The other Senator from Pennsylvania

The AP is reporting on the situation leading up to Congressional Hearings on President Bush's Warrantless Domestic Spying program. It doesn't look good for King George II.

Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday he believes that President Bush violated a 1978 law specifically calling for a secret court to consider and approve such monitoring. The Pennsylvania Republican branded Gonzales' explanations to date as "strained and unrealistic."

Bush should have asked Congress to change it rather than ignore it. "The authorization for the use of force doesn't say anything about electronic surveillance." [said Sen. Specter]

In addition to possibly pursuing documents about the program's legal basis, Specter said he might seek testimony from Ashcroft and Comey. "If we come to it and we need it, I'll be open about it," Specter said, referring to subpoenas. "If the necessity arises, I won't be timid."

Of all Republicans to be heading the committee holding the hearings, there are many choices MUCH worse than Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. Although he has been rather independent minded in the past and certainly more centrist than other GOP extremists- a 'Rockefeller' Republican - he folded on his promise to not vote for any Supreme Court Justice that doesn't support Abortion Rights.

This could go very badly for the Bush Administration. Or it could be a nice bit of stage-craft where nothing important happens. More updates as they come in...

Glenn Greenwald will be live blogging the hearings. Catch them at his blog Unclaimed Territory.

UPDATE 1: 11:07 am
Well, it seems this whole thing is going to be a farce. The ">AP reports that Attorney General Roberto Gonzales wasn't even sworn in.

Gonzales, who was not sworn in, told the committee he would voluntarily take the oath if the committee so desired. Either way, "my answers would be the same whether I was under oath or not," he said.


UPDATE 2: 3:20 pm
The AP could have come up with a more accurate title than "Gonzales Defends Legality of Surveillance." Something like "Republicans call Bush's Domestic Spying Illegal." Which they did. But only kinda.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked if the authorization Bush claims to have would also enable the government to open mail — in addition to monitoring voice and electronic communications.

"There is all kinds of wild speculation out there about what the president has authorized and what we're actually doing," Gonzales said.

"You're not answering my question," Leahy retorted. "Does this law authorize the opening of first class mail of U.S. citizens? Yes or no."

"That's not what's going on," Gonzales said. "We are only focusing on international communications, where one part of the conversation is al-Qaida."

You still didn't answer the question, Roberto.
Gonzales declined to discuss details of the operation, as skeptics of the program have demanded. "An open discussion of the operational details of this program would put the lives of Americans at risk," he said.

Open discussion of the program would put your administration at risk. Asshat.

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