Will Dem Congressional Leaders Answer Cheney's Charge Of Complicity In BushCo Illegality?

The NYTimes wrote today in an editorial:

Mr. Cheney was simply dishonest about Mr. Bush’s decision to authorize spying on Americans’ international calls without a warrant. He claimed the White House kept the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership fully briefed on the program starting in late 2001. He said he personally ran a meeting at which “they were unanimous, Republican and Democrat alike” that the program was essential and did not require further Congressional involvement.

But in a July 17, 2003, letter to Mr. Cheney, Senator John Rockefeller IV, then vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wanted to “reiterate” the concerns he expressed in “the meeting today.” He said “the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues” and created “concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology and surveillance.”

(Emphasis supplied.) If Cheney was "simply dishonest" as the Times states, why are the Dems implicated by Cheney's dishonesty not calling Cheney a liar?

Speaking for me only

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    best case scenario: (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 10:34:40 PM EST
    a strong response will come after Jan. 20.
    More likely: Kanye West learns to lip-synch properly.

    When I read that last night I thought (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 10:42:51 PM EST
    "gee, the Times Ed board has a blind spot for Pelosi and friends."

    They still can't conceive that the Dem leadership and the gang of 8 was complicit. I think that's an open possibility, unless they know more detail than they're letting on.

    That is what I thought as well (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:58:29 AM EST
    And because they were complicit I don't know how anyone can be brought to justice without taking them all down.  Pelosi owns the sort of power I want zero lessons in owning for myself.

    Shocked...shocked... (none / 0) (#45)
    by diogenes on Fri Dec 26, 2008 at 11:18:28 AM EST
    So the Times is spinning the story to get the top Democratic leaders off the hook?  I always thought they were fair and balanced.

    Wake Up Call (5.00 / 6) (#11)
    by squeaky on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:33:48 PM EST
    ....why are the Dems implicated by Cheney's dishonesty not calling Cheney a liar?....

    Please keep asking this question (5.00 / 6) (#15)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:56:57 PM EST

    I, too, want answers (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by Steve M on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:35:41 AM EST
    It seems like the Bush Administration played the fear card all along, telling the Democrats that if they opposed the program and a terrorist attack occurred, they would get the blame for it.  And the Democrats, rather than take a stand one way or the other, tried to have it both ways.  They'd try to get credit for being bold defenders of the rule of law but they wouldn't actually do anything to stop the program, oh no.

    It's almost enough to make me respect President Bush a little.  Faced with a tradeoff between liberty and security, I don't like the choice he made, but at least he was willing to take some responsibility and make a choice.  Either the Democrats are going to learn how to stand up to Republican demagoguery and do the right thing, or they're never going to be useful for anything.

    I bet they are counseling Obama (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by ThatOneVoter on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:36:56 AM EST
    not to rock the boat, and to keep the domestic spying programs going.

    I realize this site is visited by many attorneys (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by NYShooter on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:49:07 AM EST
    ..so the parsing of this issue is doubly surprising. "Did they know?" "Why don't they call Cheney a liar?" Yo, Pot, Kettle here.

    Why did Pelosi and Obama trip over themselves racing to assure "them" that any investigation would be "off the table?"

    Why, after being handed 700 billion dollars, no questions asked, did Jamie Dimon turn to us, middle finger raised, and say, "Here ya go, suckah, any more questions?"  


    Obama told you why....we are now "one." The coup is complete. We'll never know how 9 billion "vanished" after leaving a C5A transport, we'll never know what obscenity our 700 billion will finance, and we'll never know who said what to whom.

    All we'll know is that they ALL knew, especially Obama

    He knew he couldn't get the white, working class voter, so he substituted Republicans instead.

    Helloooo, Rick Warren

    The silence is very telling (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by Alien Abductee on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 03:05:31 AM EST
    isn't it?

    But it's about more than the potential complicity of individual Dems in the crimes of Bush/Cheney. Congress needs to establish a means to get a full accounting of what was done and who was complicit and why if it's going to be able to reassert its power and its proper place as an equal branch. Even if Obama hands back some of that expanded Executive power as promised, it's going to be because the POTUS chooses to, not because Constitutional balance has really been restored.

    It's going to take a tremendous amount of pressure to get any of this to happen. And too few people seem to care.

    Agree (5.00 / 3) (#24)
    by koshembos on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 05:17:15 AM EST
    Democrats don't respond because Cheney has a point. We were all privy to reports on Bush notifying congress and the Democrats crapping in their pants.

    Balance of power exists only when Congress is willing to exercise its power; during the Bush years the Republicans played the communist party for Stalin who in this case is Bush, while the Democrats only ask a good parent question: how much more do you need.

    Whom are we kidding, Daschle, Reid and Pelosi cooperated with Bush and erected very few obstacles for him.


    I have thought for a long time that (5.00 / 3) (#29)
    by Anne on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:56:25 AM EST
    the Democratic leadership was in this a lot deeper than they ever wanted us to know, and I took Cheney's comments to be a not-so-veiled public reminder to them that any attempts to go after him and others in the Bush administration would result in the Dems' own destruction.  And because Dick Cheney is such a despicable person, he's taunting them, daring them, and he knows they aren't going to do anything.

    In addition, and aside from wanting to keep their own butts out of legal trouble, the leadership seems committed to making sure that nothing sullies the perfection of the Obama presidency - even by extension or association; it's bad enough that Blagojevich is happening and forcing Obama to issue exculpatory reports (and can I just say how much I love self-investigations?).

    the NYT 12/16/05 article (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:31:30 PM EST
    I know I am repeating myself, but the article says:

    Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

    According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,...

    That argues that Rockefeller did protest, and it also argues that he spoke with others, including the NYT. (Let's don't argue that point again, just agree to disagree.)

    Remember that the NYT article was held for a year, and that the meetings were started in '03. Also note this:

    ....and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.

    So, evidently, the Democratic leadership knew about it, but cut a deal with the administration because they didn't think it illegal, especially after the changes made to satisfy the FISA judge.

    That most who will read this thinks it was illegal is basically meaningless. Your great leaders protested to make you feel good while doing what you don't like. That they hurt the country by all of their protests and support of the NYT... a joint call to the NYT by the Demo and Repub leadership would have stopped publication... is an oft repeated tale.


    I have my doubts (none / 0) (#1)
    by SOS on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 10:32:53 PM EST
    The Record speaks for itself.

    NY Times is simply dishonest (none / 0) (#4)
    by abdiel on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:01:55 PM EST
    The direction of the article is "Cheney is a liar.  Cheney is a liar.  He's lying about this too", but their evidence doesn't support that at all.  If anything, Rockefeller's open letter CONFIRMS Cheney saying that Democrats were briefed about the program.  

    "Oversight issues" is not the same as "OMGWTF I can't believe you've been doing that.  Has this been going on for TWO F-ing YEARS?"  That would be making Cheney a liar.

    We need minutes of those meetings (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:04:52 PM EST
    And if those don't exist, then every participant needs to be deposed and/or to testify.

    Who knew what, and when?


    Deposed by whom? (none / 0) (#6)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:11:32 PM EST
    Testify to whom?

    A special prosecutor appointed (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:17:15 PM EST
    by the incoming Attorney General. No, I don't think it will actually happen.

    Special prosecutor can't depose them. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:56:06 PM EST
    Speech or Debate Clause.

    See US v Gravel.


    Same case which dictates (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:00:19 AM EST
    that the briefed Members would have been immune from prosecution if they'd spilled the beans from the well.

    Are we to believe Reid, Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller, and Daschle were ignorant of this precedent?


    Various "disconnects" with this issue. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by wurman on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:40:47 AM EST
    Rep. Hastert was Speaker of the House.  Rep. Gephardt was House Minority Leader.  Sen. Daschle was the Senate Majority Leader & Sen. Trent Lott the Minority Leader.  That would've been the Gang of 4 at the time under discussion.

    Discussions & comments about Reid, Pelosi, Rockefeller, etc., seem out of context.

    Even more disjointed is the possibility that Cheney is only commenting about 1 surveillance program.  There were at least 4, & perhaps 6, very different projects back in 2001 & 2002.

    It's my opinion that any discussions of these surveillance techniques by a member of Congress has some very specific potential penalties.  I once read an abstract summary of the conditions set up so that only an extremely select, small number of legislators can be briefed about such topics, & there are very negative consequences if one of them divulged any information.  It seems likely that the legal jeopardy would be even more prohibitive for those who were in the know back in the day & who no longer have the power of their previous offices to protect them.

    Even if Cheney is referring to the Group of 8, that would add Rep. Armey, Rep. Bonior, Sen. Nickles, & Sen. Reid.

    If Cheney accurately limited his claims to the actual "leadership," Sen. Rockefeller is not part of the group described in the veep's comments.  Perhaps by 2003, some of the programs had become known to the intelligence committees, but I don't think that is what Buckshot Cheny is describing.


    I wonder whether Speech and Debate (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:04:09 AM EST
    really covers this. Surely that doesn't protect legislators from conspiring with the executive branch to break the law.

    Go sign (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Edger on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 03:35:54 AM EST
    Nice Job! (none / 0) (#36)
    by squeaky on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 11:53:27 AM EST
    Thanks, squeaky. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Edger on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 12:59:37 PM EST
    btw, you're only supposed to sign it once. You know that, right? ;-)

    Ho, Ho, Ho, Dammit!


    LOL (none / 0) (#39)
    by squeaky on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 01:23:16 PM EST
    Palin's running mate in 2012 will be Joe the Plumber...

    Heh! (none / 0) (#40)
    by Edger on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 01:40:47 PM EST
    Self sabotage?

    Or (none / 0) (#43)
    by squeaky on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 02:25:35 PM EST
    On the pulse..

    After electing the chimp twice in a row I believe Americans are capable of anything..


    If Cheney says (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:26:22 PM EST
    the Congressional leaders were unanimously happy with what he was doing, the Rockefeller letter proves he's a liar.

    If Cheney says they were unanimous that the program "did not require further congressional involvement" and Rockefeller's letter says the program "raises profound oversight issues," then Cheney's a liar.

    Yes, technically, in this excerpt he's only talking about his one meeting with them, but you know and the Times knows and we all know he's deliberately intending to convey that the congressional folks were entirely on board, had no objections or serious concerns.

    That's a lie.

    Doesn't excuse the Dems for going along with it anyway, but it's still a lie.  He's daring them to  contradict his lie, but they probably won't because they'd be admitting they did know a great deal, if not all, about what the Bush admin was doing and that they allowed themselves to be played for patsies.


    Perhaps they think its better (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:31:01 PM EST
    to be thought cowards than to open their mouths and remove all doubt.

    "thought"? (none / 0) (#25)
    by Fabian on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 05:40:00 AM EST
    Gimme a break.  They've proved themselves cowards multiple times.  This would just prove one particular instance of cowardice.

    from Jay's Rockefeller letter (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by ding7777 on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:44:17 PM EST
    Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.

    Rockefeller was briefed but he didn't know exactly "what" was being briefed nor was he allowed to find out "what" was briefed.


    I think that's a pretty charitable reading (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 11:48:22 PM EST
    We don't know what he knew.

    Was it TIA or something else?? (none / 0) (#35)
    by ding7777 on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 11:32:59 AM EST
    Rockefeller goes on to say

    As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance.

    Rockefeller was briefed on "something" which he didn't know anything about and was forbidden from getting answers


    IMO (none / 0) (#38)
    by lilburro on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 01:06:41 PM EST
    Rockefeller was briefed on the program.  I think he knew enough.  Again, see this NBC link for a different account.  

    It is unfortunate that he was unable to consult staff or obtain other legal advice.  Apparently it was agree with Cheney or take it before Congress (and be a big leak-y traitor!).

    From the same link, Specter raises an issue that suggests Cheney's account might be misleading.

    Specter is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but has previously served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The people in that position are informed," he said. "They're not consulted or asked or have a determination in what is done."

    Now perhaps Cheney really was immensely generous and said, "geez guys, we're lost, what should we do?  Should we go to Congress? [for retroactive permission]."  The Dem leaders should set the record straight.


    Yup - writing a letter in 2003 (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by ruffian on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:59:47 AM EST
    does not mean that you weren't informed about something in 2001.  Seems like flimsy evidence to me too - makes no logical sense at all since the letter does not say he never heard of any of this until now.

    They will get away scott free (none / 0) (#26)
    by Saul on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:23:52 AM EST
    unfortunately.  All of them.  No one in the Bush administration will leave office without any legal accountability.   I am afraid that if you did not  demand answers while they were in office it will be even harder after they leave.  Although, I am for the Obama  administration for having a hearing to see if any crimes were committed by anyone during the Bush administration.  I say do it and indict them.  However, I feel I am dreaming for that to ever happen.  Obama would probably be more worried that if he does it it will then be done to him after he leaves.

    Face it, Dem's are spineless (none / 0) (#27)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:52:47 AM EST
    My first reaction was that the Dem's were being quiet right now in order to see what the official Obama policy on wiretapping will be. If they scream about Bush then how can they approve Obama if he continues it.

    But we've had the FISA vote in which Obama voted yes, so it isn't illegal anymore.

    So it goes back to their initial involvement and their obsession with being labeled as weak on defense.

    One question I still would like to know is how much money are the telecom's getting for their patriotism? And is this an additional form of payback for their Republican support?

    Are they really saying (none / 0) (#28)
    by ruffian on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 08:55:57 AM EST
    that Rockefeller's letter in 2003 means he did not participate in meetings with Cheney in 2001?  That makes no logical sense.

    Far be it for me to defend the veracity of Dick Cheney (a Christmas miracle) but I believe him on this one.

    Rockefeller did not participate (none / 0) (#32)
    by lilburro on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 09:04:42 AM EST
    in any such meetings until 2003 to my knowledge.  Link.  

    The letter was written in the summer of 2003, just after Rockefeller had been made vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was his first meeting with the "heavy hitters." The NSA program came up "and I just said I had some concerns."
    The concerns were voiced in a follow-up letter after the meeting to Cheney.

    Thank you, that is better info (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by ruffian on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 09:10:34 AM EST
    The Times excerpt does not spell that out. Maybe their whole article does, and they are not excluding the rest of the Dem leadership from meetings in 2001 because of Rockefeller's 2003 letter.

    Based on what Cheney says (none / 0) (#34)
    by lilburro on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 09:58:08 AM EST
    in 2004, everyone he met with said "Don't go to Congress and get legislative authorization, because the enemy will know we're reading their mail."

    So apparently Rockefeller was on board then too.  So I'd like to know how we got from point A to point B there.

    Here is a list of other people who would've known about the NSA program:

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
    Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) (Jan 2003-)
    Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.)
    Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.),(Jan 2003-)
    Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.)
    Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

    I may be missing some, I got the names from this WaPo article.  I think Graham sets the lowest bar for answering the question "what happened in that meeting" (from same article):

    "Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003, and was replaced by Rockefeller. 'Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object,' Graham said in an interview."

    Even with the little we know it would be pretty easy to confirm that as pure BS.  (Just look to the next two sentences - "the California lawmaker [Pelosi] did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation...")


    Comments are about very different (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by wurman on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 01:49:59 PM EST
    timelines, surveillance programs, & people.
    From the initial Big Tent post, above:
    He [Cheney] claimed the White House kept the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership fully briefed on the program starting in late 2001.

    Rockefeller was not involved at that time & none of the others on the list were part of the "leadership," a very precise term.

    If Cheney is describing the Gang of 4 in 2001, it's Hastert, Gephardt, Daschle, & Lott.

    If it's the Group of 8, then you can add Armey, Bonior, Reid, & Nickles.


    The Democrats (2.00 / 0) (#42)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 02:16:18 PM EST
    had "ranking minority members. Don't t tell us that they were left because that was what Rockefeller eas.

    Cheney's comment refers to 2001. (none / 0) (#46)
    by wurman on Fri Dec 26, 2008 at 05:51:28 PM EST
    During that year, when the apparent surveillance program (said to be in question) was briefed to the "congressional leadership," Sen. Rockefeller was not a member of the senate leadership & never has been.

    Also, at that time, Sen. Bob Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee & Sen. Richard Shelby was the vice-chairman.  Neither of them was part of the senate leadership & never has been.

    At that time Sen. Rockefeller was a Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee.  He became vice-chairman in 2003 &, at that time, in his first meeting, allegedly expressed some reservations about a surveillance program & apparently hand wrote a letter to Cheney that expresses some doubts about a surveillance program.  Neither the meeting reservations nor the letter doubts are specifically connected to any particular surveillance program & definitely are not focused on the one discussed by Cheney.

    As my comment makes exceedingly clear, Cheney made perfectly clear that the "leadership" was briefed.  There are, typically, 2 versions of that: either the Gang of 4 or the Group of 8.  Neither group includes chairpersons or dudes or dudettes from the intelligence committees of either chamber.  The various chairs of the various House & Senate committees have almost never been part of the "leadership."


    I'm ready for the new generation (none / 0) (#44)
    by blogtopus on Wed Dec 24, 2008 at 03:28:20 PM EST
    of Dems... get rid of Pelosi, Reid, Kennedy, Feinstein etc. If they aren't a part of Obama's administration, too bad. Getting tired of having our 'heroes' hand's tied by past complicity.