Saturday, December 24, 2005
Watchdog says FBI violated surveillance rulesFrom Terry Frieden
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A government watchdog is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate at least 13 occasions of alleged improper use of FBI surveillance, including searches and seizures of e-mail and bank records.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) released 93 pages of internal FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The documents previously were classified, The Associated Press reported.
The center told Senate Judiciary Committee members there may have been hundreds of such cases.
"We believe there is particular urgency for the committee to pursue this matter," the group said in a letter to Sens. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. Specter heads the Judiciary Committee, and Leahy is the ranking minority member.
"Over the last several years the FBI has been granted significantly expanded authority to undertake intelligence investigations in the United States," the center said in its letter.
The alleged violations centered largely on FBI failures to renew surveillance orders before they expired, or to inform the Justice Department lawyers of significant changes in the surveillance.
Many of the alleged violations involved failure to file required annual updates on the continued surveillance. The requirement allows Justice Department lawyers to monitor the progress of long-running clandestine spying operations..............
Friday, December 23, 2005
this story is JUST ridiculous. american girl does NOT PROMOTE ABORTIONS OR HOMOSEXUALITY any more than i do. they, like i, feel it is a RIGHT we have to CHOOSE to have an abortion (or not) and it is a fact that homosexuals are JUST LIKE HETEROSEXUALS. there are good ones and bad ones and moral ones and corrupt ones and chaste ones and slutty ones and ones from asia and ones with blonde hair and ones that are good dancers and ones that do NOT like show tunes and ones that go to church or synagog or mosque and worship their god(s) and goddess(es) and ones that are atheist and ones that know which shirt goes best with which pair of pants and ones that don't dress in anything but jeans and flannels and ones that are color blind and ones that are the picture of heath and ones that are good drives and ones who get a lot of tickets, ones who get motion sickness and ones who are pilots and janitors and on and on
Dolls Draw Conservatives' Ire
CHICAGO, Dec. 21, 2005
(CBS) With $379 million in sales last year, the American Girl dolls are just like the girls who adore them — wholesome and sweet and rooted in American history. They were a huge hit in the Wiesner household. Claire Wiesner says, "They are so much fun to play with and they seem so real." Her sister Elena adds, "And they're really pretty." Renee Wiesner, Claire's mom tells CBS News correspondent Mika Brzezinski, "Everything that they sold to us seemed very consistent with our values." That was until the Wiesners found out that the American Girl company donates money to an organization called Girls Incorporated, which offers support to underprivileged girls. Girls Inc. also endorses Roe v. Wade — the right to abortion and it promotes acceptance of homosexuality. It's an association that families like the Wiesners are protesting with their wallets. "This year, we're not going to buy any of the products for Christmas," Wiesner says bluntly. And some are taking it a step further. The Pro-Life Action League is calling for a boycott of the dolls. Some Catholic schools have cancelled American Girl events. ..........
Joe Wilson Rips the Bush-Cheney Administration During Lecture in Baltimore
by William Hughes
Only a stone’s throw from fabled Penn Station in this historic port city stands the University of Baltimore. It is best known nationally for its School of Law. On Nov. 14, 2005, ex-U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson spoke in the Lansdale Library there, at a “citizenship forum.” His lecture was cosponsored by the school’s public affairs department and the Randolph B. Rosencrantz Memorial Fund. Wilson was in top form and held little back in his remarks. He was also enthusiastic in his praise of the Iraqi war-related exposé--“The Downing Street Memos.”
In a wide-ranging talk entitled “Speaking the Truth to Power and its Consequences,” Wilson reviewed for the record how his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was “outed” by members of the Bush-Cheney administration. This, he said, came only after he had revealed, in a July, 2003, New York Times Op Ed piece, how President George W. Bush misled the nation in his “State of the Union” address in January 2003, about Iraq’s supposedly attempting to secure “yellowcake uranium” from an African country in order to build a nuclear bomb. The yarn about the alleged Niger uranium, Wilson, emphasized, was needed by manipulators in the administration in order to wrongly mesmerize the American people with the frightening image of a phony smoking gun in the form of “a mushroom cloud.”...........
if we just lay around and keep our mouths shut and don't challenge this administration on their LIES, well, we deserve what we get (i WILL NOT be silent)
Santa's Chinese elves
By Pallavi Ayar BEIJING - While Santa Claus lives it up with Rudolph at the North Pole, his elves have relocated to southern China's towns and villages. Some 70% of the world's Christmas ornaments and other paraphernalia now originate in officially atheist mainland China. Tinsel, Santas, mistletoe and artificial trees of every shape and hue are churned out at a relentless pace by thousands of factory workers in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. According to the China General Administration of customs, Guangdong on its own exported more than US$620 million worth of Christmas products in 2004. For the country as a whole, the figure was over $1 billion. Even the White House now celebrates a "Made in China" Christmas. In 2003, seven of the trees adorning the US president's residence were manufactured in China. In fact more than two-thirds of the world's artificial Christmas trees are made in the single city of Shenzhen. As winter's icy tentacles lead into Christmas, Santa's Chinese elves are enjoying a bit of a quiet period after having toiled for the majority of the year. "Our busy period is really February to October," says He Li, assistant sales manager of Yiwu Festival Gifts Company. The company has annual sales of over $12 million and employs between 800-1,000 workers. It exports 90% of its products to the US, Russia and Chile and specializes in manufacturing hanging toys, trees and Christmas gifts..................
(i collect christmas ornaments and most of mine are handblown glass out of eastern europe and/or italy)
Thursday, December 22, 2005
get a load of the size of the bruiser on the left!
Newborn Twins Found Abandoned In Chicago Church
Babies Listed In Good Condition
UPDATED: 6:39 am EST December 22, 2005
CHICAGO -- Two newborn babies were found inside a Chicago church Wednesday, prompting those involved to call it a Christmas miracle.
Officials said the boy and girl were found in a single child car seat on an inside stairway at North Austin Lutheran Church at about 8:30 a.m. by church custodian Kenneth Green, reported Chicago TV station WMAQ. The infants were just hours old, police said, and still had their umbilical cords attached...........
By E&P Staff Published: December 21, 2005 4:19 PM ET
NEW YORK "Media Beat" columnist Norman Solomon of Creators Syndicate has announced his 2005 "P.U.-litzer Prizes" -- and several newspaper writers are among the recipients.In a Tuesday piece, Solomon cited Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly, Judith Miller, and Bob Woodward -- among others -- for the year's "foulest media performances."Krauthammer shared a "Self-Praise Stealth Prize" for praising President Bush's Jan. 20 inaugural address on Fox News without mentioning that he (Krauthammer) had attended a Jan. 10 White House meeting that might have been used to help draft the speech (E&P Online, Jan. 26). Krauthammer is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.O'Reilly, the Fox News host who also writes a Creators column, won Solomon's "Put Them in Chains Award" for saying that Air America Radio hosts should be jailed for "undermining" the "war on terror" and the Iraq War. "Send over the FBI and just put them in chains," O'Reilly stated...................
we, as americans SHOULD NOT AND CAN NOT put up with these actions.
Bush's High Crimes
[from the January 9, 2006 issue]
Choosing his words carefully, George W. Bush all but accused critics of his extralegal warrantless wiretaps of giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda: "It was a shameful act, for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy." If so, the ranks of the treasonous now include leaders of the President's own party, and the New York Times's revelations of illegal wiretaps foretell an earthquake. Senator Lindsey Graham, last seen carrying gallons of water for the White House on the status of Guantánamo prisoners, will have nothing of Bush's end run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: "Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process," he said flatly. An infuriated Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary chairman, whose good will the White House depends on in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation of Samuel Alito, declared the President's domestic spying "inexcusable...clearly and categorically wrong" and plans hearings.
For the generations who came of age after the mid-1970s, it is worth recalling why warrantless domestic surveillance so shocks the political system. It needs to be repeated that the same arguments cited by Bush--inherent presidential power and national security--sustained the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr., unleashed illegal CIA domestic spying and generated FBI files on thousands of American dissidents. It needs to be repeated that in 1974, the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included abuse of presidential power based on warrantless wiretaps and illegal surveillance. It needs to be repeated that a few months later, presidential aides named Cheney and Rumsfeld labored mightily to secure President Ford's veto of the Freedom of Information Act, in an unsuccessful attempt to turn back post-Watergate restrictions on homegrown spying and government secrecy. .......................
oh my goddess you just have to hold your head in your hand and weep. i ran into a friend yesterday and we were high-fiving. he was all excited about being on 'the list' (as a catholic worker) and i was all excited because i was vegan and THEY are on 'the list' too.
Yukon school group found on U.S. threat list
Last updated Dec 20 2005 09:57 AM MSTCBC News
A group of Yukon high school students who attended a peace demonstration in Alaska last year have been labelled a threat by U.S. Homeland Security.
The students and their teachers from Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse were singled out when they crossed the border on their way to Fort Greely to protest the proliferation of missiles.
FROM SEPT. 27, 2004: Anti-missile peace camp hailed as success A document leaked from the U.S. defense department shows the Whitehorse school group is among a list of more than 1,500 anti-war groups considered a risk to American security. They have been lumped in with other organizations such as the Florida Quakers and student unions from major American universities.
Teacher Mark Connell says he was surprised the Grade 11 and 12 students were included on the list...........
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Spy Court Judge Quits In ProtestJurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel
By Carol D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers Wednesday, December 21, 2005; A01
A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.
Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.
Robertson, who was appointed to the federal bench in Washington by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and was later selected by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to serve on the FISA court, declined to comment when reached at his office late yesterday.
Word of Robertson's resignation came as two Senate Republicans joined the call for congressional investigations into the National Security Agency's warrantless interception of telephone calls and e-mails to overseas locations by U.S. citizens suspected of links to terrorist groups. They questioned the legality of the operation and the extent to which the White House kept Congress informed.
Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) echoed concerns raised by Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has promised hearings in the new year............
Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls
By JAMES RISEN and ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.
The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."
Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil.
Vice President Dick Cheney entered the debate over the legality of the program on Tuesday, casting the program as part of the administration's efforts to assert broader presidential powers...............
.........The Supreme Court ruled that government spying on citizens as practiced by the Nixon administration was unconstitutional. The 2001 law authorized the president to use military force against terrorist enemies, not strip away the civil liberties of citizens. If there is a loophole that permits warrantless searches, it should be closed by Congress..................
thanks think progress
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Judge bars school district from mentioning 'intelligent design'MARTHA RAFFAELEAssociated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A federal judge has ruled "intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, concluding that several school board members lied about their motives for introducing the concept to students.
The Dover Area School Board violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include "intelligent design," the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday.
The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.
"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote. "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
The board's attorneys said members sought to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection causing gradual changes over time; intelligent-design proponents argue that it cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.
The plaintiffs argued that intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools.
The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information..............
Live Vodka Shot Bloggin' of the President's Press Conference:Back in the day, the Rude Pundit used to muse that Bill Clinton would have held a press conference in 1997 or so where he said, "Yeah, I fucked her. And then I turned her over and I fucked her again. And then I called my old friend, Vernon Jordan, and I said, 'Vern, I got the finest piece of intern ass bobbin' on my crank right now.' And then Vernon came over and he fucked her. Then we both fucked her at the same time, high-fivin' each other over her back. And I said, 'You know, Vern, you're gonna have to give her a job when we're all done.' Then we had a big ol' laugh as we sprayed jizz all over her pretty blue dress. Good times. Good times." At least then, you know, we could have just had it out, threw down for our culture war, and clogged the Potomac with the dead, instead of the aching, eternal investigations that degraded us all.So, hey, man, props to George W. Bush for steppin' out on Saturday to say, "Fuck you. I spied. I'm gonna keep spyin' on ya. And you can't stop me." And now we have the post-Sunday Iraq lookee-here-at-my-big-honest-face talk end o' the year press conference.The Rude Pundit broke out the morning vodka, turned on his CNN, put his trusty laptop on his lap, took a bracin' shot, and wrote along to the President's halting screeches of agony:10:32 - Here he comes, walkin' like he just finished a really awesome shit where he wiped his ass with the Constit- Wait - is that powder on the corner of his nose? No - probably toothpaste. Or reflections from the Rude Pundit's Christmas tree of doom............
Eminem Music Allegedly Used As U.S. Torture Device
POSTED: 9:04 am PST December 19, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan -- A human rights group is alleging the United States operated a secret prison near Afghanistan's capital as recently as last year.
The group claims that music by Eminem and Dr. Dre were used as instruments of torture.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has issued a report saying the United States operated a secret prison in Afghanistan and tortured detainees. The report quoted an Ethiopian-born detainee as saying he was kept in a pitch-black prison and forced to listen to Eminem and Dr. Dre’s rap music for 20 days before the music was replaced by "horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds."
The report said detainees at the facility -- known as "Dark Prison" -- were deprived of sleep, chained to walls and forced to listen to loud music in total darkness for days.
The group said its report is based on the accounts of several detainees at the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights Watch hasn't been allowed to speak with the detainees directly, but said it obtained the detainees' accounts from their lawyers...........
and light a candle to the great goddess that WE win this
Evolution ruling expected
The federal lawsuit on intelligent design will likely chart the future of science education.
By Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
HARRISBURG - A decision is expected today in the first-ever federal trial on the teaching of intelligent design - a ruling that will likely have far-reaching impact on the future of science education in the United States.
Judge John E. Jones 3d will issue his ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover today, said Gary Hollinger, chief deputy clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Eleven parents sued the Dover Area School District in York County last year, saying the board violated the constitutional separation of church and state when it approved a policy introducing intelligent design into the high school biology curriculum.
Intelligent design holds that life is so complex that there must have been a higher intelligence involved.
Over the course of the six-week trial, which ended Nov. 4, a parade of scientists and other academicians took the witness stand, some to defend Darwin's theory of evolution and others to raise doubts about the 19th-century theory upon which modern biology is based.
Lawyers for the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian law firm in Michigan that represented the school board, said intelligent design is a valid scientific theory. They argued that the board did not have a religious intent when it voted to require students be read a statement that noted "gaps" in Darwin's theory and directed students to a book on intelligent design available in the school library.
The plaintiffs' legal team, assembled by the American Civil Liberties Union, said the board's decision was in fact driven by a religious agenda and presented witnesses who testified that intelligent design is Bible-based creationism in disguise...................
holy shite, spying on vegan groups and catholic workers. what next, the play room at macdonalds? there are legitimate wire taps, there is legit surveillance. all of that must be done ACCORDING TO OUR CONSTITUTION AND OUR LAWS. NO CITIZEN IS ABOVE THE LAW. NONE. when are we going to get off of our asses and make people accountable for these UNLAWFUL actions?
F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.
F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.
But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals...............
Monday, December 19, 2005
By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer Sun Dec 18, 4:46 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans called separately Sunday for congressional investigations into President Bush's decision after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to allow domestic eavesdropping without court approval.
"The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.
Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Penn., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he intends to hold hearings.
"They talk about constitutional authority," Specter said. "There are limits as to what the president can do."
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also called for an investigation, and House Democratic leaders asked Speaker
Dennis Hastert' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Dennis Hastert to create a bipartisan panel to do the same.
Bush acknowledged Saturday that since October 2001 he has authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails of people within the United States without seeking warrants from courts..........
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaves the NBC studio in Washington Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005, after being interviewed on 'Meet the Press'. Rice spoke about President Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to eavesdropping on international phone calls and e-mails of people within the United States, and said Sunday that public disclosure of surveillance programs used to wage the war on terror damages those efforts. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
hey condo-lie-za, what about the public disclosure of the name of a COVERT cia operative? huh?
Vermont governor wants troops home
Amid serious casualties, he urges pullout plan
By Scott Helman, Globe Staff December 19, 2005
Governor James H. Douglas of Vermont, a Republican whose state has lost more soldiers per capita in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other in the United States, said last week that the Bush administration and Congress should prepare a withdrawal plan to bring troops home from Iraq.
''I certainly hope and pray that the Congress and the administration will work together to design an exit strategy and bring our troops home as soon as possible," Douglas said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Douglas spoke as he welcomed 600 Vermont National Guard soldiers home from Kuwait, where they served for a year in support of the war. Several planes of soldiers landed in Burlington, where they were greeted by family, friends, and Christmas carols and patriotic songs played by a National Guard band.............
i am only going to print the last paragraph. go to the link above for the whole letter
......We all agree that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people. That intelligence, however, must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation to protect the American people and our freedoms. Our suggestion for hearings and the appointment of an independent panel of experts is fully in keeping with that belief.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
is a little italian confection called pignoli (pine nut cookies). they are made with almond paste, egg whites (unfortunately NOT vegan), sugar and pine nuts. for some reason or another they taste ESPECIALLY good at christmastime.
from the washington post
a pignoli article including recipe
and yet another recipe
pignoli made with a bit of flour
1)i drink WAY too much coffee
2)i smoke WAY too many butts
3)i am far nicer than i usually act, (it's just a defense mechanism)
4)i am an (minor) agoraphobic
5)i decided long ago NOT to be afraid of people. i feared my (paternal) grandfather but he is long gone. i fear no one else (as a person that is. i am AFRAID of the dentist even though mine is a dear AND he has a wonderful sense of humor even if he did put some crap in my mouth with a jennings retractor to keep my mouth pried open, left me in a darkened room for 20 minutes then brought someone in that i knew to say hello to me that just happened to come in for an appointment)
6)i love the winter and snow but PANIC driving in it
7)i have given up a friendship with someone i loved and i never even told him the real reason why
8)i love judge judy (i love tv in general and i am NOT embarrassed to admit it)
9)i have pack-rat issues bordering on needing therapy (and no i’m NOT kidding)
10)i have never forgiven my mother, even though she is no longer living. oh, i love(d) her, but i am still VERY angry with her
now, i am going to tag: jean and roxy
Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book." Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program. The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said. The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further. "I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it." Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times..............
Bush's Fumbles Spur New Talk of Oversight on Hill
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 18, 2005; A07
After a series of embarrassing disclosures, Congress is reconsidering its relatively lenient oversight of the Bush administration.
Lawmakers have been caught by surprise by several recent reports, including the existence of secret U.S. prisons abroad, the CIA's detention overseas of innocent foreign nationals, and, last week, the discovery that the military has been engaged in domestic spying. After five years in which the GOP-controlled House and Senate undertook few investigations into the administration's activities, the legislative branch has begun to complain about being in the dark.
On Friday, after learning that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on conversations in the United States, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said that the activity was "wrong and it can't be condoned at all," and that his committee "can undertake oversight on it."
That same day, the House approved a resolution that would direct the administration to provide House and Senate intelligence committees with classified reports on the secret U.S. prisons overseas.
Democrats have long complained about a dearth of congressional investigations into Bush administration activities, but their criticism has been gaining validation from others after the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, problems in Iraq and ethical lapses.
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said this fall that "the people's representatives over on the Hill in that other branch of government have truly abandoned their oversight responsibilities [on national security] and have let things atrophy to the point that if we don't do something about it, it's going to get even more dangerous than it already is."
In an interview last week, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said "it's a fair comment" that the GOP-controlled Congress has done insufficient oversight and "ought to be" doing more.
"Republican Congresses tend to overinvestigate Democratic administrations and underinvestigate their own," said Davis, who added that he has tried to pick up some of the slack with his committee. "I get concerned we lose our separation of powers when one party controls both branches."
Democrats on the committee said the panel issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration, two to the Energy Department over nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and one last week to the Defense Department over Katrina documents.
Some experts on Congress say that the legislative branch has shed much of its oversight authority because of a combination of aggressive actions by the Bush administration, acquiescence by congressional leaders, and political demands that keep lawmakers out of Washington more than before.................