My favorite Arlen Specter moment was the grilling of Alberto Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Like the rest of us, Specter wanted to know what the NSA program entailed. Who was the government listening to and why didn't they file the proper warrants?
The FISA law was meant to protect US citizens from Nixon-style dirty tricks, making clear no president could single-handedly infringe on the privacy of Americans. FISA allows spying to catch terrorist plots ahead of time, but requires keeping a record for the Judiciary to ensure the government isn't abusing wiretap apparatus.
George W. Bush specifically promised voters on the campaign trail he would comply with this law, but after one FISA judge quit in protest, it came to light that Bush's NSA program to wiretap US citizens had no paper trail. The NY Times article blew the lid on the scheme only after Bush had been re-elected in 2004, winning Ohio in the middle of the night in an improbable upset in precincts that had polled heavily Democratic.
But February 6, 2006, in front of Arlen Specter, Gonzales squirmed around without disclosing who was being spied on, when and why. In a blow to the outraged citizens, it was decided that Gonzales' testimony would be continued behind closed doors to preserve "national security" secrets.
During the hearings, the Washington Times offshoot Insight Magazine warned any Republican senator participating in the probe of Bush's surveillance program would have future reelection funding withheld by Karl Rove and the RNC.
Tellingly, the hearings just ended. They did not resume the next morning and no explanation was given.
While it's possible the NSA program was listening in on terrorists, it's also possible the Bush administration was spying on political enemies in conjunction with the alleged conspiracy to intimidate and prosecute Democratic officials and fundraisers in swing states, gethering dirt for Rove's red file. The required paperwork would easily have cleared this up.
We know now Gonzales had been surveilling Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee in 2005 or 2006. The NSA has asserted the surveillance was lawful but has not released any documentation to verify this. Regardless of who the NSA was after, it's unclear why no records would be kept for the FISA court to review.
Gonzales had no comment when asked about the Harman allegations - his then decision not to pursue charges against any supposed shady dealings was due to Harman's silence on the NSA program. Ironically, she gave a free hand to those she now claims abused their powers.
Between the hijacking of the DOJ to allegedly tilt elections, thousands of warrantless NSA wiretaps, the FBI's bungling of National Security Letters improperly snooping on thousands, missing e-mails by the millions and the infiltration of peace activism groups, it's apparent Nixon's protege Karl Rove may have been using executive intel apparatus, or even regional police forces or private contractors to gather data on anti-Bush dissenters.
One can only wonder how many in positions of power have their hands tied by the evidence collected on their dealings and personal lives? Granted, Elliot Spitzer, Kwame Kilpatrick, John Edwards, William Jefferson and Rod Blagojevich have themselves to blame for their predicaments, but if they represent the Democratic culture of corruption, the lack of indictments of an appreciable number of Republicans seems suspicious, especially in light of the mountains of actionable evidence begging for investigation here, here, here and here.