NSA Rehash: Beating the Dead Horse

February 21st, 2006 6:37 AM

In an attempt to keep the New York Times-imposed NSA kerfluffle on somebody's radar screen, a rehash of the situation ran today in the paper's Washington section. The lede is particularly interesting, since it gets it wrong right out of the gate:

 After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.

Well, that certainly is news to everyone. The Presidency has never been required to obtain court orders to wiretap those communicating out of or into the country. I don't know what legal standard the New York Times thinks it is citing here (none is cited in the article), but the argument the paper was trying to make about two weeks ago was that he needed court orders to monitor domestic-to-domestic communications. Nobody, including the President, has disputed that. So exactly what premise is the lede attempting to set up? That the President has to get Congressional oversight (despite breifing the Senate Intel Committee dozens upon dozens of times since 9-11-01) to excercise the executive branch's Constitutionally granted authority to monitor international communications with terrorists?

That's why the Framers made the Constitution a super-statute -so that it can't be changed on a Congressional whim. I wonder if the New York Times is familiar with the seperation of powers - the legislature can not simply cede Constitutional authority from the executive branch because the NYT implies that they should. The Grey Lady certainly had no probelm when President Clinton was data mining and tapping with the ECHELON program in the 1990's, and we weren't even at war then. As far as the majority of Americans are concerned, the NYT has not yet demonstrated that the Adminstration broke any laws in its pursuit of terrorists, nor has the NYT laid out a plan or system for monitoring al-Qaeda communications coming into or leaving the country. We out here are not waiting with baited breath for these developments. Luckily, the NYT is not a branch of government, and nobody elected them to be in charge of anything.

The article goes on to garner reactions from moderate Republicans like Lindsay Graham, Mike DeWine, Olympia Snow, Arlen Specter, and later, Democrat Jay Rockefeller (who some suspect may the leaker of the program to the NYT). So we have moderate Republicans (and a Democrat) that have sided with the Democrats on a host of issues quoted as de-facto and antecdotal "proof" that there is "bi-partisan" desire for "widespread hearings" demanded by the Democrats. That is a clever attempt of reporting what the NYT wishes the news was, but is transparent to those of us who actually read other sources of information in addition to the NYT.