Senator Roberts, my favorite doormat
That the United States Senate has a body called the Intelligence Committee is an irony George Orwell would have truly appreciated. In a world without Doublespeak, the panel, chaired by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, would be known by a more appropriate name — the Senate Coverup Committee.Senator Roberts has shown more evidence of senility on this issue. For a while, he was saying that the FISA court should (gasp!) review wiretap requests. Then, perhaps after taking one of his "memory pills," he decided that the White House ought to brief the whole Intelligence Committee, but that the President should wiretap whoever he wants. Flip and flop.
Although the committee is officially charged with overseeing the nation's intelligence-gathering operations, its real function in recent years has been to prevent the public from getting hold of any meaningful information about the Bush administration. Hence its never-ending delays of the probe into the bogus weapons intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. And its squelching, on Thursday, of an expected investigation into the administration's warrantless spying program.
The committee adjourned without voting on a proposal to probe the National Security Agency program, under which government agents have set up wiretaps on Americans without the warrants required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. President Bush has acknowledged that he greenlighted the program, essentially claiming that Congress gave him the power to break federal law and violate Americans' 4th Amendment rights when it authorized the use of force after the 9/11 attacks. Though the administration's legal defense has been laughable, its argument that the powers are essential to fight terrorism has scored political points, ratcheting up the pressure on the Senate.
Roberts justified his committee's cave by saying the White House had committed itself to working with senators to pursue legislation on the matter. Translation: Bush won't accept any curbs on his power whatsoever, but he'd be happy to see a bill legalizing his wiretaps.
In entirely unrelated news, the LA Times reports that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created as a result of the 9/11 commission's recommendations, has met exactly zero times:
A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.Huzzah for the ownership society! The President owns every email you sent, every record of any book you bought or borrowed, every credit card receipt.
Someday, it might actually meet.
Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December 2004.
More than a year later, it exists only on paper.
Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing a single day of work.