With respect to running the DOJ, this Administration has shown incompetence and utter disregard for the law. The corruption of the nation's top law enforcement agency is plainly illustrated by the Prosecutor Purge scandal. The investigations into the Prosecutor Purge Scandal certainly disrupted function of the DOJ and compelled almost every one of the Bush-appointed leaders of the DOJ to resign in shame over allegations of wrongdoing.
It is now evident that DOJ resignations and dysfunction endangered the lives of American troops in Iraq.
But rather than admit that National Security and American troops' safety has been jeopardized by his own mangling of the DOJ, Bush sent Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, to Capitol Hill to give misleading testimony to congress.
Bush's priority is to strengthen the Presidency. His Unitary Executive theories require unchecked power and are manifest in his wishes to perform warrantless surveillance, at home and abroad, regardless of existing law and fourth amendment protections in our Constitution. He authorized Warrantless Surveillance in contravention of existing Law until January 2007, when he first submitted warrant requests to the FISA courts under his Terrorist Surveillance Plan. The FISA courts found some activities of the TSP illegal, prompting the FISA update which was passed by congress on August 4, 2007 without substantive debate.
The Problem with McConnell's Sworn Testimony
In order to shore up support for the FISA update, which will be reconsidered by congress in 5 months, the Bush Administration is in full propaganda mode. It is now clear that the Administration disregards the truth to serve their Unitary Executive interests. In another example of selective declassification for political purposes, on 9/18/07 Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testified to HJC about an incident in which American Troops were "endangered by pre-update FISA rules." He testified that the necessity of obtaining a warrant under pre-update FISA law delayed initiation of surveillance of Iraqi Terrorists who had kidnapped American troops. From TPMm:
Then McConnell dropped a bombshell: [FISA court rulings earlier this year] required the NSA to get a warrant before listening in on the communications of Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped U.S. soldiers.
Something about this testimony did not sit right. Specifically, FISA law prior to the update allowed emergency wiretapping to be conducted for 72 hours without any FISA court involvement. Again, from Spencer Ackerman at TPMm:
Ultimately, McConnell told Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) that the procedures in place as the result of the FISA Court ruling kept the insurgents from being surveilled for 12 hours. Yet on Tuesday, the panel heard testimony from former Justice Department FISA chief James A. Baker that obtaining a FISA warrant -- let alone exercising FISA's 72-hour emergency provision for after-the-fact approval -- is a rapid process. Reyes called the 12-hour lag in surveillance a "failure" of bureaucracy. McConnell attempted to underscore the point that he shouldn't have had to go to the FISA Court under any circumstance -- before the fact or after
Last night, Spencer Ackerman provided the background for McConnell's shocking testimony. According to Ackerman:
Why did so much time elapse before the surveillance? Top Justice Department officials needed to approve the emergency order. But according to the source, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was out of town; Deputy AG Paul McNulty had resigned already; Solicitor General Paul Clement "had left the building"; and the other responsible official, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein was not yet authorized to approve the emergency order.
- DNI McConnell's testimony that pre-update FISA requirements prevented the Government from wiretapping Iraqi terrorists was brazenly misleading, if not a flat-out lie.
- The reason for the delay was a skeletal, scandal-wracked DOJ combined with internal DOJ bureaucratic incompetence that had nothing to do with FISA requirements.
- One Administrator who would have been able to authorize emergency wiretapping under FISA to protect our troops, Paul McNulty, had resigned in shame for the role he played in the Prosecutor Purge Scandal.
Make no mistake, the Bush Administration alone is responsible for gutting the DOJ. They alone perpetrated the unethical and illegal prosecutor firings, Hatch Act violations, and politicization of prosecutions. They alone violated the law in circumventing FISA to perform warrantless wiretapping. And now they are misleading Congress and the American People about the justification for strong-arming the FISA update. They will no doubt mislead us again in the upcoming push to immunize TelCos from liability for their role in the illegal warrantless wiretapping engaged in by this Administration.
This appears to be another example of how "selective declassification" comes back to bite this Administration on the ass. Outing Valerie Plame resulted in the conviction of Scooter Libby, and leaking the TSP portion of the Warrantless Surveillance Program trapped Gonzales in perjury over the program's controversy. Now the Iraqi Terrorist surveillance delay supposedly caused by FISA restrictions turns out to be caused by DOJ disorganization. Thank goodness we have Paul Kiel and Spencer Ackerman at TPM to do the reporting Traditional Media is unable to do.
This much is clear: The McConnell testimony and the dysfunctional delay in initiating surveillance of Iraqi terrorists needs to be explored further:
- Michael McConnell should be investigated for apparently misleading Congress.
- Hearings should be initiated to examine the DOJ inadequacies that led to a failure to wiretap Iraqi Terrorists for 12 hours earlier this year.
- Did any American troops die as a result of this incompetence?
- Did the gutting of the DOJ resulting from Bush's Prosecutor Purge endanger National Security in any other way?