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February 16, 2006

Answers on Spying? Talk to the Hand...
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

VICE CHAIRMAN Rockefeller’s STATEMENT on the SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE’s failure to vote on whether to AUTHORIZE an investigation into the NSA surveillance program  Washington, DC -- Feb 16

Today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was scheduled to debate and vote on whether to authorize a committee investigation into the legal and operational aspects of the NSA warrantless surveillance program.  Unfortunately, using a procedural maneuver, the Chairman prevented the Vice Chairman from offering and voting on his proposal which outlined key questions before the Committee.   Prior to today’s meeting, all Committee members had an opportunity to review the Vice Chairman’s proposal and the Chairman had assured the Vice Chairman his proposal would be voted on. (Committee Investigation Proposal Attached.) The following is Senator Rockefeller’s statement:

"Today, the Senate intelligence committee, once again, abdicated its responsibility to oversee the intelligence activities of the United States. 

“For four years, the Administration has kept the existence of the President’s warrantless surveillance program from the full committee.  Since the program’s disclosure two months ago, the Administration has continued to withhold essential details about the program’s legality, scope, and application that they are required to provide the committee.

“Authorizing a committee investigation into the National Security Agency’s surveillance and eavesdropping activities in the United States is necessary to fully understand the program.  This is what the Senate intelligence committee was created to do.

“Our counterterrorism programs are too important to the country to allow them to be undermined by weak legal underpinnings.  It is important for the long term effectiveness of the war on terror that these programs have the full support of both branches of government.

“It is apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent weeks to prevent the committee from doing its job.  Although some members of this committee indicate they need more time to decide on what action to take, I believe this is another stalling tactic. 

“There will be no shortage of legislative fixes offered in coming weeks to address the legal shortcomings of the President’s warrantless surveillance program and many of these proposals will undoubtedly be at odds with each other.   The Senate intelligence committee has a unique and constructive role to play in guiding and informing this debate, while respecting the sensitivity of this and other intelligence collection programs.   

“No member of the Senate can cast an informed vote on legislation authorizing, or conversely restricting, the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program when they fundamentally do not know what they are authorizing or restricting. 

“My proposal seeking a committee investigation included a report no later than May 15th on recommended ways of bringing the program into compliance with the law (see the attached proposal).

“For the past three years, the Senate intelligence committee has avoided carrying out its oversight of our nation’s intelligence programs whenever the White House becomes uncomfortable with the questions being asked.

“The very independence of this committee is called into question as we are continually prevented from having a full accounting of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, the CIA’s detention, interrogation, and rendition program, and, now, the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and eavesdropping program.

“If we are prevented from fully understanding and evaluating the NSA program, our committee will continue its slide into irrelevance.”


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