Snarlin' Arlen on a Hot Streak

Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Spector (R-Pa) is having a good week. Yesterday, just a few week after he scrapped with Committee Democrats over whether to allow the controversial measure to get to the floor, he courageously came out against his party's push to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, quoting Barry Goldwater and saying that the "government ought to be kept off our backs, out of our pocketbooks and out of our bedrooms."

Then, this morning, he took on the White House and the Justice Department for even talking about prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information under century-old espionage statutes.``It's highly doubtful in my mind that that was ever the intent of Congress,'' Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said about the 1917 legislation.'

The hearing this morning also highlighted the Administration's uncooperative relationship with the Congress when it comes to its aggressive (and in this case completely odious) law-enforcement tactics. When a Justice Department official was particularly unforthcoming, ranking Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said to him (and everyone else) ``Why in heaven's name were you sent up here? Are there any questions you guys are allowed to answer other than your title, time of day?''

And this afternoon Spector's Committee is meeting to determine whether telephone company executives ought to be subpoenaed for their role in handing over to the government private customer records that identify billions and billions of our telephone calls to one another. The Senators apparently aren't yet in full agreement about whether the executives should be subpoenaed to appear in a public hearing or in a private one.

I think it should be both. I think the phone folks ought to be called onto the carpet and required under oath to disclose how it came to be that they turned over to the government the telephone records without first advising their clients. And then I think those executives should be questioned in a closed session so that Judiciary Committee members can get a more complete idea of just how broad the White House's surveillance effort has been along this front. Go Arlen go. Keep your streak alive. Get the go-ahead to get those subpoeanas out. Again, it is the right thing to do.

By  |  June 6, 2006; 1:16 PM ET
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