February 17, 2006

"The administration has obviously gotten the message that they need to be more forthcoming."

That's how Olympia Snowe explained on Wednesday why she was ceasing her call for a full inquiry into the NSA wiretapping program. Back on December 20, she, along with Chuck Hagel and some Democratic senators, signed on to a letter calling for such an inquiry:

"It is critical that Congress determine, as quickly as possible, exactly what collection activities were authorized, what were actually undertaken, how many names and numbers were involved over what period, and what was the asserted legal authority for such activities."

Gonzales' stonewalling before the Senate last week didn't yield any of the answers they demanded in the December letter. So wouldn't it have been a little more credible if she has said that she had simply changed her mind based on the evidence? Because as little evidence as has been produced toward forming a legal basis for the wiretapping program, there's even less evidence that any "message" has been "gotten" by the administration.

Hagel's explanation for his reversal:

"If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I'm not so sure that I would support that."


But there are more brushfires on this issue than the White House has wet blankets. The House Intelligence Committee is forging ahead with an inquiry, and yesterday the federal district court for D.C. issued a preliminary injunction ordering DOJ to comply with a FOIA request made by Electronic Privacy Information Center. The deadline for the DOJ to pony up is March 8.

Back in December, BHM predicted in an email (now lost in Gmail purgatory) that the NSA scandal would fall in line, undistinguished, among the liberal litany of grievances against the administration. Maybe - but it is still alive and seemingly kicking, despite Democratic preoccupation with other matters, like scuttling the campaigns of its most promising new blood. The traditional conservative establishment has found themselves compelled by principle to break ranks with Bush. The famed White House damage control team has got to be approaching cognitive meltdown.

As always, Glenn Greenwald is on it.


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