During Friday’s debate in the US Senate on various proposals to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Connecticut’s sort-of-Democrat, sort-of-Independent, but always loyal to the Bush White House when it comes to debates on how to conduct the War on Terror senator angrily objected to the fact that the chamber was even discussing the difficult challenge of balancing the need to gather intelligence with the requirement that civil liberties be protected.
Joe Lieberman, who in an appearance last Sunday on ABC’s This Week referred to efforts to assure that any reform of FISA take into account the right of American citizens to be free from unwarranted government surveillance as “nonsense,” told the Senate on Friday that he regretted his colleagues were debating the issue.
In Lieberman’s view, congressional oversight of Bush-Cheney Administration moves to expand spying programs amounts to “fiddling” at a time when he just wants to “figure out how to pass a law to modernize this electronic surveillance capacity.” The Connecticut Senator’s no fiddler. He gruffly told the Senate that it must enact a plan, crafted largely by the White House to dramatically expand President Bush’s authority to eavesdrop on suspected foreign terrorists without court warrants.
Lieberman got most of what he wanted, in the form of a six-month expansion of presidential spying powers. That happened because Lieberman and a number of other members of the Democratic caucus voted to cede the authority of the legislative branch to that of the executive branch on a 60-28 division.
The House failed to do the same, however, so the debate that so frustrates the Connecticut Senator continues.
Lieberman’s impatience with the dialogue is rooted in the legislator’s dismay that matters usually discussed behind closed doors by shadowy men with the highest security clearances–and a few friendly senators –were being reviewed in an open and transparent matter.
Lieberman is a lawyer. Indeed, he is a former state Attorney General.
But he is anything but a Constitutional scholar, let alone a senator who takes seriously the oath he swore to “support and defend the Constitution”–a document that, it should be noted, includes an amendment reading: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”