Earlier this month, the Bush administration announced it was submitting its warrantless domestic spying program to the FISA court for its review. The move was judged by the media to be a “major change,” an “about-face,” and a “sharp reversal.”
But details of the administration’s actions have remained “sketchy,” and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered few clarifying explanations in a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Bush has said, “Nothing has changed in the program except the court has said we’ve analyzed it and it’s a legitimate way to protect the country.”
In an interview this weekend, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said he believes the administration is trying to hide something. He added, “[The administration’s action] is not acceptable to me…simply because I can’t trust what they say.” Rockefeller explained, “In the end, every single wiretap has to have a warrant. No, I don’t trust what they’re doing.” Watch it:
QUESTION: In that same vein, the White House reversed course and said it was going to submit its program to court review. Yet, as chairman of the committee they so far, I believe, have refused to show you the details of that agreement. Do you think they’re trying to hide something?
ROCKEFELLER: Yes, I do. Never doubt my answer to a question like that when it comes to the White House and sharing intelligence. Allowing the Intelligence Committees to do their lawful work. Without oversight, governments run amuck. They can’t help it.
QUESTION: Senator, if what the administration has done is to convince the FISA court to review criteria, rather than specific cases. Is that acceptable to you?
ROCKEFELLER: It is not acceptable on me. And in fact, most of what the administration announced about that whole procedure, working through the FISA courts, was not acceptable to me simply because I can’t trust what they say. In the end, every single wiretap has to have a warrant. No, I don’t trust what they’re doing. My basic premise is what the president said to the entire country. It doesn’t make any difference what the congress says I’m going to go ahead with my plans, and indeed, he will.