Monday, February 27, 2006

White House Rejects Special Counsel

I find this post rather ironic. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday rejected the call by several House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration's eavesdropping program.

"I think that where these Democrats who are calling for this ought to spend their time is on what was the source of the unauthorized disclosure of this vital and critical program in the war on terrorism," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I really don't think there is any basis for a special counsel. ... But the fact that this information was disclosed about the existence of this program has given the enemy some of our playbook."

You've got to love Scotty McClellan's remark here. Senate Democrats are calling for a special counsel to investigate Bush's eavesdropping program on the premise that Bush is domestically spying on Americans without any search warrants. And how does Scotty respond? By claiming that the Democrats should really look into who was the whistleblower on this program, that the disclosure of this program harmed U.S. efforts on the war on terrorism (The terrorists now know our playbook), and that the special counsel is not needed. In effect, Scotty spins this whole issue on top of its head, yet refuses to provide any details regarding this illegal spying operation. Continuing on:

In a letter released Monday, 18 House Democrats told Bush that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should appoint a special counsel. They said the surveillance of terrorists must be done within the bounds of U.S. law, but complained that their efforts to get answers to legal and factual questions about the program have been stymied — "generally based on the feeblest of excuses."

"If the effort to prevent vigorous and appropriate investigation succeeds, we fear the inexorable conclusion will be that these executive branch agencies hold themselves above the law and accountable to no one," wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary and
Homeland Security committees.

The lawmakers initially asked the independent watchdogs at the Justice and Defense departments to open inquiries. Both declined.

Justice's inspector general Glenn Fine said he lacked authority, and deferred to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility. That office has said it is investigating the conduct of the department's lawyers, but not the program's lawfulness.

Congress' investigative arm, the General Accountability Office, similarly declined to open a review, noting the administration would be expected to designate the necessary documents as foreign intelligence materials and limit access to them.

The Democrats see "ample precedent" for a special counsel, citing the Justice Department's appointment of U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

After 22 months of investigation, Fitzgerald indicted the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for allegedly lying about his role in the disclosure.

"Indeed, the allegation of a secret NSA spying program conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of U.S. persons is at least as serious" as the matter Fitzgerald investigated, the Democrats wrote.

In their six-page letter, the Democrats said the special counsel should investigate any possible violation of federal criminal law, noting that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act says the monitoring of U.S. citizens and residents — without a warrant — is punishable by imprisonment.

Bush administration officials have argued the program does not fall within that law. They say Bush was exercising his constitutional authority as commander in chief when he allowed the National Security Agency to monitor — without court approval — the international calls and e-mails of people inside the U.S. when one party may be linked to terrorism.

The administration also maintains the president had the power to order the surveillance under a broad 2001 authorization to use military force in the war on terror.

The last thing that the Bush administration wants is to have a special counsel looking into any of their scandals. Already, the direction of the Valerie Plame leak is pointing towards the White House. And you can bet that an investigation by an independent prosecutor into this domestic spying program will probably find the White House breaking some major laws--in other words, spying without a search warrant. If the dirt on domestic spying ever becomes public, you can bet it will be grounds for impeachment. So the White House is stalling, while at the same time trying to maintain Republican control of Congress. Because you can bet that if the Democrats do gain control of one or both houses of Congress, they are going to start initiating congressional investigations into all of these scandals--Valerie Plame, intelligence failures, domestic spying, Katrina. And if the Democrats do gain control of one or both houses, the White House dirty laundry will really start coming out.

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