Admin briefs Congress on NSA surveillance

Via the WaPo:

Responding to congressional pressure from both parties, the White House agreed yesterday to give lawmakers more information about its domestic surveillance program, although the briefings remain highly classified and limited in scope.

Despite the administration’s overture, several prominent Republicans said they will pursue legislation enabling Congress to conduct more aggressive oversight of the National Security Agency’s warrantless monitoring of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails. Recent disclosure of the four-year-old program has alarmed civil libertarians and divided the GOP, with many Republicans defending the operation and others calling for more information and regulation.

Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former NSA director Michael V. Hayden briefed the House intelligence committee, behind closed doors, for nearly four hours. The panel “was given some additional procedural information to provide a fuller understanding of how carefully tailored and monitored this program is,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

I’ve noticed that the media is desperately trying to spin this issue as one of ‘equal concern’ amongst Republicans and Democrats in Congress and of ‘special concern to Republicans’ (the above is a prime example of that tactic) when in reality it is the Democrats who are raising the biggest stink about this while a handful of Republicans do their duty in responding to those concerns by asking more questions while noting dutifully that they have a few of their own. Don’t be fooled by the media spin.

The AP’s report of this story provided a quote (that wasn’t included in the WaPo’s story *surprise!*) from the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee’s oversight subcommittee:

At least one Democrat left saying he had a better understanding of legal and operational aspects of the anti-terrorist surveillance program. But he said he still had a number of questions.

“It’s a different program than I was beginning to let myself believe,” said Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee’s oversight subcommittee.

“This may be a valuable program,” Cramer said, adding that he didn’t know if it was legal. “My direction of thinking was changed tremendously.”

I think what’s going to happen here is that when all the smoke has cleared, that there won’t be any attempt by Congress to stop the NSA surveillance program – we’ll just have more oversight …. which is what this debate (that should have taken place behind closed doors, instead of being hashed out in the media) really should have been about in the first place, rather than the sometimes-not-so-subtle implications of the usual suspects that the President was sitting behind his desk greedily abusing his power to protect this country in a time of war.

Others blogging about this: Captain Ed, Dafydd at Big Lizards

PM Update: Is all this Congressional brouhaha over the NSA surveillance program nothing more than an attempt at a power grab by Congress? The Wall Street Journal argues that it is (Hat tip: Decision ’08)

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