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Nancy Pelosi yesterday announced that she had voiced "strong concerns" about the NSA program, both verbally and in a letter, and is asking that the correspondence be declassified and made public.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on her request to the director of National Intelligence to declassify a letter she wrote to the Bush Administration expressing concerns about the activities of the National Security Agency.

"When I learned that the National Security Agency had been authorized to conduct the activities that President Bush referred to in his December 17 radio address, I expressed my strong concerns in a classified letter to the Administration and later verbally.

"Today, in an effort to shed light on my concerns, I requested that the director of National Intelligence quickly declassify my letter and the Administration's response to it and make them both available to the public.

"The president must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people. That intelligence, however, must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation to protect the American people and our freedoms."

The ball seems squarely in the Bush court now. If the administration wants to contend that Democrats were fully briefed and approved of the warrantless surveillance, let's see this letter. The issue can be laid to rest with a simple declassification. Color me cynical, but I'm not holding my breath on this one. I'm laying bets that national security will be invoked to keep any objecting correspondence classified - and coloring Congressional reps as complicit, particularly Democratic ones.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 09:41 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  O/T -- "Tactical" Nuclear Option alert. (4.00)
    C-SPAN2, Senate reconsidering cloture motion on Defense Appropriations. If the GOP loses, they have hinted at the use of the nuclear option to shoehorn ANWR into Defense Approps.

    Remember when they promised it was only for judicial nominations and I told you they were full of it?

    Well, they're full of it.

    They just lost the first cloture vote, and they're going for another.

    Apologies for the hijack. Right up at the top, too. Dang.

  •  BushCo has cried Wolf so often (4.00)
    on national security, we'll never have any again.

    The dark at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming age.

    by peeder on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 09:43:20 AM PST

    •  & THAT is the scary part. (4.00)
      one day there will be (as the 9/11 commission said) another attack.

      who the hell is going to run & take cover & take these guys seriously if they say this REALLY is it?

      if the CIA goes to Europe today & needs them to take certain actions b/c they have some intelligence, will they be taken seriously enough to avert the threat?

      these guys are making us more UNSAFE & it's downright dangerous.

    •  I think it's more like CHICKENhawk LITTLEthics (none)
      With all of the many truths finally coming out in the open for everyone to see, I can just imagine the Rethug Chickenhawk Littlethics running around in the White House crying out, "The LIE is falling! The LIE is falling!"
  •  Wiretapping (none)
    If the administration wants to contend that Democrats were fully briefed and approved of the warrantless wiretapping ...

    Isn't wiretapping too restrictive a word? Would it be better to use the term surveillance?

  •  Uh-huh ... (4.00)
    I'm laying bets that national security will be invoked ...

    Yep. The ultimate Catch-22.

  •  Written notification (none)
    There's a certain 'blame the victim' theme emerging from Republicans who claim that the Dems who were briefed didn't fight hard enough against the program.

    But there does seem to be a question of improper oversight regarding written reports. According to today's NYT, the Administration is legally required to submit such reports to Congress, but did not -- and both sides of the aisle in Congress allowed this to happen.

    •  What could have been done differently? (none)
      It sounds like at least the Democratic leadership was briefed on this program, but I'm wondering what they could do about it that they didn't do.  It seems they wrote letters objecting to this, but what could have they done from a legislative perspective to shut it down?  Were the Republicans on board with this or were they writing letts too?  What does writing a letter do other than cover your ass when the quantities of fecal matter hit the air circulation device?

      I'm just wondering if the Democrats wrote their CYA letters and then let it go.  That they didn't object to it that strongly but realized the potential fallout if it did come out.  This may very well be something beyond their control as the minority party, but I don't know.

      --- If trickle down economics worked, Marie Antoinette wouldn't have lost her head

      by sterno on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 10:03:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Demanding the written reports (none)
        Rockefeller's letter did not mention the failure to provide them. I would think that the question of their existence, without getting into their contents, could have been discussed in the full committee or on the floor.

        But in this byzantine world I could be wrong.

    •  yep its a cute trick (none)
      Here's a snippet from my interview with GWB last night on the topic:
      GWB: We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times . . . There is oversight.

      Me: Ah so they discussed the plan with other Senators and their lawyers before they approved it, huh?

      GB: No, the Senators we briefed were sworn to secrecy.  We would have arrested them, (or at least smeared them, heh) if they had squealed.

      Me: Ok, OK, But you gave it to them for approval, right? I mean you said oversight. So I guess that means they could have turned the plan down.

      GWB: No actually, I don't need their approval. I was just being nice when I said that about oversight because I'm a nice guy.  I kinda hated to break it to the Senate Intelligence dudes that they are useless losers y'know.

      See, Bosco, the constitution lets me order anyone to do anything. I am the President after all. I can do whatever I want if I think it makes our country safe.

      A kind of a shell game.  

  •  They certainly can't claim that there were no... (4.00)
    ...objections and then refuse to declassify the objections.

    Oh wait, they're Repubs, of course they can do that.

    •  can't they let people with clearance see it? (none)
      even if they can't make it public...can't they let SOME people seee the letter?

      kinda hard to believe showing the letter to a few senators is a National Security issue

    •  Is That Grass Commerce or Crass Commerce? (none)
      If it's Grass Commerce, are the Bush Voodoo Dolls made out of hemp???

      Which reminds me, Bush used to be a cool party dude in college when he used to get high.

      Maybe he should take up the habit again and mellow his ass out. And what a lovely gift idea for the Holidays!

  •  Good for Pelosi (none)
    Is it just me, or are (some) Democrats slowly, haltingly, but nevertheless undeniably and FINALLY...getting some backbone?

    Hope I didn't just jinx it!

    Keep it up Nancy, Harry, Russ, Jack, and all the rest. We need you.

  •  rockefeller has already released his (none)

    handwritten objection
    written to cheney.
    •  Rockefeller-Pelosi Letters and? (none)
      This brings up some questions I have:
      1.  Was Rockefeller's letter not classified, or could Pelosi not have kept a copy of hers?
      2.  What's the difference?
      3.  Did any of the few other people who were exposed to this information also file letters?
      4.  What alternative courses of action (that were allegedly not taken) did these people have at their legal disposal?
      •  Rockefeller's Not classified (none)
        Rockefeller chose to write a note which is not marked as classified, so apparently he kept his words general enough to avoid the classification issue.

        If Pelosi wrote a classified letter, she could keep a copy (provided she follows the rules for storage and handling), but she doesn't have the authority to declassify it. Every secret has an originating agency which defines why it's secret, and only that originating agency can declassify.

    •  So why did Pelosi not keep a copy? (none)
      Just wondering.  Perhaps Jay's experience in CYA is better than Nancy's?
  •  Remember That At That Time... (none)
    ...Bonior was still Whip, and Pelosi was on the Intel committee.  So she probably got the same briefings as Rockefeller.

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 09:48:13 AM PST

  •  Isn't it fucked up? (4.00)
    that a member of Congress has to get permission from the White House to declassify her own letter?

    I understand the need for military secrecy, but the classification system is just a big shell game.  When a covery activity happens that makes the president look good, its publicized, but when somebody screws up-- then its a state secret.

    Must be nice to be able to bury your mistakes.

  •  This administration (4.00)
    not only wants to be allowed to spy on americans without any oversight, they are going to continue to lie about Democratic "support."

    Enough, and if Americans don't vote in a Democratic congress next year this type of "kingship" will continue.

    "September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country." Judge Gerald Tjoflat

    by SanJoseLady on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 09:50:47 AM PST

  •  Susan, it's the response Pelosi wants public (none)
    Naturally it helps to get her own letter out in the open. But her request includes, more pointedly, that the letter she received in response be made public as well. To me, that suggests the distinct possibility that Bush or somebody in his maladministration asserted things that either are not true, or contradict their public statements, or otherwise would bring them nto disrepute.
    •  Agreed (none)
      Plus, the refusal to declassify altogether would raise questions in the public mind about what exactly was said.

      This is a good move, it seems to me. The administration would probably be screwed if they released the correspondence, and screwed if they don't.

      Nice to see Dems playing a bit of hardball.

  •  How pathetic is this? A letter? (none)
    I understand Dems are in the minority wilderness, but it's not "blaming the victim" to point out that they have more tools at their disposal than they're currently using. Reid is awesome but he's the only one thinking outside the proverbial box right now.

    Our party's leadership simply has no creativity. Howard Dean seems to think strongly-worded e-mails are the way to go. Our entire republic rests on the courage of namby-pamby letter-writers like Dean, Pelosi and Rockefeller, i.e, we're screwed.

    All sports fans know that for a team to win they have to want it badly enough. Our side just doesn't want to win badly enough.

    We already knew what assholes the Republicans can be. What we didn't count on was the total complicity of the media and the utter uselessness of the Dem leadership.

    Perhaps it's best for the Democratic Party to be utterly crushed and have something new form in its wake. God knows by then there will be enough poor, angry people to take to the streets under one banner or another.

  •  I don't understand (none)
    If Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter asking for information, why is it classified, unless she wrote specifically for documents whose titles are classified?
  •  WANTED: meaningful oversight of NSA (none)
    Worthy of a diary... Be sure if you contact your respresentative, not to focus on the micro (this violation) but on the macro (longtime lack of oversight of NSA).

    ---- I quote from the article: ------ The old tricks of the National Security Agency at Slate.com:  Friday's revelation that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless eavesdropping in the United States should come as no surprise.[...] the truth is that the NSA--which has an estimated $6 billion annual budget bigger than those of the CIA and the FBI combined--has [...] a dangerous institutional tendency to overreach.

    [...]  NSA had spied on civilian anti-war protesters during Vietnam. The response was [...]  FISA, [...]

    oversight of electronic intelligence-gathering fell into serious decline.[...] In the Reagan years, Rep. Norman Mineta, [...] summarized the relationship between the spies and the committee: "We are like mushrooms. They keep us in the dark and feed us a lot of manure."

    [...]  one of the major conclusions of both the bicameral congressional investigation and the 9/11 Commission was that Congress had been lax in that oversight.

    [...] the famously circumspect FISA court [...] rebuked the Justice Department and the FBI [...]. The FISA judges called for stricter policing [...]to "protect the privacy of Americans..."

    [...]Bolton admitted [...] he had asked the NSA to reveal the names of Americans in agency intercepts. The NSA obliged without any showing of cause or process of review. Newsweekinvestigated and learned that during one 18-month period in 2004 and 2005, the NSA supplied the names of 10,000 U.S. citizens to interested bureaucrats and spies.

    That violation [...] It involved vastly more people[...] without even the thin legitimacy of a secret executive order.

    [...] See today's story about the FBI's surveillance of an Indianapolis Vegan Community Project) in a consistent pattern of inadequate oversight of legally questionable eavesdropping operations.

    In 2002, then-director of the NSA Michael Hayden [... said] "What I really need you to do," he told Congress, "is to talk to your constituents and find out where the American people want the line between security and liberty to be." That debate did not occur, [...] Four years later, Michael Hayden may get his answer. ---- End of quote from the article: ------

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. ~~ Mohandas Gandhi

    by TimeTogether on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 10:00:11 AM PST

  •   I Don't Get It! (none)
    Bush commited federal felonies by authorizing illegal wiretaps of US citizens. The head of NSA is an accomplice!

    Pelosi wrote him a letter of protest as did other congress people including Rockerfeller.

    Now why are Democrats like Pelosi requesting that Bush declassify and release the letters?!....The ones who wrote the letters presumably kept copies of them yes?...So Pelosi should just release hers to the press as should all the others who wrote letters of protest or concern!

    Why not?! If Pelosi thinks it's fit for public consumption then she should damned well show it to us!

    This groveling at the feet of criminals to 'please show us the evidence of your crimes and show us the letters we wrote to you about our concern over your illegal acitvity' bulls*it needs to end now!

    Congresswoman Pelosi, release your letter to the public today! Show We The People what we need to know about this matter! Stop acting as if this president and his administration are going to hang themselves or help you hang them. They won't! We are in great peril, our Republic and our constitution are under attack! Take the gloves off and fight!

    •  I agree. (none)
      Apparently, so does Rockefeller. Since the lid has been blown off, this is hardly confidential information anymore. I can only assume that Pelosi, unlike Rockefeller, wasn't smart enough to keep a copy of both documents she refers to.
    •  It. Is. Against. The. Law. (none)
      This stuff is highly classified.  If Pelosi is asking that it be declassified, I take that to mean that she has to have it declassified to legally release it to the public.  

      The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

      by Dana Houle on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 10:13:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tactics (none)
      Perhaps she knows they won't declassify, but is giving them more rope to hang themselves when she ultimately releases it herself and lets everyone see why it shouldn't have been classified to begin with?
      •  I'll buy that! (none)
        Ok....that actually makes real sense. Pelosi's a lot smarter than I am and she knows the system as well as anyone in congress. She knows what to do way better than I ever will.

        Thanks Trentina! I just took a deep breath and now I'm relaxed and my confidence in Pelosi is renewed.

        Thanks for talking me down.

      •  Precisely.... (none)
        .....IF it's not possible to resove the matter procedurally, THEN it's time for somebody to martyr themselves.

        The sad thing is that it's obvious that a number of people in the NSA have been trying to get this story out for some time, and journalists -- who are just about the only actors who have sufficient constitutional protections to take the risk -- have been hamstrung by the captive editors and publishers of a corporate press whose only allegiance is to the bottom line.

        But suddenly, all of the usual gatekeepers, spinmeisters, consultants, and shills have lost control of the news cycle: that's the reality of 2006.

        That's bad news for both Bush and the right wing of the Democratic Party. Pelosi is smart enough to see that and cover herself both ways from Sunday.

  •  My guess too (none)
    There is one way the government will declassify it in a hurry.  If Pelosi gtries to reconstruct the letter from memory and gets anything wrong at all it would be a great rightie talking point that she lied, even if she said it was only from memory.  In that case, I can guarantee you they would release her actual letter right away.  They might not even bother to stop and declassify it (although they may).  Otherwise, of course, it would be a grave risk to national seciurity to release this letter containing Pelosi's objections to something that has already appeared in several national newspapers.
  •  They can't keep the whole letter classified (none)
    Since the Bush administration did confirm that warrantless wiretapping of Americans happened and even said it would continue the program, the information that such a program exists is no longer classified. The information is public domain now, so it can't remain classified. Thus they can only blacken information in Pelosi's letter that is still classified but not the letter as such. The info that Pelosi did not agree with the program is not classified, so it's enough if they declassify the "I do not agree with the program".

    If they insist that Pelosi's entire letter remains classified they confirm that oversight does not exist.

    "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."

    by vanguardia on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 10:10:56 AM PST

    •  My bet is that (none)
      the letter shows that the briefed members of the Senate were hamstrung in their ability to do anything about the activities they were briefed on.  

      Its publication will belie Bush's claim of "oversight," and so my bet is that the letter will never see daylight.

      But the fact that they will not allow the contents of the letter to be made public suggests, as you note, that there was in fact no genuine oversight.

      I give the "congressional oversight" meme about another 36 hours before they stop parroting it.  It's dead.

      -9.25, -7.54

      Yikes. Good thing I don't have guns.

      by Marc in KS on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:14:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  LTE on this story (4.00)
    From the Bowling Green (KY) Daily News:

    Ordering of spying on citizens is impeachable

    I am writing to express my shock and dismay that President Bush has now openly admitted to have authorized the National Security Agency repeatedly since Sept. 11, 2001, to conduct spying on U.S. citizens.

    This authorization and subsequent spying is in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

    The Amendment states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    This authorization for spying against U.S. citizens without the protections afforded by a court issuing a warrant is both a violation of the Constitution and of the Presidential Oath of Office.

    I wrote to U.S Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Cecilia, today requesting that he take an active role in calling for impeachment proceedings against President Bush for his admitted actions. If lying about a personal matter involving a White House intern rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, this admission by President Bush certainly must.

    I encourage all of Congressman Lewis's constituents to call or write him and request his support in the impeachment of President Bush.

    Michael Minter
    Bowling Green

    Mike, good luck on getting Ron Lewis to do that.

    "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right" - Carl Schurz

    by RBH on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 10:28:50 AM PST

  •  Pelosi should publish her correspondence anyway (none)
    Why knuckle under to these criminals?  The illegitimate BushCo regime cannot afford to send Pelosi to some secret prison, so this would be a very good time for her and her colleagues to publish whatever they know about Bush's illegal activities.

    The more attention Pelosi can draw to this issue, the better it is for America.  Go ahead, Nancy, spill it all.  

    Impeach the Duffelbaggers!

    by jimbo92107 on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:35:27 AM PST

  •  Why does she need permission? (none)
    I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong (I'm sure you will) but Rockefeller published his letter the other day, and I didn't see anything about him having to get anyone's permission to do so. What's with the Democrats? Doesn't the left hand ever talk to the other left hand? Why didn't these two senior Democrats coordinate their messages and hold a joint press conference, for crying out loud?

    Okay, I've been in Washington and have even walked my way through those tunnels that run between the Capitol and the office buildings on each side. Yes, it's a long walk, although I think Pelosi's got an office in the Capitol itself and for all we know Rocky's got one there too.

    And there's this wonderful invention called the telephone. You pick up the handset, and on Capitol Hill you need dial only five numbers to reach another member's office: "4-xxxx" for the Senate and "5-xxxx" for the House.

    Hello, Jay? This is Nancy

    Nancy who?

    Nancy Pelosi

    I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name. Could you spell it?

    Pelosi! P-E-L-O-S-I. I'm from California and I'm the minor ...

    Oh, the House minority leader! Well why didn't you say so, Miss Podunk? What can I do for you?

    And so on.

    The Republicans have a strategy session every day. I shit you not. Every single day they get together on Capitol Hill and they hammer out their message. They practice playing the roles of Democrats and reporters. You know how they all go out and say the same fucking thing on every talk show? It's not 'cause they're smart. It's not 'cause they're telepathic. It's because they are prepared.

    Gee, maybe one of these decades my Democratic Party will decide that it really sucks to lose time after time after time and do something similar. Good God, do these people need breathing lessons, too?

  •  And..... (none)
    She should also ask for minimal redaction.

    "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." Boris Johnson, MP for Henley Economic -3.25 -2.26

    by Habanero on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 04:48:56 PM PST

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