There are some major developments in the White House’s campaign to destroy the Bill of Rights this week. These developments are largely being overlooked as we watch the Middle East go up in smoke, of course.
Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush personally blocked an internal Justice Department investigation “into whether Gonzales and other senior department officials acted within the law in approving and overseeing the administration’s domestic surveillance program,” Murray Waas writes.
The investigation, by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, was halted when lawyers who were going to conduct the investigation were denied the security clearances that would have allowed them to view classified documents related to the surveillance program. President Bush made the decision to deny the security clearances for the investigators, Gonzales said in his testimony today.
“The president of the United States makes the decision,” Gonzales said in response to a question by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who wanted to know who denied the clearances to the investigators.
The statement by Gonzales stunned some senior Justice Department officials, who were led to believe that Gonzales himself had made the decision to deny the clearances after consulting with intelligence agencies whose activities would be scrutinized, a senior federal law enforcement official said in an interview.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) launched the investigation in January at the request of some House Democrats. White House mouthpiece Tony Snow told reporters yesterday that Bush blocked the OPR investigation because OPR was not the “proper venue” for such an investigation, which is nonsense. See TalkLeft for more background.
Word is that Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is determined to bring his bogus “National Security Surveillance Act of 2006” (S2453) bill to a vote this week. The Judiciary Committee web site says the full committee will be meeting to discuss this bill tomorrow.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today is holding an open hearing to discuss “Modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” You can watch it on CSPAN3 beginning at 10 a.m. You might remember that committee chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), wrote a letter to the White House complaining that Congress was not being informed of some secret intelligence programs. See emptywheel’s analysis to see why Hoekstra’s motives are more about Hoekstra than about the separation of powers.