Conflicting reports surfaced on Thursday in regards to NSA, General Mike Hayden, and President Bush. The conflicts surround the use of wiretaps, softening the stance on FISA reform and an exposure of the NSA acquiring tens of millions of Private Americans’ telephone records.
Addressing them in chronological order, first this morning were reports that General Hayden was softening his stance.
CIA nominee Michael Hayden told a Democratic senator he may be open to changes in eavesdropping law to allow the Bush administration’s warrant less surveillance.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is reported to have said that Hayden would support debate in Congress regarding changes in the law. He was quoted by Durbin as saying,
“With all the publicity that has surrounded this program, we may be closer to the possibility of asking for a change in FISA.”
“He didn’t say he would,” Durbin added.
Now hold that thought.
Next up was a couple of hours later, when a paper report stated that the NSA had collected tens of millions of Private American citizen’s telephone records. Apparently the Bush Administration has had the NSA colleting private citizen’s phone records since 9/11, in order to build a database of every single telephone call made within the United States. It doesn’t sound to me like the terrorists are getting exclusive treatment anymore.
Dems and Rebubs were simultaneously demanding response from the White House as soon as the report surfaced on Thursday. Most notably, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was quoted as saying,
“It is our government, it’s not one party’s government. It’s America’s government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,”
The saga continues
Shortly after the second story, President Bush weakly responded. The USA Today reports, that three major companies, AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp., had begun to turn over their records to the NSA after 9/11, were neither denied nor confirmed. Interestingly, Qwest has been reported to have refused the NSA request, citing legal and privacy questions. Bush was quoted as saying in response to USA Today’s report,
“Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaida and their known affiliates,” Bush said. “We’re not mining or trolling through the private lives of innocent Americans.”
The list of Senators and Congressmen up in arms to all of this is large and growing fast, and oddly enough, Gen. Hayden’s scheduled visits with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were mysteriously, and without comment, postponed. Makes you wonder, did he step on untimely toes with his statements to Sen. Durban? Is the White House pulling back for damage control? These NSA actions were led by Hayden while he was Director of the NSA, therefore calling him into accountability as well. Even Durban seems to be pulling back a bit on his support of Gen. Hayden in saying,
“It is not a question of General Hayden’s qualifications,” Durbin said. “There is no doubt that this man is probably one of the smartest men when it comes to intelligence gathering in America.”
Yet the AP reports clearly cite “Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, is reserving judgment on supporting Hayden. He questioned Hayden’s role in the wiretapping program, whether he could be independent from the military establishment and whether he would respect Congress’ ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of terror detainees.”
I predicted this week could be interesting, and Friday is yet to come. I’m still not sure where all this will lead, but I grow increasingly uneasy as more and more administration secrets come to life, and a growing number of Republicans shed yet another skin and slither back into the tall grass.