Secret meetings about secret secrets

Questions about the NSA program just won't go away. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been dogged by pesky lawmakers who seem bent on spoiling the administration's mystery and intrigue. Interestingly, it's the Republicans that are being the pushiest this week.

Arlen Specter yesterday announced that he was drafting legislation "to bring the NSA's spying under the umbrella of a court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)." Heather Wilson, chairwoman of an intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA, called for an inquiry on the wiretaps. Then, one of Bush's biggest fans in the House of Representatives, F. James Sensenbrenner, submitted a list of 51 questions about the NSA program to Gonzales, requesting a response by early March.

So Gonzales relented.

Well, sort of. Yesterday, a secret meeting was held with members of a House of Representatives intelligence panel in which more details about the program were disclosed. While the press has trumped this turn of events as a "newfound openness," I'm having a hard time seeing this as anything other than the latest in a series of Rove-ian PR tactics.

Throw them a bone, however small, and they'll shut up.

Note that, just this morning, on the heels of this secret meeting, the President divulged new details on a 2002 "foiled terror plot." The plot had been mentioned back in October and is allegedly one on the administration's (oft played, greatest hits) list of "10 disrupted al-Qaeda plans." But today, he specified the target of the alleged plot, and two of the people behind it. Conspicuously absent from the speech was any mention of wiretaps, or the NSA program. That's because it would be absurd to make the argument that, without wiretaps, the plot would not have been foiled. Again: FISA allows for warrantless wiretaps.

But the President would prefer that we just go ahead and free associate. Al-Qaeda, war on terror, IRAQ. National security, warrantless wiretaps, FOILED TERROR PLOT. The human mind seeks reason, and when confronted with these series of events, attempts to apply cause and effect. But, true to the "pre-emptive" ideology of the "war on terror," this administration produces an effect, and we are left to wonder at the cause.

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