Tinsel Wing

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One cheer for democracy

Only one cheer, because this piece of apparent good news is destined to slide down the oubliette - and as likely as not designed to do so.

The Washington Post Sunday noted a bunch of really sweet requirements on the Executive voted in by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, thanks to a coalition of all Democrats with Republican "moderates" Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

  • As recommended by the September 11 commission, the total spending of all intelligence agencies is to be reported to the public.

  • The AG is to report within six months on the pros and cons of breaking that total down among the various agencies.

  • All members of the intelligence committees of the two chambers are to be given a complete list of all clandestine prisons maintained by the United States.

  • Whenever a subset of the intel committees is briefed on a matter, all members must be informed of the brief and its basic subject.

  • As long as Hayden is both CIA head and active military, he shall "not [be] subject to the supervision or control of the Secretary of Defense."


All well and good. However, at the President's direction, the House will kill all these provisions, as it has killed the first one before. This is purely a symbolic gesture on the part of Snowe and Hagel. Whenever they have an opportunity to take an action that will result in an actual effect, they join with Chairman Roberts in backing the President's one-man rule to the hilt.

For example, they have consistently voted against any real investigation into the NSA's domestic wiretapping; they have voted against any investigation into how the Administration used or misused the pre-war intelligence on Iraq; and they have both signed on to the DeWine legislation, which would retroactively legalize the NSA program, without ever learning what it actually consists of, and make it a felony for any member of Congress briefed on the program to make any comment on it in public, thus essentially criminalizing the act of oversight.

Where the President's attacks on the Constitution, the rule of law, and the separation of powers are concerned, these two have reliably performed as MINOs: moderates in name only.

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