Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin today criticized columnist George Will, suggesting he lives in “pre-September 11 America,” because Will argued that Congress would likely have authorized President Bush’s spying program if the White House had simply requested it.
Just one teensy weensy problem: the NSA program was (and still is) classified. Is Will suggesting that Bush could have requested the authority he needed without revealing the existence of the NSA program? Or does he think Bush should have trusted 535 members of Congress and their staffers to keep the program secret?
Michelle Malkin apparently doesn’t understand how Congress works. The existence of NSA surveillance operations is classified. The authorities under which they operate are not. (In fact, you can go read them.) Will is suggesting that President Bush could have requested the authority he needed from Congress without revealing the actual operation, because this is precisely what the NSA does, pursuant to the law.
When the NSA seeks a change in statute, a joint meeting of the House and Senate intelligence committees is arranged. If they deem the changes appropriate, the committees fashion the necessary legislation, which then works its way through Congress.
Malkin seems to believe this is a rare occurence. Actually, it happens all the time. Every year, Congress must produce an intelligence budget, the overwhelming majority of which is classified. Other than two occassions when CIA director George Tenet discussed the total intelligence budget figure, “Officials have not released totals…, nor have they ever provided a breakdown of the intelligence budget by agency or activity.”
Michelle Malkin needs a civics refresher.