Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Above the law, version 2.0

In a press conference today, McClellan was asked if the President would cooperate with Congressional hearings on the illegal surveillance of Americans. Let's just say that he didn't exactly say yes, sticking to the line that they'll brief people.

Apparently, Tom Daschle wasn't so happy with the briefings he got, and his complaints match those expressed earlier by Jay Rockefeller:

When the NSA eavesdropping story leaked, the Bush administration immediately claimed that it had briefed congressional leaders on several occasions. But the briefings appear to have been sketchy and ultra-secretive. Sen. Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader at the time, recalled being briefed in 2002 and again in 2004. Interviewed by NEWSWEEK, he was reluctant to get into classified details, but he did say, "The presentation was quite different from what is now being reported in the press. I would argue that there were omissions of consequence." At his briefing in the White House Situation Room, Daschle was forbidden to take notes, bring staff or speak with anyone about what he had been told. "You're so disadvantaged," Daschle says. "They know so much more than you do. You don't even know what questions to ask."

In other news, the conservative libertarians at the Cato Institute labeled Bush Big Brother at Home, and the often right-of-center Reason magazine chimes in on a similar note, writing:

Even people who have complete confidence in this president's good faith and good judgment should worry about his sweeping assertion of executive power, which has implications for his successors. In areas such as military tribunals, detention of "enemy combatants," and administrative subpoenas, Bush has shown an alarming tendency to cut the legislative and judicial branches out of decisions about how to prosecute a war on terrorism that will continue long after he leaves office. This combination of unilateralism with a perpetual state of emergency is a recipe for tyranny.

Given that Alito wrote briefs justifying just such executive unilateralism, expect his hearings to get messy.