Sunday, January 15, 2006

That Pesky Other Branch of Government

That the current regime believes it can do whatever it wants whenever it wants is clear. Having a totally subservient Congress willing to rubber stamp whatever comes down from the White House is one reason that belief is now so firmly entrenched in BushCo. Just to make certain that belief remains vigorous and healthy, the White House has made several appointments to the US Supreme Court who will back it up as necessary. Through it all, the opposition has been, for the most part, noticeably silent. That is why finding an op-ed piece written by Nancy Pelosi in the Washington Post came as a welcome surprise.

The uproar concerning President Bush's admission that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct certain electronic surveillance affecting people in the United States is a wake-up call for intensive congressional oversight of intelligence activities.

Congress is not an afterthought in assessing intelligence activities; federal law requires that it be kept informed of all such activities. But despite that clear statutory directive, the Bush administration consistently acts as though it alone owns intelligence information.

The products of our intelligence agencies belong to the government, of which Congress is an equal branch. The executive branch operates intelligence programs and activities, and Congress oversees and pays for them -- and thus has a responsibility to ensure that they are effective and carried out in a manner consistent with the Constitution, our laws and our values. That's why the intelligence committees were created. But as the Sept. 11 commission noted, the way intelligence information is conveyed to Congress and the way Congress operates make rigorous oversight impossible.

...The executive branch provides notice of some especially sensitive intelligence information only to the chairman and the ranking member of the minority party of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and to the leaders of Congress. This is how I came to be informed of President Bush's authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of electronic surveillance.

But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared with no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president's surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely. That limitation must change.

...The members of the intelligence committees are entrusted by their colleagues with the responsibility for making sure that intelligence practices are consistent with our laws and our values. Unless the entire committee has access to the same information, under tight confidentiality rules, Congress cannot respond legislatively to intelligence activity by the executive branch.

We all recognize that our efforts against terrorism or other threats require new, more flexible approaches. But in a democracy, those approaches cannot be fashioned unilaterally by an administration with a disturbingly expansive view of the powers of the president.
[Emphasis added]

It is gratifying that Democrats are finally speaking up about the egregious power grab currently underway by the Emperor In Chief, but it is sadly overdue. While there is no doubt that the Republican dominated Congress will ignore, for the most part, Ms. Pelosi's request for a review of the current practices with respect to the Intelligence Committee, the demands should continue, and should continue loudly in whatever forum the Democrats can get into.

In other words, Nancy, Harry, Ted, Russell, Barbara, Louise, and all the rest of you who will shortly be flooding our mailboxes with requests for campaign contributions, hit 'em with a chair, and the sofa, and then with whatever other piece of furniture is available. It's time for you to earn your keep.


Blogger Hecate said...

Amen, sister.

3:14 PM  

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