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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Let It Go, Already: The NSA Program Is Quite Legal

Welcome to another day at the Asylum. Before I proceed I would just like to announce that today marks our one year blogiversary! We have been right here, at The Asylum, through 901 posts, and over 17,000 hits. It is not big. We are not bragging. We are amongst the smaller fish within the blogosphere. We get that. But, every "army" needs it's little guy, and the "Army of Davids" created by the blogosphere is no exception. For our regular readers, and those non-regulars, we hope you have enjoyed this long, strange trip as much as we have, and we hope you will keep coming back!

On to business. The LA Times yesterday ran the following:

The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to withhold funding from the nation's intelligence director over concerns that his office, which was created to streamline operations in the nation's spy community, is instead becoming bloated and bureaucratic.

At the same time, Republicans on the House panel defeated a Democratic push to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in spy agency funding until the Bush administration provided more information about a controversial domestic espionage program being conducted by the National Security Agency.

This is extremely important that we understand this. The Democrats stepped up and released their plan for 2006. They are going to try and campaign on national security, and a better way to conduct the war. This is typical of how they address that issue. Since the Church Committee hearings in the late 1970s the Democrats have tried to tear down out intelligence agencies. They did it to the CIA then, and they are trying to do it to the NSA now. This is not the time to pull the teeth of our premier intelligence agency; we should be reinforcing it so it can provide what is needed for the nation during a time of war. That, obviously, is not how the Democrats feel about the NSA.

The measures were considered as part of the 2007 intelligence authorization bill, which sets the spending priorities for the nation's spy agencies.

The move to withhold funding still must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate. But it reflects rising frustration among House lawmakers with an office that was created less than two years ago to solve communication breakdowns and other problems that plagued the intelligence community leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

The same wall that prevented law enforcement and intelligence agencies from communicating was ripped down with the Patriot Act. Then, the FISA court tried to reinstall that wall. The FISA Court of Review in In re: Sealed Case 01-002 chastised the FISA court for doing that, and told them that they could not put that wall back up. The Patriot Act, passed by Congress and signed by the president, was a binding law, and the FISA court had no right to tinker with that legislation. By forcing the administration to abide by that earlier mandate from the Clinton Justice Department, the FISA court was handcuffing the administration in the prosecution of the war.

The bill would require the nation's intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, to present a detailed rationale for any additional increases to his staff or risk losing a portion of his budget. The measure was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.

"We're concerned about some of the steps that are going on" at Negroponte's office, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Negroponte needed to demonstrate that any further expansion would improve coordination among intelligence agencies, and would not amount to "putting in more lawyers and slowing down the process."

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the ranking Democrat on the committee, cited similar concerns. "We don't want more billets, more bureaucracy, more buildings," Harman said. "We want more leadership."

With all due respect to Representative Harman, she is in the wrong party to ask for leadership. And while I do agree that a certain amount of candor and oversight is necessary in regard to the NSA, Negroponte is not going to reveal to anyone outside the loop what the NSA is doing. It is too much of a security risk. We already have three stories printed by newspapers over the last six-to-eight months regarding clandestine operations being carried out within our top intelligence agencies. It is perfectly logical to not be forthcoming. It is obvious that some people in the government cannot keep their mouths shut in regard to what our intelligence agencies are doing in this war.

The action by the committee represents one of the most pointed public rebukes of Negroponte and the course he has set in assembling a staff to oversee the activities of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.

A spokesman for Negroponte, Carl Kropf, said that the intelligence director's office had not yet seen the House bill. Kropf declined to respond to criticism that Negroponte's office was becoming bloated, except to say that "we are within the limits of the law that established" the director of national intelligence. Since Negroponte was sworn in less than a year ago, his staff has grown to about 700 employees, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The legislation that created the position provided for a few hundred initial slots, but allowed for the director to add as many as 500 employees through transfers from other agencies.

The intelligence office has named many high-level officials to oversee such intelligence activities as collection and analysis across multiple agencies. Beyond his own staff, Negroponte is also directly responsible for new centers that coordinate the nation's espionage efforts against terrorism and weapons proliferation.

House Intelligence Committee officials declined to say how much money would be withheld from the intelligence director's office, or exactly what Negroponte would need to include in a report to the panel to get the money released. Hoekstra described the report the committee was seeking from Negroponte as an "architecture study" of the intelligence office. Other congressional officials said the report would need to justify any additional hires and to explain the functions of existing offices.

In other action, Republicans on the committee defeated a Democratic amendment that sought to force the Bush administration to reveal the budget for the controversial NSA espionage program. The Democratic measure would have withheld 20% of the NSA's budget unless the White House agreed to disclose how much was being spent on the domestic eavesdropping program.

Leave it to the LA Times to spin the program. We are not eavesdropping on domestic communication. We are tracking and listening inon internationa; communication. That includes calls and e-mails from the US to another country abroad, and vice versa. It also includes any communication occurring abroad. This is specifically within the mandate of the NSA to begin with. This has also been going on for the better part of the last thirty, or so, years. For the Left to claim that they did not know is just plain stupid. Of course they have known. They have known all along.

Democrats have complained that the White House is refusing to provide information on the program to all members of the intelligence committee. Hoekstra noted that 11 of the 21 members of the House panel were getting briefed on the NSA operation, but he said the committee was still engaged in a "tug of war" with the administration for greater access.

And further access to the program for all members of the intelligence committee should be filed under the heading of "not no, but Hell no." Either the Senate Intelligence Committee blew the lid on the CIA facilities abroad and the rendition flights, or someone in the CIA did. Same goes for the NSA program. Someone blew the lid off of it. The easiest way to make sure information does not leak out regarding classified programs is to limit the amount of people that know about them. Both intelligence committees get regular updates. It is required. What is not a requirement, however, is full disclosure, and I pray it never is a requirement.

The Bunny ;)


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