At the very same time that George Bush was holding a press conference to accuse the Democratic leadership in Congress of REFUSING to fund troops in the field, a mad gunman was killing 32 people on a Virginia campus.
The news channels largely ignored the president's message, playing nonstop coverage of the carnage in Virginia. They also largely ignored Harry Reid's reply, in which he angrily denounced the false statements made by Vice President Cheney the previous day, rebutted Bush's false claim that funding for the troops was being refused, and hosted two retired generals to speak to the public about the Iraq War. Those two generals directly compared the surge to the failed policies in Vietnam.
But there was another story that everyone ought to know.
Moments after the Republicans in the Senate heeded a call from the White House to vote against cloture on debate for the bill FUNDING THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller took the floor, visibly enraged.
Now, Rockefeller has to be one of the coolest heads in the Senate. He isn't rolled easily. In his speech, he denounced the BETRAYAL of his committee, including the ranking member, Kit Bond, by the White house, who, according to Rockefeller, put out the word that defeating the cloture vote was a matter of party loyalty.
Watching this exchange, it was difficult to understand WHY the White House would do this. But a few of the captions given on C-span about the bill lent clues.
Here are some of the features in the bill:
Under the legislation, Bush would have to tell lawmakers about interrogation tactics at the [secret CIA] prisons, and the government would be required to publicly reveal total spending on intelligence programs, which is estimated to be about $44 billion annually.
Now THAT'S interesting. Oversight that REQUIRES Bush to tell lawmakers EXACTLY what happens at these "black sites." DEFEATED AS A MATTER OF PARTY LOYALTY.
But wait, there's more!
Under the legislation, the maximum prison sentence would increase to 15 years from 10 years for those who disclose the identity of a covert agent, a response to administration officials revealing the secret status of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Think that struck a nerve? Perhaps.
Enroute to looking up the language of the bill, I found this article, which led me to the actual bill.
I was struck by the following passage:
The Bush administration has characterized the contested provisions as being "inconsistent with the need for the effective conduct of intelligence activities," and threatening the security of "intelligence sources, methods, and activities from unauthorized disclosure."
REALLY? REALLY? That's the claim being made? Let's take a look at specific language in the bill:
Title IV: Matters Relating to Elements of the Intelligence Community - Subtitle A: Office of the Director of National Intelligence - (Sec. 401) Amends the National Security Act of 1947 to authorize the DNI, using National Intelligence Program funds, to: (1) direct the development, deployment, and utilization of systems related to the collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence information; and (2) transfer funds to address critical gaps in intelligence information sharing or access capabilities.
(Sec. 402) Allows the DNI to delegate to any Deputy Director of National Intelligence or the Chief Information Officer of the Intelligence Community the authority to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.
Interesting eh? Read the whole Jurist piece. Apparently, it's all those inspector generals that Bush has a problem with. It's all the requirements to provide information to the Congress that he has a problem with. But those aren't meant to have any impact on "intelligence sources, methods, and activities." No. What THOSE parts of the bill address are ILLEGAL AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL exercises of power:
Title III: Intelligence and General Intelligence Community Matters
(Sec. 302) Specifies that the authorization of appropriations by this Act shall not be deemed to constitute authority for the conduct of any intelligence activity which is not otherwise authorized by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
I recommend readers read the all the information given here about the bill. If you read it all, you will see why Bush opposes this bill and has threatened to VETO IT. It throws the "unitary executive" theory right out the window and REQUIRES active consultation with the Congress on intelligence policy. Not only that, but it strips the Secretary of Defense of the CURRENT authority he has over an entire spy agency, installs inspector generals in several spy agencies that currently do not have one (including the CIA!), requires the DNI to consult with the Attorney General on issues that are constitutionally questionable, and prevents the CIA from assuming command over DOD personnel.
And that's not even everything. With regard to Bush's sovereign pretensions, the bill cuts his balls off! The bill installs checks and balances meant to prevent abuses of power.
Finally, I offer the Congressional Record that preceded the cloture vote and aftermath I saw on C-span.
Tucked in the middle of this, is an amendment offered by Republican Sen Collins. And what do you think it's about?
The Senator from Maine [Ms. Collins], for herself, Mr.
Lieberman, Mr. Carper, Mr. Coleman, and Mr. Akaka, proposes
an amendment numbered 847 to amendment No. 843.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To reaffirm the constitutional and statutory protections
accorded sealed domestic mail, and for other purposes)
A germane amendment, I would say! But I digress. The record shows what happened next. Here is Rockefeller's rage, after the cloture vote:
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Madam President, I have to declare myself absolutely
a series of things: furious, double-crossed, misled, minimized--in
terms of my role as a Senator and as chairman of the Intelligence
Committee--shocked by the arrogance of the technique that was used
between the White House and the minority leader to say to Republicans,
after weeks in which Vice Chairman Bond and I worked out a compromise
on a managers' amendment on which we worked in good faith--I dropped
things he did not like, he dropped things I did not like--but it was a
Vice Chairman Bond, whom I respect greatly, stood here praising the
managers' amendment. Then the word came down from the White House--not
from Vice Chairman Bond but from the White House--through the minority
leader, that this vote was to be a test of Republican Party loyalty and
that therefore all Republicans were instructed to vote against it.
In all of my years in the Senate, and certainly all of my years on
the Intelligence Committee, I have never seen something so repugnant,
putting politics over national security. That is the bottom line.
Politics was put over national security.
It's not an exaggeration. This isn't a bill to fund the 16 spy agencies and implement recommendations from the 9/11 commission for NEXT year, it's a bill for THIS YEAR, which wasn't passed by the last Congress.
I only gave the first two paragraph's of Rockefeller's furious reaction. Click on the link and read it all. The words on the page don't begin to convey what I saw on C-span. Rockefeller positively BLASTED the Republicans for this betrayal.
It's worth giving some play to the Republican's protests, since the answer to them is so damning. McConnel claimed that invoking cloture was a ploy to deny the Republicans the opportunity to offer amendments. Harry Reid spoke to that empty and false lament at the very end of the record given here:
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I have the greatest respect for the senior
Senator from Missouri, but his facts are all messed up. We tried to
bring this bill to the floor for a full debate. In the Senate, as
everyone knows, you have to move to proceed to the bill. We did that.
They objected. We had to file cloture on even being able to proceed to
the bill. They initially said: We are not going to give you cloture.
Then they gave us cloture. The purpose of that was to stall for time.
They voted to proceed. I said immediately: Why waste the 30 hours? The
rule in the Senate is you have 30 hours after you complete the cloture.
I said: Offer amendments during this period of time. Don't waste the
time. We could have done that last week. I told everybody. All the
staff knew that: But no, nothing. I indicated we would be happy to do
relevant amendments on this bill.
That's not all Reid said. He didn't dispense with the lame arguments the Republicans gave about amendments til the end of this speech. Here's some excerpts from his speech:
Mr. President, let's call it the way it is. Vice President Cheney
runs the intelligence operations of this administration. He has for 6
years. It apparently is not going to stop. We could not even improve
the intelligence-gathering operations for the 16 agencies because it
may interfere with the Vice President.
Think he was pissed? Read the whole thing. He brought up Scooter Libby, too.
To conclude, this story about the funding for our spy agencies which the WHITE HOUSE ordered shut down on a "party loyalty" vote, and turning mild mannered Jay Rockefeller into an inferno of fury on the Senate Floor, is something that was missed entirely by the MSM, but well worth reporting.
It will have consequences. We might have moved another step closer to the realization that impeachment of Bush and Cheney really is the only option. Make each and every one of these "party loyalists" acquit Bush in the face of a mountain of evidence for staggering crimes. Let them ride loyalty to Bush all the way to defeat in 2008.