Concern Over Wider Spying Under New Law:

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans' business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language…

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.
(Background on the bill here and here.)

And now that the Dems are being grilled about this clusterfuck of a law they allowed to pass, once again, we hear that same old chestnut: Thems was ascared!

Though many Democratic leaders opposed the final version of the legislation, they did not work forcefully to block its passage, largely out of fear that they would be criticized by President Bush and Republican leaders during the August recess as being soft on terrorism.
The irony that no one ever bothers to point out being, once again, that in caving to the bullying Bushies because of that threat, the Dems prove they really are soft on terrorism—the terrorism that's been emanating from the White House for the last six years.

The Bush administration has spent every day since September 11, 2001 making sure that we are a phobic nation, paralyzed with fear and thusly complacent and compliant. They terrorized us into supporting an unnecessary war with mendacious imagery of mushroom clouds and dirty bombs, terrorized us into reelecting them in 2004 with politically-timed terror warnings, terrorized us into going along with whatever subversion of our Constitution the Bush administration suggests is necessary to protect us, terrorized us into giving up our rights and freedoms and conferring upon the executive branch an unprecedented centralization of power.

And the stupid, craven fear of being seen as “soft on terror” has made most Democrats go along with this coup by a thousand cuts every step of the way. Even now, even after having won a Congressional majority last November with the people's mandate to stand up to the Bush administration and the GOP, they still cower and genuflect at the feet of a lame duck of a president who sits atop a crumbling throne. Pathetic.

I’ve no doubt that a Democratic leadership would be better for fighting the brand of terrorism incessantly invoked by the Bush administration to cow us, but the Dems have proven themselves profoundly lacking in fighting the brand of terrorism that haunts us at home, that radiates from the top levels of our government and wrenches from our hands the liberty and principles that Bush’s “war on terror” is meant to defend. Too much time worrying about perceptions of their support for the War on Terror has left the Democrats hopelessly inept in fighting the War of Terror that continues to be waged in America.

And where has it gotten us?

At a tense meeting last week with lawyers from a range of private groups active in the wiretapping issue, senior Justice Department officials refused to commit the administration to adhering to the limits laid out in the new legislation and left open the possibility that the president could once again use what they have said in other instances is his constitutional authority to act outside the regulations set by Congress.

At the meeting, Bruce Fein, a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration, along with other critics of the legislation, pressed Justice Department officials repeatedly for an assurance that the administration considered itself bound by the restrictions imposed by Congress. The Justice Department, led by Ken Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national security, refused to do so, according to three participants in the meeting.

…“They were careful not to concede any authority that they believe they have under Article II,” [Brian Walsh, a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who attended the same private meeting with Justice Department officials] said. “If they think they have the constitutional authority, it wouldn’t make sense to commit to not using it.”
Lucky, lucky us.

Libby's got more.

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