July 27, 2006


Administration and Critics, in Senate Testimony, Clash Over Eavesdropping Compromise (ERIC LICHTBLAU, 7/27/06, NY Times)

[C]ritics attacked the agreement Wednesday as abdication to the White House. Mr. Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, appeared particularly stung at the hearing when a civil liberties advocate, James X. Dempsey, told him he would prefer to see no legislation at all, allowing the National Security Agency to continue wiretapping Americans without warrants, than Congressional approval of procedures outside the scope of the 1978 law that created the secret court.

In agreeing to that court’s review of the N.S.A. program, the White House had insisted that the bill include language implicitly recognizing the president’s “constitutional authority” to collect foreign intelligence beyond the provisions of the 1978 law. Mr. Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said at the hearing that he appreciated Mr. Specter’s efforts to bring the N.S.A. program under judicial review but that “the price you paid for that simple concession is far too high.”

The proposal, he said, “would turn the clock back to an era of unchecked presidential power, warrantless domestic surveillance and constitutional uncertainty.”

Mr. Specter grew testy over the attack, saying President Bush’s agreement to submit the program to the intelligence court was no simple concession.

“Have you ever gotten a concession from a president?” he demanded of Mr. Dempsey.
"No? Well, that makes two of us."

This whole issue is a demonstration of the central fact of the Bush presidency--he's never won more completely than when his foes think they have.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 27, 2006 10:38 AM
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