Liveblogging The NSA Hearings

Ken AshfordWiretapping & SurveillanceLeave a Comment

Glenn Greenwald is liveblogging the Senate Hearings on the NSA wiretapping.  Gonzales is the witness du jour.

UPDATE:  Getting off to a bad start.  Gonzales isn’t being sworn in this time.  Video here.

UPDATE 2:  John Podhoretz at NRO’s "The Corner" writes this:

Kennedy wants to know what’s different between today and the earliest debates on this matter during the Ford administration — then suggests that the Cold War presented at least as great a threat as the current war on terror because we had nuclear weapons pointed at us from the Soviet Union. The sound you just heard was me falling on the floor in a dead faint upon hearing Teddy Kennedy acknowledge that the United States was actually in jeopardy during the Cold War.

Yeah, jackass.  His brother was only the President during the Cuba Missile Crisis.

UPDATE 3:  Boy, Podhoretz is really flippin’ today:

SEN. DAILYKOS FEINSTEIN ASKS A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS OFF A SHEET including one about whether the president can, on his own initiative, engage in illegal propaganda activities inside the United States. She cites statute 502K-12 subsection ABCD (well, not actually, but that’s what it sounded like). When Attorney General Gonzales, properly considering himself sandbagged by an issue involving a statute in the U.S. code having nothing whatsoever to do with the case at hand, protests that he does not want to give an uninformed answer to a complex question, Sen. Feinstein announces, "I don’t want to argue with you," and then goes right on to insist that of course the president would be tempted to suspend many civil liberties. Bad form, Senator. Rude and unjust. God forbid you should actually listen when Gonzales attempts to offer a reasoned answer to your outrageous, DailyKos-level question.

It isn’t an outrageous question, not terribly complex.  The Administration’s legal position is that under the AUMF and the Constitution, the President can do whatever is necessary to conduct the war on terrorism.  The question, quite simply, is: does this include illegal propaganda activities?  Sure, Feinstein’s recitiation of a legal statute may be "complex" to "lawyers" like Podhoretz and the Attorney General, and it may further confuse them because it is hypothetical.  But it is perfectly reasonable to test the outer limits, if any, to the Administration position on presidential powers.

I think Podhoretz is upset because Gonzales isn’t being pitched a bunch of lazy softballs.

UPDATE 4:  It’s probably useful to note that that the Washington Post reported on 2/5 that the NSA wiretap program has surveilled thousands, but only a handful "aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls."

The Left Coaster says that this is further evidence that the Administration is misusing its authority:

Tell me again cultists why it is too cumbersome for Bush to follow the FISA law to obtain warrants to spy on Americans, when out of the 5,000 people he has spied upon only ten or so a year trigger the full range of monitoring?

TalkLeft summarizes:

Bush claims he doesn’t spy on Americans. Cheney claims the program saved ‘thousands of lives. ‘The truth, as the Washington Post reports, is that the program has rarely uncovered information about terrorists or terrorists acts; the NSA has eavesdropped on many thousands of Americans without probable cause; and that probable cause or even reasonable suspicion will never exist because of the washout rate and number of false positives.

UPDATE 5:  Gonzales closed his opening statement with this:

I have highlighted the legal authority for the terrorist surveillance program. And I look forward to our discussion, and know that you appreciate there remain serious constraints of what I can say about operational details. Our enemy is listening. And I cannot help but wonder if they aren’t shaking their heads in amazement at the thought that anyone would imperil such a sensitive program by leaking its existence in the first place, and smiling at the prospect that we might now disclose even more or perhaps even unilaterally disarm ourselves of a key tool in the War on Terror.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I haven’t seen much commentary on this, so I’ll stick my head out.  Does anybody really believe this meme? 

I’m sure that someone in al Qaeda is paying attention to the hearings, but does anyone think they are altering their operations one iota based on the revelation of Bush’s "terrorist surveillance program"? 

We already KNOW that terrorists communicate in code.  We already KNOW that they work clandestinely.  We already KNOW that THEY KNOW that their operations are considered illegal, and THEY KNOW we have huge resources.   So clearly, they are being cautious, and communicating in ways to avoid detection.  It’s not like the read the United States Code, and toe right up to the line.  It’s not like they say, "Oh, the statutes forbid surveillance techniques X,Y, and Z, so we’ll communicate by X,Y, and Z."  Right?

The notion that we’re giving the enemy a blueprint of our intelligence techniques is ridiculous.  The reason they have succeeded is not because they are out-cunning us armed with knowledge of our capabilities; it’s because they are low tech.