Cheney: Top Dems agreed that we didn’t need Congress’s approval for warrantless wiretapping

posted at 2:23 pm on December 22, 2008 by Allahpundit

From yesterday’s interview with Wallace. Any reason to believe he’s telling the truth? Sure:

1. It wouldn’t be the first time a Democratic leader privately approved a secret Bush policy reviled by the left. See, e.g., Madam Speaker giving thumbs up to CIA interrogation sites in 2002, back when the political calculus on counterterrorism measures was a wee bit different than it is now. Apparently, she was willing to take a tough line on terror so long as she didn’t have to suffer any political consequences among her base. Apply that same logic and you’ll see why Democrats might not have been eager to see Bush come to Congress seeking public authorization.

2. As Maguire notes, the New York Times reported three years ago on Democratic acquiescence in the wiretapping program — although the detail provided by Cheney about them discouraging him from seeking congressional approval appears to be new. (Democrats claimed predictably in 2005 that the briefings they’d gotten hadn’t revealed how extensive the program was.) Three Democrats did object at various points, one of whom was Pelosi in the form of a letter sent in October 2001. But unless I’m misreading it, the crux of her concern wasn’t that the NSA was wiretapping people without Congress’s or a court’s approval. It was that Bush hadn’t yet specifically authorized the practice at the time.

3. It’s now more than 24 hours since the Cheney interview aired and nary a peep from any of the Dems accused. If this is some egregious smear or lie, they’re being curiously shy about calling him on it.

Exit question: Wallace raises a good point. Why didn’t Bush seek congressional approval when the program first started, shortly after 9/11? Given the political climate at the time, he probably would have received it.

Update: I changed the headline slightly to reflect that top Republicans also didn’t demand congressional approval.

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LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 4:25 PM

Right, in crackpot land. That’s another constitutional silliness from the Rockwell cranks. completely removed from the historical reality of what a “Declaration of War” actually is an can be.

jp on December 22, 2008 at 4:27 PM

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 4:15 PM

I can’t remember, are you one of the commenters here in danger of being prosecuted for illegal drug use?
This reminds me of one of the court rulings that really pissed me off: the police were not allowed to used infrared cameras to find pot houses by their heat output, because it was a “violation of the homeowner’s privacy.”

Count to 10 on December 22, 2008 at 4:29 PM


Please, you throw around the “treason” charge without knowing – or caring – what is required by the Constitution for the charge to apply.

Make a reasoned case and you will win over adherents.

But throwing rhetorical bombs out won’t persuade anyone.

That is, if you’re trying to sway people.

SteveMG on December 22, 2008 at 5:10 PM

The next time you make love to your wife, don’t forget: the Government may be listening.

factoid on December 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Sure. If you and/or your wife are foreign terrorists.

baldilocks on December 22, 2008 at 5:23 PM

Here’s the one-part frustrating and one-part funny takeaway from this story, for me: when all is said and done, I’d much rather have the GOP lose a series of elections because the filthy Democrats are supporting a conservative initiative behind closed doors, and then demagoguing the issue for their retarded moonbat supporters, than to have the Democrats undermine national security.

The funny part is right now, as we anticipate a brainless socialist entering the White House for a round of really destructive liberal play-time policies, only to have –

– Obama start gearing up for a 30,000 soldier surge in Afghanistan which provides the very real possibility of a crushing action against Pakistan from the west, while they are walking on egg shells with India on the east.

– Pelosi admitting that she gave the thumbs up to water boarding and wireless surveillance,

– Obama looking at extending the Bush tax cuts that he has whined about since 2000, when he was in grad school,

and a myriad of other “Dems play grown up” events. Yeah, it sucks, but it still beats the alternatives, and as an added bonus, we get to laugh out loud at the DKos DU Atrios nitwits who actually think the Democrats buy their schtick.

Jaibones on December 22, 2008 at 5:27 PM

We should have rescinded the treaty then.

lodge on December 22, 2008 at 3:34 PM

We did. In 2003.

baldilocks on December 22, 2008 at 5:28 PM

We did. In 2003.

How is it a reason to invade then?

lodge on December 22, 2008 at 5:39 PM

Of course. They’re not really dumb (in some cases). They just pretend to be in order to appease their mentally deranged and paranoid base.

therightwinger on December 22, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Okay, but the critics do have, at the end, a fair concern.

How do we prevent the Administration – future ones – from misusing this authority?

We may all agree (those on one side) that this authority is a necessary application of government power during a time of war. But what is to prevent the next President from abusing this authority and using it not to go after Islamist terrorists but against his domestic political opposition?

Are the existing oversight measures sufficient to prevent that from happening?

If we weed out the over-the-top rhetoric, eventually there’s a pony. What do we do with it?

SteveMG on December 22, 2008 at 6:18 PM

So as long as both parties agree, then it’s ok.

Got it.

Apparently rights aren’t really rights. I was confused, I guess.

angelat0763 on December 22, 2008 at 6:26 PM

lodge on December 22, 2008 at 2:54 PM

I suggest you look up Project Echelon, then maybe you wouldn’t have to talk with your nether regions. How else do you think they taped Newt and the other Repub’s??? Oh, thats right, some Dem couple somehow mysteriously picked it up on their radio in thier car and were somehow able to record it as they were driving in Florida…. riiiiiight.

mrfixit on December 22, 2008 at 6:29 PM

So as long as both parties agree, then it’s ok.

Well both branches agreed that it was legal.

The judicial branch isn’t the only branch that can interpret the Constitution.

They may have the final word; but not the only one.

SteveMG on December 22, 2008 at 6:41 PM

Old news and they voted for amnesty.

getalife on December 22, 2008 at 7:11 PM

Wouldn’t it be great to water-board every member of Congress who plays politics with national security issues.

oops wait, that’s torture. Let’s do what other countries do, pull out their toenails and incisors with pliers.

notagool on December 22, 2008 at 7:20 PM

they were all happy to let Bush defend them, until their base took it for granted.

rob verdi on December 22, 2008 at 9:32 PM

Remember,the liberal that took it upon himself to reveal a secret program to stop terrorist attacks during a time of war did not do it for “The Constitution”,he did it because he is a political hack that didn’t like Bush.

Tamm admitted that he did not fully know what the program did when he went to the press instead of following chain of command:

(via patterico)

And Isikoff’s story reinforces my view strongly. Because the article (together with other research I have done on Tamm, set forth below) shows him to be an anti-Bush partisan who didn’t even know the details of the program, but notified reporters in part because of an anti-Bush bias, and a disagreement with other actions by the Bush Administration, some of which were indisputably legal. Isikoff tells us:
Tamm concedes he was also motivated in part by his anger at other Bush-administration policies at the Justice Department, including its aggressive pursuit of death-penalty cases and the legal justifications for “enhanced” interrogation techniques that many believe are tantamount to torture.

But even if his motives were bad, at least he was disclosing something that he knew to be illegal . . . right? Wrong. For all he knew, the program was perfectly legal — because he didn’t really know anything about it:
But, he insists, he divulged no “sources and methods” that might compromise national security when he spoke to the Times. He told reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen nothing about the operational details of the NSA program because he didn’t know them, he says. He had never been “read into,” or briefed, on the details of the program. All he knew was that a domestic surveillance program existed, and it “didn’t smell right.”

disclosing classified information that is being used to thwart terrorist attacks because he wanted to score political points against Bush.


Democrats Mull Politicizing Iraq War Intelligence
Wednesday, November 05, 2003,2933,102206,00.htmlget_a(300,250,”frame1″);

Among other things, the memo recommends that Democrats “prepare to launch an investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the [Senate] majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration’s use of intelligence at any time — but we can only do so once … the best time would probably be next year.”
The last paragraph of the memo reads, “Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public’s concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq.”

democrats selling out their country for political advancement.

Of course programs they yelled and screamed about like this
NSA wiretapping program were so terrible,just ripping up the
Constitution for crying out loud,that they drew a line in the sand….AND VOTED FOR IT AGAIN!(with immunity for the telecoms)

Congress backs FISA, hands victory to Bush
Bill eases eavesdropping rules

S.A. Miller (Contact)
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ending more than a year of wrangling between the White House and the Democrat-led Congress over modernizing the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the measure lets the government intercept foreign calls without court approval and gives phone companies legal immunity for aiding the administration’s warrantless wiretap program enacted after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The 69-28 Senate vote that sent the bill to the president’s desk divided Democrats and spurred criticism of the party’s likely presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, for switching his position to support the bill.

Bush was right.

Baxter Greene on December 22, 2008 at 10:12 PM

IT’S ON !!!!!!

BowHuntingTexas on December 22, 2008 at 10:15 PM

Because too much information would have to be given to too many people?

crosspatch on December 22, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Seeking approval of such a program from congress as a whole would have risked exposing the programs.

MarkTheGreat on December 22, 2008 at 2:29 PM

It must be nice to just make crap up when you don’t have a real answer.

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Right after 9/11, Congress received a briefing of very secret matters, and details were almost immediately leaked to the press. Bush actually had to remind them very firmly that classified means something.

So it’s a long-standing principle that all of Congress doesn’t need to know everything. We see from the given quotes that members of Congress were consulted. Presidents as a matter of necessity limit classified information, even for people who have the needed clearance, to those who have an actual need to know. In the case of Congress, generally those committees of Congress that have related oversight.

Must be nice to have no memory of events you’re discussing.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 23, 2008 at 12:30 AM

How else are they going to communicate? They still have to communicate that way, they don’t have much of a choice.

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 3:25 PM

Are you serious? There are many ways to communicate.
Only communicate one on one, not in large groups.
Maybe if they know they are being investigated, they should stop all illegal activity?

The possibilities are endless.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:18 AM

We should have rescinded the treaty then.

lodge on December 22, 2008 at 3:34 PM

We did. With the first bomb.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:19 AM

Then why do we usually ask for a warrant in the first place? Shouldn’t we just take the cops word for it?

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 3:38 PM

Still thinking that war is a police matter I see.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:20 AM

FISA already had a retroactive warrant 72hrs after the fact for emergency situations.

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 3:51 PM

And if the judge fails to rule in that 72 hours, they are required to pull the tap until the judge gets around to ruling.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:21 AM

I mean we should have withdrawn from the treaty. Treaties which commit us to future wars are insane.

lodge on December 22, 2008 at 3:48 PM

So our membership in NATO, SEATO, etc is by definition insane? All of these relationships require to come to the defense of a fellow member that is attacked?

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM

Well for starters we don’t even have a declaration of war.

LevStrauss on December 22, 2008 at 4:25 PM

Yes we do.

MarkTheGreat on December 23, 2008 at 9:27 AM

Wait till the Obminator tries to run a war. He is utterly clueless. We don’t need hope or change we just need dead Islamists.

Mojave Mark on December 23, 2008 at 9:59 AM

Right after 9/11, Congress received a briefing of very secret matters, and details were almost immediately leaked to the press. Bush actually had to remind them very firmly that classified means something.

After the President discussed war plans with Congress, Senator Rockefeller immediately went and discussed them with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and others.

I still don’t know why he wasn’t tried for treason.

18-1 on December 23, 2008 at 1:00 PM

As long as it wasn’t public, Democrats wouldn’t have to commit themselves to something. They no doubt encouraged the secrecy of the program to give them plausible deniability.

For all we know, Bush might have asked right after 9-11. Then again, maybe they didn’t know exactly what they were going to do until a little time had pssed.

Democrats suck.

That much is certain.

drjohn on December 23, 2008 at 1:53 PM

Cheney is the best VP in US history.

Cr4sh Dummy on December 24, 2008 at 5:42 AM