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l. The Senate Hearings On Bush's Illegal Domestic Surveillance Program - Live

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Welcome readers from: Atrios, Agonist, Blanton & Ashton, Echidne, Suburban Guerilla--

Here are the links to hearing coverage:

Monday, part 1: This post (read on).

Monday, part 2.

Monday, part 3.

Live, now
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gonzales courtesy of TIME

Image Courtesy of Time, Inc.

Would You Buy A Used Kiddie Cart From This Man?

Here is what is at stake in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that begin today, in terms of our constitution, our way of life, not to mention our fortunes and our sacred honor: I've quoted this from Katherine at Obsidian Wings before, but it's so thoroughly and clearly to the point that it bears more reptitions than just this one:

Look. We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it’s limited by the country’s laws, but they’ve got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing.

I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.

September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen—no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they’re found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don’t have to tell their families they’re alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don’t need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes—if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was "unnecessary" but they have never backed down from it.

They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.

That’s the power they claim. At what point are we going to take that claim seriously?"

Well, today is our chance, and there may not be that many more chances to make clear to our fellow Americans what is at issue and at stake here. Paradox, blogging at The Left Coaster makes that point in this post, which, in addition, provides an excellent raison d'etre for why we decided to live blog these hearings.

One would think the base in the blogosphere would hopping with excitement at the coming attack and opportunity to serve, but all is quiet. There are no email blasts from Senate offices, no elected rep teams organized to fling quotes and talking points at the press, no bloggers coordinating fifty possible small tasks directed by the party that would help blatantly expose the criminality of Bush and force him to resign from the shame of it all, never mind coming impeachment. Yet…there’s just nothing, nothing at all.

Make no mistake, Bush and Cheney are more than happy to take this fun little diversion on—why, if the Democrats want to precisely elucidate their many felonies in the matter every day until the November election, nothing would please them more. The administration is positive that not only can this outrageous breach of our constitution be weathered short term, but that it also presents the perfect opportunity to win politically again long term.

God bless America—committing felonies is the surest way to win elections. As incredulous as this amazing scenario may seem to the detached observer it’s 100% true, for Bush and Cheney are totally sure they can frame the felonies and their exposure as Democratic efforts to help terrorism, aid Al Queda and be wussy traitor-like pansies hating America once again.

Steve Soto of the same blog, anticipates that Democrats, following a script Peter Daou has identified as the template for Bush's many non-stick scandals, will be ineffective and lose this argument.

I'm not as sure as either Glenn Greenwald or Steve that Democrats are actually afraid to take this on, but their hesitation is understandable.

The press decided early on the issue of warrantless electronic surveilance is a loser for Democrats, and having created the CW, aren't anxious to see it proved wrong. Pundits continue to quote polls that don't, in fact, show what is claimed - that most Americans are more afraid of another attack than they are of a President who claims not merely that he is above the law, but indeed, that he is the law. Eriposte, also blogging at The Left Coaster, does his usual remarkable job of bringing facts and analysis to the issue of what the polls actually say. Not only should you read it, but you might consider sending the link to any number of Senatorial offices, from Senator Reid on down, and maybe we shouldn't leave out Mrs. Pelosi.

I just watched Glenn Greenwald do an excellent job on C-Span defining the meaning of this particular scandal, in the face of an implacable opponent, Robert Turner, listed as a Professor of something in Virginia, but who seems to have spent a good deal of his resume serving in Republican administrations. Bristling with preemptory energy, Turner started out with the Church committee of the seventies, and its utter lack of ability to find anything in the record of the intelligence community that anyone with any sense should have worried about, which led him smoothly to the conclusion that the FISA law has been unconstitutional since the time of its original passage.

Glenn stayed focused, tough, and reality-based, stressing that the version of constitutional history he was hearing from the good professor could only be called radical. Still, it was easy to see how difficult it can be to engage the arguments made on behalf of this president. They came fast and furiously from Professor Turner, and Glenn skewred several of them, but Turner was a consummate propogandist, filled with facts that aren't true, media citations which don't confirm what he's claiming...well, you don't need me to go on...all I need say is that listening to Professor Turner was like listening to the President, and the Vice-President, and Ken Melhman, and doubtless, exactly like what listening to AG Gonzales will be, today.

One example of what I mean: Mr. Turner, introducing his position, mentioned Coleen Rowley, and the FBI's inability to get the FISA court to agree to a wiretape of Moussaoui. As you probably know, Ms. Rowley, currently running for congress as a Democrat, has debunked that particular talking point; her explanation, availble on her website, is well worth reading,

Glenn Greenwald is live blogging the hearing from inside the chamber; he's more expert than we are, but we think at least two blogs ought to be keeping track of things, because so far, the netroots aren't that far ahead of the Democrats on this one...so stay tuned, and start thinking how we can make the most of these hearings.

You can check out Glenn's analysis, plus lots of other great things he has up, including a preview of Senator's Kennedy's line of questioning, by clicking here.

Another quick example of Mr. Turner's idea of argument; at one point he analogized that the FISA court was to a President as a demand for a warrant would be for a soldier on a battle field before he takes a shot at an enemy? I should also note that he appeared to have someone, or ones, possibly students, just off camera, handing him researched talking points.

Also please note, that the callers, who were few because of the Professor's long-winded answers, were more line with Glenn's position than with Mr. Turner's, and those callers had an impressive and impassioned grasp of the facts.

I'm telling you, this is a winnable argument.
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Monday, February 6th, 2006

Senator Spector has called the hearing to order. The Attorney-General will be the only witness today, and as Spector notes, probably all day.

The questioning will be in ten minute per Senator bites, with multiple oppportunities provided through-out the day.

Specter's introduction is interesting; while he frames the hearing as being about something truly big, a big subject, in subtle ways you can see him accomodating the administration. For instance, although the AG is willing to be sworn, Spector has determined that is not necessary. This creates a small dust-up with Russ Feingold especially curious about why not. Feingold is the Senator who is on record as feeling that Gonzales was less than truthful in a previous hearing. Leahy wonders why not, too? Specter points out that such is not usually the case when someone is a confirmed AG, but Leahy remembers such was not the case with AG Reno, who was often sworn during appearances on the Hill.
Specter insists on his right to decide this issue.

As I said, despite Specter insisting that hearing is about a big subject, he is managing to define it down to a level that is a contained as possible. Interesting sidelight, he has also decided that no video tape will be shown, since transcripts are available - clearly this was a request by Democrats, and undoubtedly one of the pieces of video is of the President reassuring us all, during the 2004 campaign, that when we hear about electronic surveillance we should realize that warrants are involved, nothing has changed.

Leahy, as ranking member, got a few minutes to introduce his own concerns about the subject and they were riveting. Energetic and passionate, Leahy went straight at the central absurdity that Rove et al are pushing - to wit, the differences on this issue of warrantless wiretaps cannot be understood along a divide between those who take terrorism seriously and those who don't. Leahy takes it very seriously; he goes to work everyday in a building that was targeted by "the terrorists." He reminds everyone why in 1978 the congress of the United States passed the FISA law, after it was revealed that abuses of the privacy of American citizens by President's of both parties had been going on for decades; he also tied Bush to Nixon's view that the President has unlimited power, and he reminded Gonzales that all members of congress post 9/11 had been anxious to provide the administration with all the tools they felt they needed to fight Al Queda and capture Bin Ladin; Leahy manages to express a rueful wish they'd succeeded when they had the chance.

Leahy closes with a message for AG Gonzales and his administration: congress is a co-equal branch of government, we write and pass the laws, and if you don't ask us to amend a law you feel doesn't allow you to protect America, that does not give you the right to break that law.

Gonzales gives his own presentation of the issues. It starts with 9/11 and esssentially ends with that...we're at war, we're at war...you've heard or read all these arguments before.

I'll take a pause here and start a new post.

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