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Roberts: Oversight of NSA surveillance will expand


More members of Congress are going to learn about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, Sen. Pat Roberts announced Tuesday.Roberts has often been criticized for hewing too closely to the Bush Administration's wishes as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but his [press release][1] made it sound like he had forced the White House to back down on a key issue.The release: "In anticipation of General Michael Hayden's confirmation hearing to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), in negotiations with The White House, insisted on briefing every member of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the President's Terrorist Surveillance Program. Today, the President agreed to expand the briefing to the entire committee."Previously, only a few members of the committee were given briefings on the topic. That arrangement, in March, [was used as an alternative][2] to a full-blown investigation of the NSA demanded by Democrats -- and nearly some Republicans -- on Roberts' committee.[The LA Times][3] reports: "Reversing a position it has held for months, the White House on Tuesday agreed to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on a domestic wiretapping operation, just as the architect of the program is facing a contentious confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill."The decision to abandon that position came after the White House received warnings from prominent Republican lawmakers, including Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that Hayden would face a hostile hearing if members voting on his confirmation were not trusted with information on the most controversial program he ran."'It became apparent that in order to have a fully informed confirmation hearing, all members of my committee needed to know the full width and breath of the president's program,' Roberts said in a written statement."[Fox News][4] adds: "'You're always going to have these questions in regards to this particular (NSA surveillance) program .... and we're in serious danger of losing it,' Roberts, R-Kan., told FOX News."'With all the misinformation about it ... and all the leaks about it ... all the partisanship that comes with it - the best way to handle it is to brief the whole committee,' he said."[Knight Ridder:][5] "'It's something we should have done five years ago ... at the inception of the program,' said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the intelligence committee. 'We have reached an accommodation (with the White House). I think it's a good accommodation.'"Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said a time hadn't been set to brief the 21 members of his panel."Both Roberts and Hoekstra said they hoped the expanded access to information would stop the partisan sniping over how to conduct congressional oversight of the program."Other links today:Pat Roberts links[(New York Times) C.I.A. Making Rapid Strides for Regrowth:][6] By next year, C.I.A. officials say, the agency expects to have tripled the number of trained case officers from the number in 2001. The hope is that a bulked-up spy network will allow the agency at least to begin penetrating closed societies like North Korea and Iran. Some also point out that merely becoming bigger will not necessarily yield better intelligence. In fact, an emphasis on size alone could divert resources from strategic locations where they are most needed - "robbing Peter to pay Paul," in the words of Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I have some concern about that," Mr. Roberts said. "It's not just about numbers. It's about being more aggressive."Sam Brownback links[(New York Daily News) Senate indecency remedy: Easier said than done"][7] Twenty-eight months after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl shake triggered a national howl of outrage over media content, the Senate has again deferred action on tougher indecency penalties. There had been some expectation that a bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) would be marked up for a vote by the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. But a committee spokesman said yesterday it won't be. The next markup date, June 8, is also considered unlikely. The main provision of Brownback's bill would allow the FCC, which administers indecency policies, to fine offenders $325,000 per incident, up from the present ceiling of $32,500.[(SF Chronicle) Senate guest worker plan survives attack:][8] The first critical test vote after Bush's speech came Tuesday when the Senate defeated an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, D-Ga., that would have required the administration to certify that the borders were secure before legal immigration could be expanded. The amendment, which would have brought down the entire bill, lost 40-55 when 17 Republicans joined 38 Democrats to defeat it. The vote "was a good sign that we've got a majority coalition to hold together on it," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a key conservative backer of the legislation. He said Bush's call Monday to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the border helped undermine a key conservative objection. "A number of people have been calling for National Guard troops on the border for some time," Brownback said. "So he said, fine, he'll do it. I think it helped on that."How to contact As always, you can find information to contact members of the Kansas congressional delegation [here.][9] [1]: http://roberts.senate.gov/05-16-2006.htm [2]: http://www2.ljworld.com/blogs/kansas_congress/2006/mar/08/warrantless/ [3]: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0517nsa0517.html [4]: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,195752,00.html [5]: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/nation/14598959.htm [6]: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/17/washington/17cia.html?hp&ex=1147838400&en=e219b55536dcfac3&ei=5094&partner=homepage [7]: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/story/418303p-353307c.html [8]: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/17/MNGIIIT7VA1.DTL [9]: http://ljworld.com/extra/where_to_write.html#fed


Jamesaust 12 years ago

This is rich.

As I've pointed out at LJW before, Roberts has claimed previously that statutory requirements to have the Intelligence Committees be briefed are satisfied as long as a few people on these Committees are briefed. Such a claim does violence to the plain language of the statute.

This mess provided a perfect example why Roberts' (prior) interpretation did not make sense: the few persons who were briefed were forbidden to speak with other members of the Committees who were not briefed - which, of course, is a prerequisite for any contrary action the Committees might wish to take, e.g., challenging the Executive. In essence, the (prior) Roberts' policy was one of Legislative emasculation.

What is more interesting is: what did Roberts trade away for this change? My guess is limitation on standing for any court to rule on the legality of these programs. Despite a cacophony of talking heads spouting Karl Rove's talking points about how perfectly constitutional these programs are and how they do not conflict with the law, behind the scenes few issues have generated such desperate iniative from this Executive as finding any means to keep these issues from being adjudicated in the courts, including the secret FISA court.

Seeing that Roberts doesn't want to do his constitutional oversight job, perhaps HE should have been the CIA Director nominee. But, alas, that (and the Attorney General's job) is one of the few executive branch positions which require on occasion saying "no" to the Vice President .... oops, I mean, President.

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