Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dems in the Gang of 8's Speak on Meeting with Gonzalez

I didn't point out before that the Gang of 8 had no authority on its own to authorize the warrantless domestic wiretap program even if it wanted to. However, the idea that Bush Co. could co-opt that group to get bipartisan cover for moving ahead is the problem, even though any supposed 'approval' by them would have meant nothing legally.

Josh Marshall at TPM sums up what the Democrats on the Gang of 8 had to say:
As Spencer Ackerman noted late in the day, three members of the group -- Democrats Daschle, Rockefeller and Pelosi -- said Gonzales' version of events isn't true. In an interview with NPR, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) said the same thing -- though she was a little ambiguous, suggesting that her ability to discuss the conversations in question were limited because they were classified.

So all four Democrats say Gonzales' story is bunk.

Harman's interview with NPR (via TPM) is here: Interview (her clip is at 3:30).

The New York Times puts things this way:
Other lawmakers who were not at the hearing but who attended the meeting on March 10, 2004 at the White House, also challenged Mr. Gonzales’s account. Mr. Rockefeller and Representative Jane Harman of California, who in 2004 was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, insisted that there was only one N.S.A. program, making Mr. Gonzales’s assertions inaccurate.

“The program had different parts, but there was only one program,” Ms. Harman said, adding that Mr. Gonzales was “selectively declassifying information to defend his own conduct,” which she called improper.

But another member of the Gang of Eight — the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House and of the two Intelligence Committees _— supported Mr. Gonzales’s version. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he confirmed the attorney general’s testimony that the group reached a “consensus” that the disputed intelligence activity should continue and that passing emergency legislation would risk revealing secrets.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who attended the 2004 White House meeting as House Democratic minority leader, said through a spokesman that she did not dispute that the majority of those present supported continuing the intelligence activity. But Ms. Pelosi said she dissented and supported Mr. Comey’s objections at the meeting, said the spokesman, Brendan Daly.

OK, a few things can be said now:

1) Harman says Gonzalez is lying when he claims he was referring to some other program, but is ambiguous as to the claim that the group instructed him to get approval.

2) Harman's statement neither excludes her or includes her as being part of such a consensus on continuing the warrantless wiretapping and to not pursue legislation to properly authorize it.

3) Pelosi said a majority agreed with continuing the program, so unless a Republican objected to the program (not at all likely IMO), then at least one of the remaining Democrats gave the green light: Tom Daschle, Jay Rockefeller, or Jane Harman.

Political, if not legal, cover was apparently provided in this meeting. Had the Democrats of the group of 8 -- even just one of them, maybe -- simply walked out and said "No, I'm not going to let you get your fig leaf from me", then they not only could have prevented the "Gang of 8", by definition, from approving of the program, but they also would have avoided being gagged from discussing much of the matter due to it being classified. That could have blown away this as a potential cover story, but because they were all there, they area unable to discuss it, while the Bushies can disclose selectively with impunity. Much better to have simply walked out and not be there at all.

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