Why, they who haunt the house, whoever they are

The A-Team, including Kos, MyDD, Unclaimed Territory, and Majikthise among others have covered Tennessee’s Senator Bill Frist threat to block NSA hearings and the Bush Royal Guard’s attempt to avoid yet another moment of accountability. Kos posted part of Senator Frist’s letter to Senator Harry Reid,

I am increasingly concerned that the Senate Intelligence Committee is unable to its critically important oversight and threat assessment responsibilities due to stifling partisanship that is exhibited by repeated calls by Democrats on the Committee to conduct politically-motivated investigations. . . .

I would propose that we meet with Senators Roberts and Rockefeller as soon as possible. The Committee was established and structured to reflect the Senate’s desire for bipartisanship, and to the maximum extent possible, nonpartisan oversight of our nation’s intelligence activities. If attempts to use the committee’s charter for political purposes exist, we may have to simply acknowledge that nonpartisan oversight, while a worthy aspiration, is simply not possible. If we are unable to reach agreement, I believe we must consider other options to improve the Committee’s oversight capabilities, to include restructuring the Committee so that it is organized and operated like most Senate Committees.

This is such a serious branch of ethics on Senator Frist’s part, blocking Senate oversight of intelligence by means of parliamentary manevering, that I started to wonder if Frist had in the past taken this attitude toward the of powers and authority of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Frist did in fact did vote in favor of amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), certainly an opportune moment to change the role of the SIC.

Title: A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to cover individuals, other than United States persons, who engage in international terrorism without affiliation with an international terrorist group.

In the summary of this bill it says

Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to extend the meaning of “agent of a foreign power” to any person, other than a U.S. person, that engages in international terrorism or activities in preparation for them (regardless of whether affiliated with groups engaging in such terrorism or activities), for purposes of securing FISA warrants authorizing the electronic surveillance of communications between and among foreign powers.

Requires the Attorney General to report annually to the appropriate congressional committees on: (1) the aggregate number of non-U.S. persons targeted for FISA orders, including a break-down of those targeted for electronic surveillance, physical searches, pen registers, and access to records; (2) the number of individuals covered by a FISA order who were determined to have acted wholly alone in the activities covered by such order; and (3) the number of times that the Attorney General has authorized that information obtained under FISA, or any derivative information, may be used in a criminal proceeding.

Requires the Attorney General also to report annually to the same committees, in a manner consistent with the protection of U.S. national security, on: (1) the portions of the documents and applications filed with the courts established by the Chief Justice of the United States to grant electronic surveillance orders that include significant construction or interpretation of FISA provisions, not including the facts of any particular matter, which may be redacted; and (2) the portions of the opinions and orders of such courts that include significant construction or interpretation of such provisions.

Requires the first such reports to be filed within six months after enactment of this Act.

Having voted for the the specifics of this law and the conditions under which it was to be carried out, one can’t help but wonder why Frist would seek to curtail the powers of the Intelligence committee to carry out the oversight implicitly required of such bills, a bill that he approved of only three years ago. A serious reader would surmise from Senator Frist’s vote on S.2845 – A bill to reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, and for other purposes.
that he cared about constitutional protection of American’s civil liberties,

Subtitle F: Privacy and Civil Liberties – (Sec. 1061) Establishes within the Executive Office of the President a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to: (1) analyze and review actions taken by the Executive branch to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring a balance with privacy and civil liberties protections; and (2) ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism. Requires annual reports on major Board activities.

Bush signed this bill into law in December 2004, but the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
has never meet. Was Senator Frist’s signature ( and Bush’s for that matter ) on S.2845 just a bit of smoke and mirrors, that he had no intention of implementing either the language or spirit of the law. As a U.S. Senator and Senate majority leader does Bill Frist’s signature on a bill mean anything or is it a rubber stamp used to clear his desk of clutter.

Subtitle C: Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection – Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2004 – (Sec. 8302) Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to requires DHS, as part of its agency mission, to ensure that the civil rights and civil liberties of persons are not diminished by the efforts, activities, and programs aimed at securing the homeland.

While DHS and the NSA are not the same thing surely Frist did not intend for the rights of the American people be protected from one agency and not another, well unless he’s been less then honorable about carrying out his oath of office – I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Why are so many Republicans running scared, partisan or not, if Frist was right wouldn’t an investigation be a vindication for him and Bush. Its looks like people that are absolutely positive they’re on the correct side in the NSA domestic spying issue would welcome the chance to prove it.
Senator Robert Byrd, Finding the Truth on Domestic Spying; Standing for the Bill of Rights,

Before the President’s Day recess, I spoke about recent egregious examples of domestic surveillance by the Executive Branch, and announced my intention to introduce legislation to establish a commission to investigate the instances of warrantless wiretapping and spying on U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency and other Departments of Government.

I am not the lone voice raising questions about the legality of this program, and its effect on the rights of law-abiding American citizens. I am but one in a growing chorus of concerned individuals. Since the New York Times broke the story of the NSA’s wiretapping program, many in this Chamber, on both sides of the aisle, have questioned the legality of the warrantless wiretapping, and have called for investigations into possible violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as other transgressions against the spirit or the letter of our revered Constitution.

Many of our Country’s foremost Constitutional scholars and professors of law have expressed their categorical opposition to the NSA’s program. Citing possible violations of both the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they agree that “the program appears on its face to violate existing law.”

These concerns have, of course, been dismissed by the same branch of government that hatched the domestic spying program. But this stonewalling is only part of the story. Important questions about NSA’s program have been answered with strained and tenuous justifications, or claims of the dire need for secrecy and, as a result, Congress’s access to information has been severely curtailed by the Administration.

from the Economist’s View, The CBO Analyzes the Bush Budget Proposal

President Bush’s budget would increase the federal deficit by $35 billion this year and by more than $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office reported…

The nonpartisan budget office said that Mr. Bush’s tax-cutting proposals would cost about $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years and that his proposals to partly privatize Social Security would cost about $312 billion during that period. The office also said Mr. Bush’s proposals to save money on Medicare, Medicaid and most nonmilitary programs would offset about one-third of the cost of his other proposals. …

But the budget office noted that it had not included money for military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan after this year.

ashes and snow
A boy reads to an elephant that has knelled down to listen intently; you have to see the boy swimming below an elephant, both from an online photographic exhibit by Gregory Colbert. There’s a flash version meant for broadband users and an html version. The photos look like fantasy composites done in photoshop, but they’re real.

A FRIEND of mine, who is a man of letters and a philosopher, said to me one day, as if between jest and earnest—“Fancy! since we last met, I have discovered a haunted house in the midst of London.”
“Really haunted?—and by what?—ghosts?”
“Well, I can’t answer these questions—all I know is this—six weeks ago I and my wife were in search of a furnished apartment. Passing a quiet street, we saw on the window of one of the houses a bill, ‘Apartments Furnished.’ The situation suited us: we entered the house—liked the rooms—engaged them by the week—and left them the third day. No power on earth could have reconciled my wife to stay longer, and I don’t wonder at it.”
“What did you see?”
“Excuse me—I have no desire to be ridiculed as a superstitious dreamer—nor, on the other hand, could I ask you to accept on my affirmation what you would hold to be incredible without the evidence of your own senses. Let me only say this, it was not so much what we saw or heard (in which you might fairly suppose that we were the dupes of our own excited fancy, or the victims of imposture in others) that drove us away, as it was an undefinable terror which seized both of us whenever we passed by the door of a certain unfurnished room, in which we neither saw nor heard anything. And the strangest marvel of all was, that for once in my life I agreed with my wife—silly woman though she be—and allowed, after the third night, that it was impossible to stay a fourth in that house. Accordingly, on the fourth morning, I summoned the woman who kept the house and attended on us, and told her that the rooms did not quite suit us, and we would not stay out our week. She said, dryly: ‘I know why; you have stayed longer than any other lodger; few ever stayed a second night; none before you, a third. But I take it they have been very kind to you.’
“‘They—who?’ I asked, affecting a smile.
“‘Why, they who haunt the house, whoever they are.

from The Haunted and the Haunters: Or the House and the Brain by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton