The leadership role of our Sen. Inouye in the FISA issue has been little discussed, but intrepid blogger “emptywheel” has dug up some information:
The entire Congress was not briefed on the program
Aside from those members who have, at one point, been members of the Gang of Eight (Harman no longer is, and Pelosi has had two roles in it), just three members of Congress got briefings on the program before Risen and Lichtblau revealed it. The day after the hospital confrontation, Tom DeLay got a briefing, probably so he could tell Cheney that even he could not force through a bill authorizing the illegal program.
And, December 1, 2001, Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens–as the ranking members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee–got a briefing, presumably so they could authorize the NSA to pay the telecoms tons of money to wiretap Americans. (Bill Young and John Murtha got briefings in 2006, after the Administration started briefing more members of the intelligence committees presumably in response to the Risen-Lichtblau revelations.)
Tom DeLay is, thankfully, moot. But the Inouye briefing is interesting in that he was one of the sane* Democrats who repeatedly voted with Republicans in support of trashing civil liberties and privacy.
*[A commenter suggested a typo here, thinking that emptywheel probably meant to write “same”, not “sane”.]
The FISA “ball” is now in the House’s court, and of course President Bush is promising hellfire and damnation if the House doesn’t agree to rubberstamp the Senate’s FISA-gutting bill. Obligingly, 21 conservative Blue Dog Democrats have endorsed the Senate-passed bill, but Inouye does not appear to be one of them.
Commenting on emptywheel’s blog, JimWhite wrote
Inouyeâ€™s behavior on this is truly puzzling. I just checked his ratings on Progressive Punch. Overall, he is 32nd in the Senate. On topics directly related here, he is 23rd on corporate subsidies, 24th on government checks on corporate power, 19th on human rights and civil liberties and 27th on making government work for everyone, not just the rich and powerful. Only on war and peace, where he is 37th, is he appreciably below the middle of the Democrats.
Clearly, from the Progressive Punch ratings, Inouye is voting well out of his character on retroactive immunity. Also, I have noted earlier a high correlation of being in on early briefings on these programs and being out of government entirely. I continue to wonder if we still have only a very tiny part of the true scope of what has been going on in these programs, given the inexplicable impact of these briefings on the subsequent political careers of those taking part. If any documents survived these briefings, historians will have full employment for a very long time once classification expires.
Emptywheel replied to another commenter,
I have a gut feel (and a half-written post) that Lockheed is actually a major player on this program. Theyâ€™re top recipients include Inouye, Mikulski and a fwe of the other Senators who voted for this.
If itâ€™s true, it would be pretty stunning, since Comey is Lockheedâ€™s Chief Counsel.
So, what’s up with Sen. Inouye?