When people asked us why we were so adamently opposed to King getting the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, our answer was simple; the job is too important for someone the likes of King to control. Simply put, king was not, is not and will never be up to the job.
King was on CNN's Situation Room sunday night with Rep. Charlie Rangel. The exchange is what you would expect from King; ill-informed and belligerent. The session touched on Iraq but for now we're just going to deal with the wiretap scandal.
Blitzer starts off asking rangel if Bush broke the law. rangel responded "It seems that way to me, but the president ought to come forward. If -- if they say there was a law, he ought to bring it to the Congress immediately."
King true to form invokes 9/11 and throws in a little blame for Clinton "Well, first of all, Wolf, if he had done this back in 1998, 1999 and 2000, we probably wouldn't have had the attacks of September 11."
The fact is through conventional methods AND using the FISA Court, which has issued a few thousand warrants over the past few years, the Clinton administration was able to stop terroris attacks here and abroad. In fact, conventional legal methods did lead to the August 8th Presidential Daily Briefing warning of imminent terrorist attacks in the US... which were dutifully ignored by the Bush adminstration.
King continues "As far as the legal justification, I was listening to well, Professor Rodstein (ph), from Georgetown, today, who said you could certainly make an argument that Article 2 of the Constitution and also the legislation passed after September 11 does give the president that power."
Well.. no. Any and all powers given to the president other than pardons are subect to advice and consent of congress. The president can issue executive orders but those cannot violate existing law. Existing law says the NSA cannot spy domestically and wiretaps like those ordered by Bush require the approval of the FISA Court. Nothing in legislation after 9/11 or in Article 2 allows an imperal presidency.
King goes for the next excuse saying that Bush consulted with Democratic leaders "And let's keep in mind, there's nothing secret about this politically. The president brought in the democratic leaders of the House and Senate and the democratic leaders on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. So, he was faced with a situation where there were Islamic terrorists attempting to kill us. And he brought in the opposition. If he was trying to sneak something over, you wouldn't bring in Nancy Pelosi, you wouldn't bring in Harry Reid, you wouldn't bring in Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, at J. Rockefeller."
Really? In a statement issued by Sen. Reid, he says something quite different. The Democrats were not made aware of the wiretap program until 3 years after it began and was about to be made public anyway "The President asserted in his December 17th radio address that “leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.”
This statement gives the American public a very misleading impression that the President fully consulted with Congress.
“First, it is quite likely that 96 Senators of 100 Senators, including 13 of 15 on the Senate Intelligence Committee first learned about this program in the New York Times, not from any Administration briefing.
“I personally received a single very short briefing on this program earlier this year prior to its public disclosure. That briefing occurred more than three years after the President said this program began.
“The Administration briefers did not seek my advice or consent about the program, and based on what I have heard publicly since, key details about the program apparently were not provided to me.
“Under current Administration briefing guidelines, members of Congress are informed after decisions are made, have virtually no ability to either approve or reject a program, and are prohibited from discussing these types of programs with nearly all of their fellow members and all of their staff."
Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi says (via jesseberney.com) "When I was advised of President Bush’s decision to authorize these activities, I expressed my strong concerns verbally and in a classified letter to the Administration. The Bush Administration, however, made clear that it did not believe that Congressional notification was required and it also did not believe that Congressional approval was required to conduct these activities. I have attached a copy of my statement on the President’s disclosure."
Senator Jay Rockefeller in a statemnet also destroys the "we let the opposition know" lie "For the last few days, I have witnessed the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General repeatedly misrepresent the facts.
“The record needs to be set clear that the Administration never afforded members briefed on the program an opportunity to either approve or disapprove the NSA program. The limited members who were told of the program were prohibited by the Administration from sharing any information about it with our colleagues, including other members of the Intelligence Committees.
“At the time, I expressed my concerns to Vice President Cheney that the limited information provided to Congress was so overly restricted that it prevented members of Congress from conducting meaningful oversight of the legal and operational aspects of the program.
“These concerns were never addressed, and I was prohibited from sharing my views with my colleagues.
“Now that this issue has been brought out into the open, I strongly urge the Senate Intelligence Committee to immediately undertake a full investigation into the legal and operational aspects of the program, including the lack of sufficient congressional oversight.”
So King is under the impression that Democrats were in on this from the beginning and never said anything? He keeps on this thread for a few more minutes even after being corrected:
"RANGEL: Well, at least one of those four people have indicated that they were sworn to secrecy and they did protest. I tell you this, that bringing in someone and says a secret. If you tell the rest of the world what I'm doing and being subjected to an indictment by the grand jury is not really as open as you say, Mr. Chairman.
KING: Charlie, it's certainly opened up -- if he was trying to put one over on anyone, you wouldn't bring in the opposition."
Even Blitzer jumped in "BLITZER: But my point is that what good is it bringing in just the leaders and swearing them to secrecy? And the second point is that any dictator can do what he's done and then say there should be a law. The question is, he ought to show us the constitutional law in which he acted."
King swings around a little saying Bush SHOULD have imperial powers "And Charlie, my point is listen, maybe we should pass laws to make it more specific that he has the right to do it. But he's charged -- you know, not you or I, but he's charged with defending the lives of all Americans. In the wake of September 11, I think he did the right thing and I think if we do want to question it, then I think we should say how do we change the law to accommodate it? Because this is a real need. If you have people in the United States who are telephoning out or receiving calls in from a known terrorist overseas, certainly we should be using our track surveillance on that."
"Well, as Professor Rodstein (ph) said today, arguments have been made at that -- Article 2 of the constitution does give the president the inherent power to carry this out. And if not, we should make sure he does have it. Because I think if we're going to survive as a nation, we have to give the president of the United States that power. And I don't think any dictator brings in leaders of the opposition to tell them what he's doing if he's trying to put one over on the American people or any people."
So King is saying in a convoluted way that Bush DID NOT have the power under law. When soemone lies so often, the web they weave gets tangled. The fact is the FISA courts do the job that needs to be done and there is no need for Bush to have such absolute, unchecked power.
Again King tries to say that the Democrats knew about this from the beginning when in fact they did not.
Blitzer to his credit doesn't let up on King and pushed for a real answer. King doesn't give one as usual.
"BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment, but Congressman King, the argument is that the president could have done this by simply going to that -- what's called that "Phizer Court," the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act court. There's a judge there who sits in super-secret session over at the Justice Department. And also on a routine basis, rubber stamps these requests for wire taps, for surveillance. So what was the problem with simply doing that and then you have the cover of a court order?
KING: Wolf, I was not present at the meetings, but I do know -- I've spoken to members of Congress who were at the meetings, -- the end of each meeting at the White House, they would be asked -- they would ask you of any concern or any problems with this, and people I spoke to were there, said none were ever raised. I mean, that's -- I assume the reason why they were brought down to the White House was to explain to them why they were using this extraordinary procedure, rather than getting the Phizer Court Order. If they could get it -- I assume they would have gotten it. It could have been a question of time. They also had the chief judge of the Phizer Court there for at least one of those meetings."
1) King wasn't at the meetings so everything he says is pure B..... er... conjecture.
2) So why would the FISA Court reject Bush administration requests? What was so wrong with the requests? Since 1979, the FISA Court has recieved about 19,000 requests. They have denied only 5.
King again invokes 9/11 ignoring that current law through proper legal channel allows warrants for wiretaps. "In the wake of September 11, I think he did the right thing and I think if we do want to question it, then I think we should say how do we change the law to accommodate it? Because this is a real need. If you have people in the United States who are telephoning out or receiving calls in from a known terrorist overseas, certainly we should be using our track surveillance on that."
King once again admits that Bush had no legal authority on one had while he is still arguing that Bush DID have legal authority on the other. King is getting confused.
And no one is arguing against using our LEGAL resources to keep track of terrorists. This is just a cheap straw-man argument to portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism. This of course is what King is good at doing.
I'll let Rep. Rangel and Wolf Blitzer push King further into the corner:
BLITZER: We just heard Congressman King, Charlie Rangel say that this is an extraordinary time after 9/11 and the president has to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people, including this extraordinary authorization. You don't buy that..
RANGEL: Of course not. First of all, when Pete says would the president be doing something and then invite the leaders in and tell them? You bet your life. If he swears them to secrecy and they're subject to the grand jury indictment, then they can't not talk with Pet or with me about what went on in those meetings. But the whole concept because we're at war, it is at this time, if we're trying to instill democracy in a foreign country -- even though I don't think that's the mandate of the United States military. The one thing we should do is to obey the law. And you just can't say because it's war time that the president is above the law. That's absolutely ridiculous.
BLITZER: Alright, Congressman King, you want to just briefly respond to that?
KING: I don't think he is above the law, I think is it that within his inherent powers as commander in chief? And Charlie, when he had the Democratic leaders in, I'd like to know did any of them forcefully object? If I were called into a meeting with the president...
BLITZER: ... Well, let me interrupt for, Congressman King, I'll respond because they've issued statements saying they were briefed, the leaders of the Senate, the Democratic leader of the Senate, the democratic leader in the house, the ranking democrats on the intelligence committees in the Senate and the House; and several of them have said, yes they knew about it, but they did express their concerns. Of course, given the highly natured classification how secretive and sensitive this was, they couldn't say anything publicly.
KING: Well, if there were 12 meetings -- I mean, if I were called into one of those meetings and I really thought there was a constitutional problem, I would do more than just to say I have a concern. Every meeting I went to, I would say, Mr. President, this is wrong. I don't want to be a part of it. I mean, so certainly, they could have protested a little more than they apparently did. I mean, all of us could have different concerns where this go too far or that goes too far.
RANGEL: I thought about that too, Pete. But after the guy tells you you're sworn to secrecy, then you just can't get up and look out.
BLITZER: Well, the other argument, or let me just wrap this up, Congressman Rangel. The other argument the White House makes is that career lawyers at the National Security Agency, at the Justice Department, as well as the White House counsel -- they authorized this opinion and said it was okay for the president to do this.
RANGEL: Well, I hope he's right and he should really come forward and say that. The same way he said that he had mistaken intelligence that led us to war and mislead the Congress. Let it all hang out. But I have not heard publicly where the president got the authority to eavesdrop on American citizens when the law is abundantly clear?
BLITZER: And we're anxious, Congressman King, to get that legal opinion from the White House, and we'll have a much better sense as Senator Spector, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said today he wants to get that legal justification for this extraordinary move by the president.