Friday, July 14, 2006

Them that know won't say
The Plame-Wilson press conference

Your blogstress just returned from a briefing at the National Press Club at which Valerie Plame Wilson, and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, made short statements about the lawsuit they have filed against, among others, the vice president of the United States for the disclosure to reporters of Ms. Wilson's identity as an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Though called a news conference, no news appeared to have been broken there, with the exception of the announcement that today's briefing would be the last time that the Wilsons would make themselves available to the news media on the subject of their lawsuit until the matter was resolved (which could take years). Neither of the Wilsons took questions. Their lawyer, however, did. He just didn't really answer many of them.

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Master of meaningless indignation

Your blogstress wonders if any of her devotees are as tired as she of the Arlen Specter act, which features the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee pretending to take on the Bush administration over its routine desecration of Constitution, only to kick up some dust and pretend to do something about it.

The latest from Chairman Specter is a hard-won agreement for a one-time review of the administration's illegal domestic spying program. Herewith from Charles Babington and Peter Baker of the Washington Post:

Bush agreed voluntarily to submit his program to the court named for the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, contingent on Congress passing legislation drafted by Specter and administration lawyers.

The legislation would allow the Justice Department unlimited attempts to revise the program to meet the court's approval and would allow it to appeal adverse court rulings. It would also give the NSA in emergency situations a week rather than the current 72 hours to eavesdrop on a domestic target without requesting a warrant, and it would allow the government to send to the FISA court all lawsuits challenging the program's legality. Some suits, filed by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, are already pending in various federal courts.
This, thinks your Webwench, is worse than if no action were taken at all. The legislation on which the administration insists would take any challenges to its illegal spying program out of the transparent federal court system and into the secret world of the special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which usually acts as a rubber-stamping body for the administration, and whose deliberations -- and decisions -- are taken and issued in secret.

If this legislation passes, forget about ever getting a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting your telephone records, or damn near anything else they wish.

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At the Pentagon, it's all double-super-secret background

Walter Pincus writes in today's Washington Post of a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that condemns Rummy's office, and the Pentagon at large, for marking "classified" all manner of documents containing only unclassified information:

The GAO reviewed only a "nonprobability sample" of 111 classified Defense Department documents from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. To understand how minute the sample is, the GAO reported that in the five fiscal years between 2000 and 2004, the Pentagon was responsible for 66.8 million new classified records. That is about 13.4 million a year.

[...]

In a broader administrative criticism, the GAO found that 92 of the 111 documents had some marking error, such as failure to include declassification instructions or the source of the classification as required.

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