Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Roberts on the record

Thanks to Joel Mathis (a TfK reader) for asking the question. Kansas senator says wiretaps ‘consistent with U.S. law’:
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for the first time Monday acknowledged he had been aware of the secret program since becoming chairman in 2003. The program is “consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution,” Roberts’ spokeswoman said.

“Reflecting his constitutional responsibilities and authorities, the president has authorized a program which makes it far more likely that in the future, al-Qaida affiliated terrorists, like the 9-11 hijackers, will be identified and located prior to the next attack,” said the spokeswoman, Sarah Little.

She added: “Sen. Roberts believes that in a time of war, the president should have every lawful authority to protect the American people.”
I still want to chat with someone in his offices, to push this issue.

Here are some questions that deserve to be asked.

  • Does Senator Roberts think the AUMF (Afghanistan resolution) authorize this sort of surveillance?
  • When Senator Roberts voted for that resolution, did he anticipate its use in domestic spying?
  • His Democratic counterpart expressed concerns at his inability to confer with legal and technical experts regarding the program. Did Senator Roberts have similar concerns, and did he consult with any experts?
  • Does consultation with Congress validate any and all Presidential action?
  • What limits are there on Presidential authority?
  • What statutory basis does this interpretation have?
  • Was the surveillance targeted at specified individuals, or was it an Echelon-type program that scooped up all international communications?
  • After passing the AUMF, Congress passed a law expanding the classes of people subject to FISA warrants. Doesn't that imply that Congress intended those limits to be adhered to?
The piece concludes (after a thoroughly negative review of the law by local experts, mirroring the opinion of every legal analysis not performed by an administration shill):

But Little, Roberts’ spokeswoman, said the eavesdropping program had been “thoroughly reviewed” by offices in the National Security Agency and Department of Justice to ensure activities “are consistent with U.S. law and the preservation of civil liberties.”

Additionally, she said, Roberts is talking with Senate leaders about providing additional congressional oversight of the program.
Which leaves two more questions:

  • If NSA and DoJ oversight was adequate, why is Congressional oversight necessary?
  • If Congressional oversight is necessary and appropriate now, why was this program allowed to persist for 2 years without oversight?
Hopefully, Ms. Little will take a call from a local blogger.