Senate's NSA Surveillance Hearing

Monday, February 06, 2006 at 03:31 PM

I missed the morning session of the hearing, but saw most of the afternoon one.  Not completely disheartening, and certainly not wildly hopeful.  At least the majority of the Committee members eventually made the point that the importance of the program to defending against attacks is completely beside the point; it's the need for oversight to keep the program from getting turned inward on the admin's political enemies that's crucial.

If anyone else caught the hearings, I'd be interested in their impression.

It looked to me like there are enough unhappy Republicans to put pressure on the White House to back down some.  Bush being Bush, of course, that doesn't guarantee anything, but I think even he might recognize that at this point he doesn't have the political muscle to take on a sizable group of his own party.

Specter, Graham, DeWine, and, to a lesser degree, Brownback clearly want some form of oversight of the NSA program.  I got the impression that Kennedy and DeWine have been working together behind the scenes talks trying to arrange a bipartisan effort to have the White House work with the Committee to design new FISA provisions that would accommodate the program with some form of oversight.

Specter's closing session with Gonzalez was pretty good.  He did the best job (of the parts I saw) in laying waste to the administration's cockamamie legal theories, in detail. His closing plea/admonition for the White House to recognize what its policy would lead to and to take the whole program and all its details to the FISA court was pretty effective.

Cornyn and Sessions made like Jeff Gannon reincarnated, using their time to echo the right's talking points, and emphasize the danger from terrorists.  Reminds me of Orwell's description of a British politician he disliked--it's not enough to call them stuffed shirts, they're more like holes in the air around them.

At least they made Gonzalez sit there long enough that I think he went through a bout of bladder distress.

For the Dems, I thought Durbin and Leahy did a good job, with Schumer, Biden, and Kennedy having their moments.