Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The new Congress is ALREADY changing things for the better

Talk about service. Even though they won't be sworn in for another month, our Dems are already causing a rollback some of the most egregious abuses of power from the last six years. The looming specter of Democratically controlled committees armed with subpoena power is starting to "Scare Straight" a lot of Agency folks all over Washington who've decided that they really aren't willing to go to jail for W.

For example, miraculously this week, The DOJ, decided they really ought take another look at warrantless wiretapping just to, ya know, make sure it's legal and all:

The[DOJ] is launching an internal review of its participation in the [NSA's] domestic eavesdropping program, ...The review, which congressional Democrats have sought for nearly a year, will examine the Justice Department's role in the warrantless domestic spying program

What an amazing coincidence that this should come up on their to-do list now eh?



Of course, according to the DOJ, the timing is purest coincidence. Perish the thought that it's Brown Trousers Time at the DOJ! No, it's just that their ever vigilant internal watchdogs had some, shall we call them concerns:

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said.

"After conducting initial inquiries into the program, we have decided to open a program review that will examine the department's controls and use of information related to the program and the department's compliance with legal requirements governing the program,"

look carefully upon that sentence fragment children, you will never see a finer example of Washington CYA-speak in the wild than this one. Note the careful beige neutrality of the language: "we have decided to open a program review to examine". Not that anything is necessarily WRONG mind you, they are just "reviewing" it. Whether they actually find something will depend on which way the political winds blow next.

Also, as an indication of how bad they think this might get; note the pre-emptive "Hey, I was doing MY job" opening : "after conducting initial inquiries into the program". That's the classic cry of a Washington Bureaucrat who sees an impending fecal matter/air circulator collision
This might as well be screaming "See? we looked into this. Really we Did! Sure we might have taken a while, but hey, slow and steady and all that...". You see they know that people rarely go to jail for being too slow and deliberate; but jail cells are FILLED with people that turned a blind eye towards shennanigans.

Of Course the IG can fairly claim that it IS awful hard to conduct an inquiry into anything when his staff isn't even cleared to know the program exists (despite what they read in say every major newspaper in the world,):

Fine said he was notified last week that the White House had granted security clearances to his staff in response to a request he made on October 20. Previously, only Fine and two members of his staff were given clearance, a prerequisite for conducting such a review, he said.

well nice to know the White House has decided after ONLY a month that it actually trusts its own DOJ IG's office eh? I mean it's not like there is ANY mechanism for say, pre-clearing them when they are hired or anything. But then I'm sure the "nobody could have anticipated" that the Inspector General's Office at the DOJ would EVER have need access to classified material right?

Still lets give credit where credit it due. The DOJ's actions brought a rare moment of praise for that agency from the ACLU:

"We applaud Inspector General Fine for his perseverance in pushing for this investigation and hope it will be comprehensive and free from political pressure," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

she, gasped out, before losing her battle to keep a straight face, and rolling on the floor in laughter.

Well its only a baby step, to be sure, in the right direction; but it IS a step. And that is one HELL of a lot better than what we've had for the LAST 6 years where the laws were apparently treated as optional. At least now they are aware there IS a law they might be breaking and NO they AREN'T allowed to do that, even when the president says "pretty please with sugar on top". Had the elections gone the other way, I sincerely doubt the executive would be experiencing anything like this "great awakening"; but they didn't and we are.

So lets take a moment to admire the system working as it should, even BEFORE we officially take power. Let's also admire the steadfast determination of our heroes Conyers, Dingell, Feingold, Waxman etc who have thus far been lonely voices in the wilderness, but whose impending rise to power has a lot to do with this sudden outbreak of Scrupulosity in the executive branch.

This should be a very INTERESTING next two years no?

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