Fourthbranch: "I Don't Recall"
This is very interesting. Cheney has no problem lying on the teevee about anything. He's the guy who claimed on CNBC that he never said it was "pretty well confirmed" that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague before 9/11, when he said exactly that on Meet the Press.
So when he goes on Larry King and refuses to answer whether or not he sent Abu Gonzales and Andy Card to John Ashcroft's hospital bed to extract a sign-off on the warrantless wiretapping program from him while he was under sedation. Cheney said "I have no recollection of that."
Yesterday, a NYT editorial said this outright:
Unwilling to accept [DOJ's refusal to reauthorize the program], Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.
So there seems to be some information here that's public knowledge among the journalist class, but not the public.
It also appears that Arlen Specter received the letter he wanted. CNN is reporting a letter that NSA head Michael McConnell sent to Specter defending Abu G's contention that he didn't perjure himself when saying that there was no disagreement within the Justice Department on the program. The key judgments:
A number of these intelligence activities were authorized in one order;
One particular aspect of these activities and nothing more was acknowledged;
This is the only aspect that can be discussed publicly.
In other words, shut up. Is this the first time the White House has acknowledged that there are secret, ONGOING eavesdropping and intelligence programs that Americans don't know about? And they're also claiming that it was approved by the Congress. Could that mean Jane Harman, as emptywheel speculated?
Gonzales is making a technical argument and the White House is backing him up. Meanwhile, Fourthbranch is shutting his yap. There's a lot going on here and it's very fluid.
UPDATE: The House Judiciary Committee does the right thing, demands details of these separate, unacknowledged programs, as it is the right of the Congress to know (particularly the Intelligence Committee, designed to give oversight to intelligence activities of this government).
UPDATE II: Wow. Data-mining that may be included in this "unacknowledged intelligence activity" was specifically defunded by the Congress:
(b) None of the funds provided for Processing, analysis, and collaboration tools for counterterrorism foreign intelligence shall be available for deployment or implementation except for:
(1) lawful military operations of the United States conducted outside the United States; or
(2) lawful foreign intelligence activities conducted wholly overseas, or wholly against non-United States citizens.
'Course, the President wrote a signing statement essentially nullifying this law, which is an appropriation, so it's completely illegal for them to do so (no different than Iran-Contra). Here's emptywheel:
Since that time, of course, we’ve learned that the Bush Administration has been using data-mining. It has been using data-mining to analyze data collected in the United States to identify targets for wiretaps, one party to which could be in the United States. And in fact, NSA didn’t have the technical ability to ensure that it wasn’t tapping communications between two targets, both of whom were in the United States. The Bush Administration was violating the clear intent of the law passed in 2003 to forbid data-mining in the United States.
When Bush confirmed the domestic wiretap program, he described it in terms that would mostly kind of comply with Congress’ intent when it explicitly forbade such activities. But he never denied that the activities associated with the program prior to March 2004 clearly violated Congress’ intent when it passed the Appropriations Act in 2003.
The Congress needs to keep pushing. What we don't know is going to be shocking.
UPDATE III: I should have mentioned that Fourthbranch still thinks he's a fourth branch, calling the office "unique" in an interview with CBS News. Which begs the question, why is this guy giving so many interviews all of a sudden? Is he trying to whip up support for Stephen Hayes' book on him? Is this his 2008 campaign rollout? Wait, I just threw up a little in my mouth...