Of Course the President Blocked NSA Review

It is not news to me, and it shouldn't really be news to anyone else, that President Bush himself blocked a Justice Department review of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. Of course he did. He is the chief executive officer, he oversees the Justice Department, and he gets to make the rules when it comes to what the executive branch, in all of its various forms, does and does not do. The NSA program is a creature of the executive branch. It was born there, and nurtured there, and it has been defended by executive branch officials. If it is a mistake, legal or otherwise, it's not going to be the executive branch, at least this one, that says so.

More surprising to me today, and disappointing, were Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' remarks about last month's Supreme Court decision which limited the president's power to prosecute the hundreds of detainees currently being held at a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Attorney General continues to insist that Congress should rubber-stamp the Administration's plan to use "military commissions" (really just a form of military trial) to process the men out of the prison at Gitmo. These are the same commissions whose due process provisions the Supreme Court rejected. They are the same commissions that do not have broad support in Congress.

If the Attorney General is posturing before Congress to get a better deal he ought to quit. No one is listening anymore. And if he truly believes that those commissions are the answer going forward then he clearly hasn't been listening, either.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 18, 2006; 5:30 PM ET
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no, we can't assume that the NSA program is a product of the exec. branch, therefore, no oversight is needed. The OPR inquiry was very narrow in scope; if the DOJ had cooperated, there wouldn't have been any controversy.

There is more to this story; read the letters obtained by ABC from the OPR:


Posted by: SPENCER ADAMS | July 18, 2006 06:56 PM

There have been other Presidents who have stomped on the civil rights of Americans. As with the rest, we need to hunker down and ride out the storm until 2008. The caveat is that one day, because Americans simply don't feel the need to vote in Presidential elections, is that sometime in the future, a true dictator may come into power under the auspices of "new leadership" and who knows, just might sabotage the American version of democracy. There is something to karma after all.

Posted by: Sarah | July 18, 2006 07:18 PM

It seems to me there have been other Attorney Generals who have been called upon to investigate matters that might be damaging to the Presidency. Anyone remember Nixon? How about Clinton? Why isn't anyone screaming that Gonzales should have resigned before following a corrupt order given by the President?

Posted by: pam | July 18, 2006 08:02 PM

Of course Gonzales is a puppet. That's what he was in Texas, and that's why he was appointed Attorney General. But does anyone really believe Bush made the decision? He's not allowed to make decisions, except maybe how to slice the pig. It's a Cheney program and a Cheney decision.

Posted by: larry | July 18, 2006 08:52 PM

It is for reasons such as this we should fervently hope that the Dems get at least one house of Congress. We need oversight and we need it now. (No, I'm not affilliated in any way with the Democratic Party.) The age of one party rule has led to disasterous and embarassing consequences for the United States.

Posted by: Alex | July 18, 2006 09:21 PM

Gonzales should resign.

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 18, 2006 10:37 PM

Mr. Adams:
The letter is dated July 17, 2007.
Is that a timely response?

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 18, 2006 10:42 PM

2006 that is.

Posted by: Richard Katz | July 18, 2006 10:47 PM

Jesus, can we impeach yet? How many laws does the president have to break? How many principles of his does he have to violate? How imcompetent does he have to be? How many hypocrits does it take to run the republican party anyway?

Oh, but in a Democratic administration they want the AG to be more independent. Of course they do.

Posted by: Greg in LA | July 18, 2006 11:43 PM

Andrew Cohen's blog post is written as if the Office of Professional Responsibility had been expected to determine whether the NSA program is lawful. Of course, that is not its mandate.

Rather, the OPR -- the Justice Department's internal ethics watchdog -- was beginning an investigation into the specific question of whether the DOJ lawyers who blessed the program's controversial "legality" were acting consistent with their ethical responsibilities.

We all know that there are two different kinds of opinion one can get from a lawyer: What the law is, and what we can get away with. The ethical standards that apply to a mafia defense lawyer are different from government lawyers advising the President on his affirmative constitutional responsibility to "see that the laws be faithfully executed."

The attorney general and the Office of Legal Counsel have a specific ethical responsibility to be more than just the President's advocate. These lawyers also act as the executive branch's adviser on how to interpret the law objectively.

It is this ethical performance that the OPR rightfully was investigating -- until its probe was shut down by order of the President.

This may not have been the Saturday Night Massacre, but it was at least a brutal mugging.

Posted by: Just an Observer | July 18, 2006 11:56 PM

I'm wondering how much of the government is being used as the private resources of this group of men and complicit congress...

it seems pretty easy for me to understand that bush isn't comfortable being watched or examined....

he has placed his cronies in position of oversight, because he doesn't want any...

negroponte, cheney, rumsfeld, gonzales, brownie, harriet miers...

people that "won't rat him out," and are in on the heist...

democracy in the middle east, yeah, right...

NSA spying for terrorists? what terrorists?

NSA spying to get the edge on other financial institutions? more than likely...

face it, you've got an addict for president.

can you trust an addict alone in your apartment when you've got a collection worth billions of dollars.....dream on...

your apartment will be empty, your collection will be gone and your reputation with the other people in the building will be in tatters because you let him stay there....

that is the analogy


Posted by: I guess, | July 19, 2006 12:51 PM

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