Saturday, August 18, 2007

White House Continues to Stall on Subpoenas

Just three days before the latest deadline, the Bush administration asked the Senate Judiciary Committee for more time to produce subpoenaed information about Bush's warrant-less domestic spying program.

Committee Chair Patrick Leahy had set Monday as the deadline to provide the documents and testimony the committee had subpoenaed June 27th. Leahy had agreed to postpone the original July 18th deadline until August 20th at the request of the White House.

Subpoenas had been sent to the Justice Department, National Security Council and the offices of the president and vice president for documents relating to the legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping program.

In an August 8th note to the White House counsel, Leahy said he was setting a new deadline of Aug. 20 because he could not wait any longer.

"You have rejected every proposal, produced none of the responsive documents, provided no basis for any claim of privilege and no accompanying log of withheld documents," wrote Leahy, D-Vt.

But White House Counsel Fred Fielding Friday asked for another extension until after Labor Day:
In a letter to Leahy, White House counsel Fred Fielding argued that the subpoenas called for the production of "extraordinarily sensitive national security information," and he said much of the information — if not all — could be subject to a claim of executive privilege.
Fielding's response to Leahy said that while the White House had identified a core group of documents in response to the subpoenas, the work is "by no means complete" and could not be completed by Monday.
He suggested further conversations with the panel, saying the White House did not want the issue to interfere with the administration's desire to make more permanent the new powers Congress just gave NSA to monitor communications entering the United States involving foreigners who are the subjects of a national security investigation.
In response, Leahy spokeswoman Erica Chabot said:
"In requesting that last extension, the White House counsel suggested that the administration would be ready to respond by Aug. 1. The new deadline is three weeks past the time the White House counsel had estimated was needed. The committee looks forward to the administration complying with the subpoenas."
Of course, the "new powers Congress just gave NSA" are not limited to monitoring "communications entering the United States involving foreigners who are the subjects of a national security investigation."

The "Protect America Act" (sic) excludes from FISA's requirements any and all "surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States."

There is no requirement that the surveillance be conducted outside the U.S.; that the surveillance be "directed at" a person in any way connected to terrorism or other wrongdoing; or that the surveillance excludes communications of U.S. citizens. In fact, the new law excludes from FISA any surveillance that is "directed at" persons overseas or "directed at" persons in the U.S.

The key term is "directed at." The law includes no definition of it.

The president now has the authority to spy on you at any time, in any place, for any reason. And now he doesn't want to explain the legal justification for this power.

Add to this the announcement Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security is set to begin using spy satellites for domestic surveillance, turning its "eyes in sky" inward. The plotline of the Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie Enemy of the State no longer seems fictional, or even outlandish.