Don’t let the administration off again

Congress is looking to address the controversial Bush/NSA spying scheme the easiest way possible: Simply change the law to make it legal for the president to wiretap without a warrant or probable cause and monitor the e-mails and phone calls of thousands of Americans under the guise of terrorist surveillance. What a smart plan. No costly and potentially embarrassing investigations into who knew what and when; no ugly finger-pointing accusations coming between former colleagues; no deflecting Americans from the real issues like the winter Olympics or the Oscars.

Last week Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the request for an investigation by committee Vice Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., into Bush’s spying was “unwarranted” (an interesting choice of words). Roberts said the “terrorist surveillance” program, as Bush has dubbed it, is vital to the nation’s security. Roberts is convinced, he said, that it is “necessary, effective and lawful.”

Still, he couldn’t ignore those members of Congress (and a majority of the nation’s citizens) who believe that the Bush administration overstepped its bounds of authority when it ordered the spying. But rather than look into whether Bush broke the law—the committee decided not to consider Rockefeller’s request for an investigation at this time—it decided to try to accommodate the administration by conforming the law to Bush’s prior actions.

In four years Bush has tapped into the electronic communications of perhaps 5,000 Americans and for that effort has come up with about 10 targets that could even be considered possible terrorist suspects. The administration has been secretive, ineffective, dishonest and manipulative and has inflicted acute damage during its years in office to the country’s reputation abroad. At what point will Bush and company be called to answer for their transgressions? More importantly, how much more can the country take?