[Marxism] Harlem Globetrotter opponent concedes
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 4 19:35:42 MDT 2007
NY Times, August 5, 2007
Democrats Feel Pressure on Spy Program
By CARL HULSE and EDMUND L. ANDREWS
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 — Under pressure from President Bush, House Democrats
on Saturday grudgingly prepared to move ahead with approving changes in
a terrorist surveillance program despite serious reservations about the
scope of the measure.
With time running out before a scheduled monthlong break and the Senate
already in recess, House Democrats confronted the choice of accepting
the administration’s bill or letting it die. If it died, that would
leave Democratic lawmakers, who have long been anxious about appearing
weak on national security issues, facing an August fending off charges
from Mr. Bush and Republicans that they left Americans exposed to terror
There was no indication that lawmakers were responding to new
intelligence warnings. Rather, Democrats were responding to
administration pleas that a recent secret court ruling had created a
legal obstacle in monitoring foreign communications relayed over the
Internet. They also appeared worried about the political repercussions
of being perceived as interfering with intelligence gathering. But the
disputes were significant enough that they were likely to resurface
before the end of the year.
Democrats have expressed concerns that the administration is reaching
for powers that go well beyond solving what officials have depicted as
narrow technical issues in the current law.
“They have got us in a vise,” Representative Louise M. Slaughter,
Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the Rules Committee, said as she
left a Saturday afternoon meeting where senior Democrats were debating
how to handle the issue in the final hours before recess.
Mr. Bush on Saturday urged the House to act promptly after the Senate on
Friday night approved changes in the terrorist surveillance program
sought by the administration, which said it was being prevented from
monitoring communications of terror suspects overseas during a period of
apparently heightened activity. “Protecting America is our most solemn
obligation,” Mr. Bush said in a statement.
Other Republicans called for swift House action as well. “I can’t
imagine they would take a monthlong vacation without fulfilling their
obligation to keep America safe,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky, the Republican leader.
Senior House Democrats said they were resigned to moving forward with
the administration bill, which would be in force for six months. But
they continued to encounter resistance from lawmakers who complained
they were being bullied into hasty action by the administration and
Congressional Republicans. They said Democrats should stick with a House
proposal defeated Friday that kept more judicial control over the
program than the administration wanted. Their opposition was
complicating efforts to end the dispute by sending the bill to Mr. Bush.
“Let’s make our Constitution work,” said Representative John F. Tierney,
Democrat of Massachusetts. “We can have security and our civil liberties
House Republicans complained angrily that Democrats on Saturday had not
immediately considered and approved the changes in the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act in the wake of Senate approval.
“If it is good enough for Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats, it
should be good enough for House Democrats,” said Representative Roy
Blunt of Missouri, the second-ranking Republican.
Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the senior Republican on the
Intelligence Committee, accused Democrats of dithering for months
without giving “the intelligence community tools they need while we are
at heightened risk.”
Administration officials have been quietly pushing Congress to pass a
“modernization” of the current law, arguing that technological changes —
especially the expansion of telephone calls over the Internet — had made
the current rules outdated.
One key issue, apparently raised in secret by judges overseeing the
problem, is that many calls and e-mail messages between people outside
the United States are routed over data networks that run through the
United States. In principle, the surveillance law does not restrict
eavesdropping on foreign-to-foreign communications. But in practice,
administration officials contend, the path of those calls through this
country means the government cannot monitor them without a warrant.
Administration officials were concerned that the new court restrictions
had slowed their ability to eavesdrop on militants in Iraq who were
holding three American soldiers in May, according to an Associated Press
report on Friday. Asked about the report, Senator Kit Bond, Republican
of Missouri, would not discuss specifics, but said, “The inability to
collect on foreign targets not only impacts our security in the United
States but our military abroad.”
But Democratic lawmakers have been deeply suspicious that the Bush
administration was seeking a broader and more controversial expansion of
surveillance authority by making changes that were vague on important
issues. Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas and chairman
of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that the
administration-supported bill would allow wiretapping without warrants
as long as it was “concerning a person abroad.” As a result, he said,
the law could be construed as allowing any search inside the United
States as long as the government claimed it “concerned” Al Qaeda.
Democrats said their suspicions had been fueled in part by the White
House’s repeated reluctance to ask Congress for technical changes
addressing issues that should have been apparent long ago.
In a recent letter to a Republican on the committee, Representative
Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, Mr. Reyes noted that Congress had
updated the FISA law eight times since the Sept. 11 attacks.
“You repeatedly claim that FISA is woefully outdated,” Mr. Reyes wrote.
“Neither you nor the administration raised concerns during consideration
of those bills that the statutory changes proposed were inadequate.”
For years, but especially since the attacks, Democrats on the
intelligence oversight committees have been loath to do anything that
might provoke charges of tying up the intelligence agencies in
But relations have steadily soured since the public disclosure of the
warrantless surveillance program 18 months ago. White House officials
have repeatedly argued that the president has broad authority to carry
out such programs without explicit permission from Congress, even if the
programs appear to violate long-standing legal restrictions.
The mistrust has gone in both directions. Administration officials
contend that any attempt to have Congress address even straightforward
issues prompts Democrats to seek all manner of new restrictions.
But Democrats, and some Republicans, contend that the administration has
aggravated the distrust by refusing to be provide detailed information
to lawmakers and by offering what appear to have been misleading answers
to Congressional queries.
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the
Senate Judiciary Committee, has criticized Attorney General Alberto R.
Gonzales for insisting that the Justice Department never had any
internal disputes about the legality of the surveillance program.
Several top Justice Department officials, including the director of the
F.B.I., Robert S. Mueller III, have publicly contradicted Mr. Gonzales’s
testimony and told lawmakers that senior officials threatened in 2004 to
resign over the disputes.
Several Senate Democrats have gone further, calling for a special
prosecutor to investigate possible perjury by Mr. Gonzales.
On the surface, Congressional Democrats seemed to support key issues
that Mr. Bush wanted to address. House Democrats said their alternative
proposal would explicitly clarify that the government did not need a
court order for monitoring any foreign-to-foreign communications simply
because they were routed through switches and servers in the United States.
They said it would also authorize the special FISA court to provide a
“basket warrant” for monitoring many individuals that might pick up
communications with people in the United States, though the bill would
have also required the attorney general to submit its procedures for
approval by the court and would have required the Justice Department’s
inspector general to conduct an audit every 60 days of communications
involving people in the United States.
The administration, by contrast, insisted that the attorney general
should have broad authority to approve surveillance in such cases and
would only have allowed the court to intrude if the attorney general’s
procedures were “clearly erroneous.”
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