WHAT A DIFFERENCE eight years makes. In 1998, then-Atty. Gen. Janet Reno was repeatedly battered by Congress for showing insufficient independence from President Clinton (by naming only seven independent counsels instead of nine to investigate his administration). Republicans in one House committee issued Reno a rare contempt citation for refusing to cough up internal memos, while U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman opined that she was "in effect acting as the president's counsel under the false guise of representing the United States."
In 2006, the independent counsel law is gone, many Republicans have rediscovered the joys of White House secrecy, and the attorney general not only acts like the president's counsel, he was the president's counsel for four critical years. So it should come as no great surprise that Alberto R. Gonzales sounded more like a White House spokesman on Monday than the country's chief law enforcement officer. But that doesn't make the attorney general's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens any less disappointing.
Gonzales's appearance went as expected. He tapdanced around the truth, and avoided answering any question of substance. One exchange that I did find interesting simply because it does show how far the republicans are willing to go.
FEINSTEIN: Can the president suspend, in secret or otherwise, the application of Section 503 of the National Security Act, which states that no covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media? In other words, can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda?
GONZALES: Senator, this will probably be my response to all of your questions of these kind of hypotheticals. Questions as to whether or not can Congress pass a statute that is in tension with the President's constitutional authority? Those are very, very difficult questions, and for me to answer those questions sort of off the cuff, I think would not be responsible.
Sen Feinstine asks a yes or no question, and he spins away from it. This question was not about terrorism, or security, but political use of the security systems. A question that should be easy to answer in the negative
and he refuses.
It sure makes Paul Craig Roberts Monday piece more interesting. It is clear that not everyone on the right is willing to drink this kool-aid.
Hat tip to No More Mr. Nice Blog
Domestic Spying <