Senate Showdown Tuesday on NSA Domestic Spying

Jon Perr

Tomorrow is shaping as "Showdown Tuesday" for the Senate Intelligence Committee. On Tuesday, the Intelligence Committee led by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (and including Oregon's own Ron Wyden) will decide whether to investigate President Bush's illegal NSA domestic wiretapping  program. At this point, the vote could go either way.

Whether Roberts' committee once again abdicates its oversight role likely comes to down the votes of three Republican members previously critical of the NSA program: Mike DeWine of Ohio, Maine's Olympia Snowe and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. DeWine, who has both advocated legislation retroactively authorizing the program and sought to avoid a discussion of its constitutionality, will almost assuredly vote against an investigation. The full pressure of Karl Rove and the Bush White House will be focused on Snowe, who previously called for a joint inquiry by the Judiciary and Intelligence committees and Hagel, who on January 29th declared of the President:

"He [Bush] just can't unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law."

There should be no doubt where Chairman Pat Roberts and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist stand on the issue. Roberts, who continues to stonewall the promised "Phase II" Intel Committee investigation into the misuses of pre-Iraq war intelligence, authored a letter on February 3rd staunchly supporting the dubious White House legal justification for the program. And just this past Friday, Frist fired a shot across the Democrats' bow, threatening to curb the committee's charter should it proceed with an inquiry into Bush's domestic spying. Far from playing the role of "peacemakers" as described by Byron Wolf of ABC News, Frist and Roberts are trying to stop any oversight of the Bush White House dead in its tracks.

Tuesday's showdown was already delayed once, as a scheduled February 16th vote was pushed back to allow the Bush administration more time to twist arms and perhaps crack some heads. Tomorrow, we'll find out if it worked.

(For the latest news, legal documents, key statutes, timelines and other essential materials, see the Perrspectives NSA Scandal Resource Center.)

  • wg (unverified)

    Full investigation into NSA scandal would likely lead to impeachment proceedings against Bush. Faced with this GOP stood firm and we have what we have, see today's WaPo article. No investigation and new legislation bypassing FISA for current and future NSA programs. Based on White House inspired DeWine's bill that hasn't been made public yet. (Specter's proposal which is known was rejected by the committee).

    They report visibly frustrated Rockefeller as saying "The committee, to put it bluntly, is basically under the control of the White House through its chairman". I wonder what Sen. Wyden thinks about it to the extent he can share it with his constituents.

  • W. Bruce Anderholt II (unverified)

    Rep. Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) issued a statement saying that although the Bush administration "has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well not have been legal," given the reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate, "it would be impractical to talk about impeachment."

  • wg (unverified)
    <h2>True, the numbers are theirs but if I were Rove I would worry about a GOP-er or two going bad on me with unpredictable consequences. After all the level of mendacity here have long far exceeded that connected with the blue dress. Add to it the level of incompetence rarely seen in the history of this republic and your numeric advantage could disappear any day.</h2>

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