Wednesday, January 17, 2007

FISA -- that was then and this is now

By Libby Spencer

In an abrupt about face, after arguing for well over a year that their warrantless wiretapping was not only justified but entirely legal, the White House announced that it would be willing to submit it to overview from a FISA court after all. Which may be a moot point since Bush's personal stooge, AG Gonzales, also announced the administration would be dropping this program -- which they consistently claimed was integral to the neverending war on terrorism -- once the current authorization expires, "in favor of a new approach." I don't want to think about what new civil-liberty-busting scheme they have up their sleeve now.

In the meantime, all this flip-flopping is enough to make one break out the dramamine. As Glenn Greenwald points out, this leaves Bush supporters who bought the White House's arguments in favor of the illegal eavesdropping with some major egg on their face. Enough to make an omelet big enough to solve world hunger. How are they now to reconcile supporting the president's right to break the law when he suddenly decided to comply with it?

Furthermore, what is one to make of the fact that the White House's main argument in favor of ignoring the law in the first place was that it carried too stringent a standard by insisting the government show the centuries-old requirement of probable cause rather than the low standard of "reasonable suspicion" the administration claimed was necessary in order to act rapidly against alleged terrorist threats?

It's difficult not to read this as a response to the turnover in the Congress, since under a Democratic majority the White House is now facing real investigation of the illegal practice. Perhaps the White House is hoping to avoid the hearings by agreeing to play by the rules. One hopes the Democrats won't be so easily dissuaded from pursuing the investigations anyway, in order to exact some accountability for the administration's previous actions over the last five years.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


Libby has another good post on Gonzales here. (And so does TalkLeft here and Daily Kos here.)

For reaction from around the blogosphere to the FISA news, see The Carpetbagger Report, The Mahablog, Political Animal, Balkinization, The Democratic Daily, The Huffington Post, The Heretik, Gun Toting Liberal, TalkLeft, Liberal Values, and, further to the right, where there may not be quite as much enthusiasm for this flip-flop, Captain's Quarters, The Volokh Conspiracy, and JustOneMinute.

Gonzales's letter to Sens. Leahy and Specter can be found here.

And there's more essential Greenwald.

And be sure to check out Creature's State of the Day.


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