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Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Didn't They Know? When Didn't They Know It?

Jane Harmon writes:

As ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee from 2003 to 2006, I was part of the so-called Gang of Eight -- a group made up of the House and Senate leaders plus the chairs and ranking members of the two chambers' intelligence committees that is required by law to be briefed on the CIA's "covert" action programs. . . .

It is now clear to me that we learned only what the briefers wanted to tell us -- even though they were required by law to keep us "fully and currently informed." Absent the ability to do any independent research, it did not occur to me then that the program was operated wholly outside of the framework Congress created as the exclusive means to conduct such surveillance: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Nor did I know that the Justice Department was cut out of the process, and that one lawyer, John Yoo, had drafted the internal memo justifying the TSP under the president's Article 2 authorities. A new head of the Office of Legal Counsel repudiated that memo, citing the "shoddiness" of the legal reasoning. Among other things, it even failed to cite the key Supreme Court precedent -- the steel-seizure case -- which held in 1952 that when Congress has acted on an issue (as it did by passing FISA in 1978), the president's power is at its "lowest ebb."

And I did not know -- until I read it in the press -- of the 2004 drama at then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's hospital bedside, when Bush officials sought his sign-off on an extension of the program. I recall being told that there was a "glitch" in the approval process. A glitch? More like a near-hijacking of our democracy.

more at the link: What the CIA hid from Congress - Los Angeles Times


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