Thursday, January 18, 2007

That sinking feeling

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went way out of his way to avoid saying anything useful about the administration's agreement with the FISA court on wiretapping.

He said he might not be able to provide Congress with details of the presidential order authorizing the new program. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said there might be "separation of powers" issues over such disclosure, as well as disclosing anything about individual court orders.

Gonzales also refused to say whether the new program involved individual warrants or blanket warrants that could conceivably cover dozens of people.

Got that? An executive branch agreement with the judicial branch might have to be kept from Congress because.... well, because.

This even though the court in question has no problem sharing the information.

In a letter released at the Senate hearing, FISA Court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, said she has no objection to giving lawmakers copies of orders and opinions relating to the secret panel's oversight of the spy program.

"However, the court's practice is to refer any requests for classified information to the Department of Justice. In this instance, the documents that are responsive to your request contain classified information and, therefore, I would ask you to discuss the matter with the attorney general or his representatives," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the Jan. 17 letter.

If allowed, the Court will, of course, cooperate with the agreement," she wrote.

The administration is once again demanding that we just trust it, despite plenty of past experience demonstrating that such trust is misplaced. I understand keeping sensitive operational details out of public view; but Congress has to be in the loop for "oversight" to have any meaning whatsoever.

To quote Han Solo: "I've got a bad feeling about this."

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