This really tears it. First we are to believe that in the Post September 11 World Where Everything Changed Dubya needed warrantless wiretaps to carry out the War On Terra that wasn't really a war but whatever. Now according to Jayson Leopold, who also obtained recently declassified documents (PDF), Bush has been illegally spying on people ever since he was sworn into office. (Update: Emptywheel disputes this article, well worth reading.)
Since at the time he was for the most part ignoring Al Quaeda but was already quite comfortable with the thought that libruls were the enemy, I find no solace in this knowledge.
Glenn Greenwald has quite perceptive piece up today about the proposed congressional inquiries into the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. It comes on the heels of what I believe to be Peter Daou's quite foundational piece about how the Democrats need to change their MO in politicking future issues. While Democrats on the Judiciary Committee probably did better during the Alito hearings than we had any right to expect based on past past performance, it was not good enough. And it most certainly wasn't part of any larger, coordinated full-court press that could have gained them some public traction to oppose the nomination.
Well intentioned though they might be, the members of the Judiciary Committee could bore the comatose. They are a standing committee rife with internal bickering whose members have other commitments that keep them from devoting the time they need to understanding the issues at hand, and they don't necessarily have the background or the expertise to be conducting this kind of investigation.
These hearings are going to be about a fundamental constitutional understanding of how our system of government works. The stakes are very high. We could be setting a precedent for a unitary executive that completely abrogates the system of checks and balances. The committee will interview legal experts who are going to make arguments that the president has a right under the constitution to ignore the laws and I don't want Dianne Feinstein being the one to challenge them.Glenn argues, and I agree, that a Select Committee which includes experienced lawyers accustomed to conducting these types of investigations is desperately needed given the stakes -- much as Sam Dash or Arthur Liman performed during the Watergate and Iran/Contra hearings. I really don't need to hear Goober Graham's Hee-Haw jokes or watch Joe Biden loving the sound of his own voice as the mediocrity of the Judiciary Committee hijacks the gravity of the situation and sends people lurching for the remote. A committee of this kind was already created to investigate the government's role in Hurricane Katrina, so it is certainly within recent precedent.
As Digby says:
The other side is going to question opposing views with a simple bullshit rationale about saving the babies from the bogeyman. We cannot leave the much more complicated opposing argument to gasbag senators questioning much more agile legal minds than theirs. We need real, practicing lawyers who know the issues and know how to question a witness.Just ask yourself -- given the fact that we're all probably just one terrorist attack away from populating Michelle Malkin's fantasy camps, would you rather have a Patrick Fitzgerald or a James Comey do some legitimate questioning, or watch Tom Coburn speaking in tongues for the cameras once again?
The people who show up here to comment are some of the most reasoned and articulate in the blogosphere, so I would really value your contribution to a "group think" on this one. I don't think I can underscore enough that this is really quite important.
(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)