While the public attention has been very focused on his shooting accident, Vice President Cheney has been using the time to wage a vigorous, behind-the-scenes defense of Bush’s domestic surveillance program.
The AP reports Cheney has been playing “the role of point man in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program in the war on terror.” And the Washington Post claims Cheney is winning the argument by lobbying conservative critics of the program:
[Senate Intelligence Committee members] attributed the shift to last week’s closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. “It’s been a full-court press,” said a top Senate Republican aide…
It appears Cheney may be figuring out a way to placate critics in Congress. The Post explains what the compromise might be:
Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would “specifically authorize this program” by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
DeWine’s solution completely overlooks the major problem with Bush’s illegal domestic spying program. The administration has argued that FISA doesn’t apply to its program, and DeWine simply wants to embed that viewpoint into law. By doing so, the DeWine legislation would grant authority to the administration to continue to conduct its program without any legal checks or safeguards on its powers.
DeWine should know better. His efforts to reform FISA were disingenuously rejected in 2002 by the Justice Department. The administration clearly has no problem misleading Congress about its program, and DeWine now wants to reward Cheney and other administration officials by giving them a legal blank check.