Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Justice Dept Announces Potemkin Investigation Of Extra-Legal NSA Program

The administration's horse-hockey about being allowed to violate a duly enacted statute (FISA) simply because "the terr'sts hit Merka on 9-11" has been wearing very thin.

Now, the Justice Department is going to examine -- not the illegality of the extra-legal NSA warrantless eavesdropping program -- but only how the intelligence yield has been dealt with by the Justice Department itself.

And I have doubts whether they will be dealing with all the facts relevant to their limited mandate either.

The Justice Department's inspector general yesterday announced an investigation into the department's connections to the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program, but officials said the probe will not examine whether the National Security Agency is violating the Constitution or federal statutes. ...

The "program review" will examine how the Justice Department has used information obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the "legal requirements" that govern it, according to Fine's letter. Officials said the review will not examine whether the program itself is legal. ...

Several ... House Democrats said the inquiry should be broadened to include the questions of whether the program violated federal laws and how it was approved. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.) also said he is "skeptical about the timing" of the announcement.

"I wonder whether this reversal is only coming now after the election as an attempt to appease Democrats in Congress who have been critical of the NSA program and will soon be in control and armed with subpoena power," Hinchey said in a news release.

Of course, this being Washington, one can expect some Democrats to collaborate with the administration's agenda:

The probe comes as a newly active presidential civil liberties board received its first detailed briefing about the NSA program. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which was established by Congress and whose five members were appointed by Bush, was provided details about the workings of the NSA program last week.

One member, Lanny J. Davis, a White House lawyer in the Clinton administration, said in an interview that he was "pleasantly surprised" by the privacy protections built into the program. He declined to discuss the program in detail because of secrecy restrictions.

"I was astonished at the extent to which they are all concerned about the legal and civil liberties and privacy implications of what they were doing," Davis said. "It was a constant theme of concern, awareness and training way beyond what I expected."

Davis said the briefings convinced him that the program had been carefully constructed from the start. "It was clear that as they thought about it, they put it together in a way that minimized problems to the best extent that they could," he said.

This is a "Potemkin" investigation being conducted for the purpose of providing congressional Democrats (and the American public) the illusion that their concerns about the program's constitutional violations are being addressed.

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