Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law.
"When the Patriot Act was passed shortly after 9-11, the federal government was granted expanded access to Americans' private information," said Barr. "However, federal law still clearly states that intelligence agents must have a court order to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans on these shores. Yet the federal government overstepped the protections of the Constitution and the plain language of FISA to eavesdrop on Americans' private communication without any judicial checks and without proof that they are involved in terrorism."
The following can be attributed to PRCB members:
"I believe that our executive branch cannot continue to operate without the checks of the other branches. However, I stand behind the President in encouraging Congress to operate cautiously during the hearings so that sensitive government intelligence is not given to our enemies." -- Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO, Free Congress Foundation
"Public hearings on this issue are essential to addressing the serious concerns raised by alarming revelations of NSA electronic eavesdropping." -- Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform
"The need to reform surveillance laws and practices adopted since 9/11 is more apparent now than ever. No one would deny the government the power it needs to protect us all, but when that power poses a threat to the basic rights that make our nation unique, its exercise must be carefully monitored by Congress and the courts. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose constitutional concerns." -- David Keene, chairman, American Conservative Union
Much of the wingnutosphere has rallied behind Bush because, well, that's what their Pavlovian instincts tell them to do. The rest of the conservative media has done the same.
Yet here are some of the key figures of the conservative movement essentially calling foul on the administration's egregious overreach. Norquist is literally the central figure of the VRWC. Weyrich, another key figure in the VRWC, was the founding president of the Heritage Foundation and founded the American Legislative Exchange Council. Keene's credentials are self-explanatory. Barr is no surprise. He's an old-school libertarian who has been consulting with the once-hated ACLU.
This should never have been a partisan issue, despite the knee-jerk defense of the indefensible by those who think Bush can't do any wrong.
So what do the Bush apologists do now? Do they acknowledge the severity of Bush's actions and join their conservative
overlords colleagues in demanding legitimate hearings into the illegal spying, or do they cling to a president who is losing friends and allies by the day?
We'll see soon enough.