32

Heheheh. Some Senator made a point of order, "There is obviously a quorum." Answer from the chair? "The Senate is in a quorum call."

UPDATE @ 00:42

H.R.2764 - Foreign Operations Appropriations, was PASSED on a 81 - 12 vote.
Nay votes: Barrasso, Brownback, Chambliss, Coburn, Corker, Cornyn, DeMint, Ensign, Enzi, Graham, Inhofe, Isakson.

Read the House and Senate Reports ... especially the minority views in the House Report. This bill is loaded with content that is not debated on the floor of either the House or Senate. One "small" example ... did you ever hear of the Millennium Challenge Corporation? [MCC]

MCC funding is not channeled through the normal foreign assistance nongovernmental organizations, and this may be another reason that MCC funding is controversial.

See also the list of sixty amendments passed en bloc, starting on page S11198 of the Record, and a substantial amount of contention about spending in Iraq, in both the House and Senate Reports.

On reading the record, note comments of Senator McCain at the end of page S11204 ... these are part of a series of inserts that represent words not spoken in the Senate. Dead giveaway, when the vote is taken at page S11205, Senator McCain is absent.


Two Circuit Court nominations, one District Court Withdrawal: E. Duncan Getchell, Jr. and Steve A. Matthews for the 4th Circuit, the withdrawal is Mary O. Donohue for the NDNY, nominated January 9, 2007.

H/T HowAppealing, Peter D. Keisler is resigning as Assistant Attorney General. He remains a nominee for a seat on DC Circuit Court. Although my hunch is that the nominations of Keisler, Kethledge and Murphy will all be returned at the end of the 1st session of the 110th Congress ... if not before.

UPDATE @ September 7

The Education "Reconciliation" bill is ...

College Cost Reduction Act of 2007
Conference Report on H.R.2669
House Report 110-210
White House Statement of Policy (contains veto threat)

Debate of Sept 6, 2007: Part I
Debate of Sept 7, 2007: Part I

Committee Republicans reject the idea that the reconciliation process should be used to overhaul the student loan programs in a manner that could not pass under regular order and that results in an unprecedented expansion of entitlement spending coupled with minimal deficit reduction.

There can be no amendments, the conference report is in a "take it or leave it" condition. Senator Enzi spoke in favor of the bill, and it will pass easily. The contentious issues aren't at my fingertips, but the links above will guide the interested reader to at least a summary of the issues.

I don't know, for example, if President Bush intends to veto the bill as it emerged from conference. I think "not," seeing as how Senator Enzi supports it. Therefore, something changed between the White House Statement of Policy (directed to the unamended H.R.2669), and completion of the conference report.

UPDATE @ 08:59

LOL. Senator Reid, waving his arms as though there is a persistent fly or mosquito, says "I'm being attacked by some sort of animal." I doubt that makes it to the record, but I have it on "tape." Maybe I'll figure a way to have an .mp3 hosted. That would be handy for other audio materials, in the long run.

The vote on the College Cost Reduction Act is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Then weekend for the Senate.

Short next week will be on H.R.3074 - Transportation Appropriations (White House Statement of Policy - veto threat due to spending level and volume of earmarks)


H/T HowAppealing, Judge Marrero's decision relating to the National Security Letters aspect of the USA PATRIOT Act is front page news on the Washington Post, and also prominently reported in the New York Times. However, the best article of the three cited is Federal Judge Rules Unconstitutional Parts of Patriot Act by Mark Hamblett - New York Law Journal.

Also in the vein of government secrecy, Ben Winograd at ScotusBlog reports Government responds to state secrets challenge, which includes links to briefs and a good discussion of the use of "state secrets" in the context of the El-Masri extraordinary rendition case.

UPDATE @ 10:00

Bit of snark from Senator Gregg as he rebuts Senator Durbin (my paraphrase), "It's not the water that makes the Senate dysfunctional, it's the Democratic leadership."

Mr. DURBIN. I say to my friend from New Hampshire, who is leaving the Chamber, I am sorry he is leaving. This water is put on our desks by our loyal, dutiful pages every day. Sometimes I want to check this water because I think perhaps imbibing it leads to political amnesia. The longer you drink the water on the floor of the Senate, the more you tend to forget reality and forget what has happened. ...

Mr. GREGG. I appreciate the Senator from Wyoming yielding to me. I know the Senator from Illinois would have yielded for a question, but his statement carried him away. Please note, I have no water on my desk--not by choice but I suspect that they don't trust me with it. I was glad to learn that it is the water that has caused the dysfunctionality of the Senate. I had been beginning to think maybe it was the Democratic leadership, since the change of hands. But getting this clarified is very important.

UPDATE @ 10:39

H.R.2669 - College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, was PASSED on a 79 - 12 vote.
Nay votes: Allard, Bond, Bunning, Burr, Coburn, DeMint, Graham, Gregg, Hagel, Inhofe, McConnell, Vitter
New "not voters" (compared with last night): Kerry, Roberts

UPDATE @ 10:50

Next week Monday the Senate will vote on the confirmation of the three District Court judges on the executive calendar: Osteen, Reidinger and Sammartino.

Looking forward to the week of September 17th (Reid's crystal ball is better than mine), he foresees being on Defense Authorization with contentious Iraq issues embedded therein. Senator McConnell indicates that he'll be involved in negotiating how to go forward in that regard. The issue here is whether amendments will be subjected to cloture, also seen as 60 vote thresholds for "competing" amendments.


Jack Balkin on the recently-found-unconstitutional National Security Letter procedure embodied in certain sections of the USA PATRIOT Act ... District Court strikes down parts of Patriot Act. It's an easy read that aims to describe how NSL contests operate.

The court wants to show that the standard chosen by the statute -- shifting the burden of proof and requiring that certain claims be treated as "conclusive"-- preempts substantive judicial review under Freedman [Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965)]. The court is arguing that Congress cannot get around First Amendment requirements of judicial review by redefining what forms of judicial review are permissible.

And at ConcurringOpinions, a blog that I haven't noticed until just now, but will be reading to see if it suits my sense of content over noise, Federal Judge Strikes Down Patriot Act NSL Provision by Neil Richards.

Here's some "analysis" from the right, Injudicious Judiciary, War on Global Hirabah (Unholy War) at BigLizards. The analysis as to how the Judge Marrero's decision is flawed as a matter of Con law? He was nominated by Clinton. LOL. Can't argue with that analysis.

UPDATE @ 12:30

The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. Monday.

UPDATE @ September 8

A few inserts and amplifications above, none particularly noteworthy.

Over at, Two New Fourth Cir. Nominations, a thread discussing the nomination of E. Duncan Getchell, Jr. and Steve A. Matthews to the 4th Circuit. Within that thread is a link to The 'Blue Slip': Enforcing the Norms of the Judicial Confirmation Process, a law review article by Brannon P. Denning. I think I disagree with the author's point of view because it gives too much deference to individual senators, and too little deference to the president's role to nominate.


Over at ScotusBlog, Lyle Denniston's U.S. mounts sweeping challenge to Circuit Court post includes links to the government's petition for rehearing en banc, and to sworn declarations by Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, J. Michael McConnell, National Intelligence director, and Gordon R. England, Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The three judge panel hearing the case in the first place was unanimous. Still, the DC Circuit may choose to rehear the case en banc. My take is that the government is deliberately overstating the scope and effect of the order of the panel, creating a straw man that it then argues against. The full court, if it rehears the case, can recapitulate the holding of the three judge panel.

These cases involve the "Alexander Declaration," the story of a self-proclaimed objective reviewer who claims he was denied access to evidence supporting the detention of certain detainees.

NOTE: Read the comments at this link. They are in plain language, not legalese.


FISA Hype at the WSJ Opinion Journal. Listening In - Congress, wiretapping and Ma Bell.

My money is on Congress granting retroactive immunity, that is, following the path that the WSJ Opinion Journal finds agreeable.

The White House requested such retrospective immunity, but it was blocked by Democrats. A cynic might conclude this is one more example of Democrats doing the bidding of their tort lawyer financiers. But let's assume their motives aren't that ugly.

This cynic concludes that any law that imposes liability on the government for invasion of privacy is de facto a charade. Repeal all of them, not just this one. While we're at it, since terrorism is a threat in the US, I propose to eliminate all requirements for warrants, including for domestic surveillance and physical entry. Yes, the stakes are that high. If we don't permit this, there will be another terrorist attack in the US, and thousands could die.

The WSJ Opinion piece is based on a false premise. That phone companies NOW lack immunity for PRESENT surveillance. They HAVE statutory permission for warrantless snooping, they have immunity, and they are being paid for whatever it costs to execute the snoop orders.

President Bush has the power to grant PARDONS to the telecoms, in case they violated the federal law that was supposed to protect privacy. That gets the issue out of the Courts, avoids making a mockery of statutory law on Congress's dime, and the country can move forward with a clean slate.

UPDATE @ September 8

Fran Townsend Interview Transcript

The inspector general for the Department of Justice, when they issued a report on the national security letters and the use of the Patriot Act, made the point that the Patriot Act provides vital tools. We need those tools to continue to win the war on terror.

And so we need FISA reform made permanent. We need the national security letters. We need the Patriot Act. We need all those tools.

WALLACE: So what do you think, trying so hard to keep America safe, when you've got the courts -- and here's a judge in New York who has twice now said that the same provision is unconstitutional -- and you've got the Congress talking about walking these things back? TOWNSEND: Well, in terms of the court's decision, the Justice Department is looking at that and evaluating what their options are to appeal such a decision.

And when it comes to FISA, we need Congress in this session to extend and make permanent the reforms to FISA. You know, when we had those conversations in August, we've made compromises and we addressed the FISA reforms to the most critical gaps that we had. But we need it made permanent.

WALLACE: Let me just ask you -- and we've got less than a minute left. There's a story in the New York Times today that says that the FBI until recently -- they've stopped the program -- was surveilling the calls not only of Americans who were suspected of being terrorists but also all these communications of anybody they spoke to.

There's talk now about giving domestic law enforcement access to spy technology, finding more ways to surveille phone calls and e-mails.

The argument from civil libertarians is that you're spying on us, that you're removing our civil liberties. How do you respond to that?

TOWNSEND: You know, we now have a privacy and civil liberties officer in every single federal department. The FBI voluntarily suspended that program. But all it is is taking legally acquired data and applying analytic tools to it. They suspended it.

But it has been used to disrupt in the past terrorist plots. It's a tool that we don't use very often, but it's a tool that we need.

And they've put in -- the director of the FBI has created a compliance unit, and he has his department looking at the use of that tool to ensure privacy and civil liberties while giving us the benefits of the tool.

What is the specific role of a privacy and civil liberties officer?
Why did the FBI suspend use of the [communities of interest] tool?
What does "we don't use [it] very often" mean? Few orders? Or few arrests/deportations/disappearances?

"Looking at the use of that tool to ensure privacy and civil liberties while giving us the benefits of the tool" is 1984-style doubletalk. The tool is an invasion of privacy, and may chill civil liberties. It may well be a reasonable invasion, but snooping doesn't "ensure privacy and civil liberties" in any way shape or form.

People who fall for the style of BS put out here are really (pardon me if you're one of them) stupid. Why not say that, given the gravity of potential harm by evil among us, the balance between personal privacy/civil liberties and government power tips in favor of the government? That all individuals have to give up some privacy and liberty for the greater good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

not to sound completely ignorant, but any word on if and when the full senate will vote on any of the judiciary nomininees that passed through committee in August?

9/06/2007 3:45 AM  

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