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Kristol: It’s ‘Unbelievable’ That Congress Won’t Give Bush ‘The Benefit Of The Doubt’ On Spying

By Amanda Terkel  

"Kristol: It’s ‘Unbelievable’ That Congress Won’t Give Bush ‘The Benefit Of The Doubt’ On Spying"

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Today on Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol mourned that an “emboldened” Congress refused to give telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for cooperating with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping.

Kristol said it was “unbelievable” for lawmakers to question the judgment of administration officials. Instead, he argued, Congress should just give them the “benefit of the doubt”:

I think it’s kind of unbelievable, frankly. It’s a judgment call. We don’t know. Not to give the administration the benefit of the doubt when they have career people, military people, intelligence people like Mike McConnell and Mike Hayden, and the attorney general, Mike Mukasey — I mean, these are not political hacks. These are not ideological people.

When they say this is important for our national security, the Congress — to block this legislation I find pretty amazing.

Watch it:

The Bush administration secretly conducted spying in violation of the Constitution and the law for four years before The New York Times disclosed it in 2005. For years, the White House lied about these activities to the American public. For example, in 2004, Bush claimed that “a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way.” At least one telco refused to comply with the Bush administration’s request because it knew the actions were illegal.

Even now, the administration continues to lie about the consequences of the Protect America Act expiration. Just yesterday, Bush stated that it will now “be harder for our government to keep you safe from terrorist attack.” But as an expert from the Cato Institute admits, this statement isn’t true: “There’s no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006.”

Transcript:

WALLACE: Well, let’s talk about the politics of this fight, because it seems to me it represents the strongest challenge so far by the congressional Democrats since they have gotten the majority in Congress to President Bush’s national security policy.

In the past, they’ve huffed and puffed and generally caved in to what the president wanted. This time they didn’t. They allowed the law to expire and went home.

Bill Kristol, what’s different this time?

KRISTOL: Well, they’re emboldened, I guess, and they seem to believe that the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, a career military man, career intelligence guy, director of the National Security Agency under Bill Clinton for the first half of the 1990s — that he is not telling the truth.

That’s what Ted Kennedy said, that the DNI’s statements, the director of national intelligence’s statements, are shameless on the part of the administration.

President Bush says he’s following his recommendations. They need this liability protection for the telecommunications companies to make sure they have robust private sector cooperation across the board, not just on eavesdropping or, I think, for our spying efforts, our eavesdropping efforts.

They say this has stopped threats. McConnell says that the Al Qaida is reconstituting itself in safe havens, unfortunately, in the northwest side of Pakistan.

I think it’s kind of unbelievable, frankly. It’s a judgment call. We don’t know. Not to give the administration the benefit of the doubt when they have career people, military people, intelligence people like Mike McConnell and Mike Hayden, and the attorney general, Mike Mukasey — I mean, these are not political hacks. These are not ideological people.

When they say this is important for our national security, the Congress — to block this legislation I find pretty amazing.

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