While politicians talk, domestic spying continues

A year after President George W. Bush revealed existence of a secret administration program that spies 24/7 on Americans, the National Security Agency continues to wiretap the phones of U.S. citizens and politicians continue to talk about the need to control the program.

And yet it continues.

Reports Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times:

When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside the courts, the fallout was fierce and immediate.

Mr. Bush’s opponents accused him of breaking the law, with a few even calling for his impeachment. His backers demanded that he be given express legal authority to do what he had done. Law professors talked, civil rights groups sued and a federal judge in Detroit declared the wiretapping program unconstitutional.

But as Democrats prepare to take over on Capitol Hill, not much has really changed. For all the sound and fury in the last year, the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program continues uninterrupted, with no definitive action by either Congress or the courts on what, if anything, to do about it, and little chance of a breakthrough in the lame-duck Congress.

While the Democrats have vowed to press for more facts about the operation, they are of mixed minds about additional steps.

Some favor an aggressive strategy that would brand the program illegal and move to ban it even as the courts consider its legality. Others are more cautious, emphasizing the rule of law but not giving Republicans the chance to accuse them of depriving the government of important anti-terrorism tools.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who will take over as House speaker in January, favors an investigation to determine how the security agency’s program actually operated and what its legal framework is under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, a senior aide to Ms. Pelosi said. Administration officials said they were concerned they could have to shut down a program they deemed vital to national security.