The two letters that Jay Rockefeller wrote after being briefed on the NSA program to conduct surveillance of foreign powers communicating with American citizens are a fascinating bit of Washington, D.C. inside baseball.
From the Washington Post:
He sent one to Vice President Cheney and placed the other — as he pointedly warned Cheney he would — in a safe in case anyone in the future might challenge his version of what happened. Rockefeller proved prophetic. Yesterday the 21-year Senate veteran from West Virginia released his copy of the letter — which when written, was so sensitive he dared not allow a staffer to read it, let alone type it.
Some preliminary observations.
First, the Administration has had to have known from day one that eventually the program would be revealed, probably by Rockefeller, who had telegraphed his intention to be avle to “prove” his distance from, but not outright disapproval of, the program when the time came.
Second, Rockefeller is a cunning fellow, but not very. This letter is Uriah Heepish, and reveals Rockefeller as a petty man, concerned with how he will look in the future as opposed to either the successful conduct of the war or the maintenance of a higher legal standard for surveillance than the Bush Adminsitration would implement. What does the left think of Rockefeller’s CYA letter? Read some of the comments at Josh Marshall’s site and DailyKos and you’ll get the picture.
Whatever Rockefeller was told (and three other senior Congressional leaders) the fact is clear that the Bush Administration was very candid with them and others, and that because the war was very real to them at the time, the Democratic Congressional leadership did nothing to attempt to end the surveillance. Rockefeller’s “feeble” note, as one lefty put it, is a great symbol of the entire Democratic Party’s approach to the war. These are not the people you want running it, or even close to the controls.
UPDATE: The Ugly American has more.