Patrick Leahy Is Confused

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Patrick Leahy appears to be confused.

Early in the week, Leahy was one of 11 Senators who signed Ron Wyden’s letter demanding the Office of Legal Counsel targeted killing memos

After it was announced that President Obama would release the memos — but just to the Senate Intelligence Committee — he celebrated the move.

At that point, Leahy’s presumably largely liberal 10,000 followers would have believed that the President had finally fulfilled minimum standards of oversight.

Meanwhile, his colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee complained about the move.

Grassley’s 65,000 followers would have correctly learned (assuming they’re fluent in Grasslese) that Obama had not yet given the memos to the committee that oversees the people who wrote the memos.

It turns out, the same day they sent these tweets, Leahy and Grassley sent a letter to the President “respectfully requesting” any and all memos.

We were informed last evening that you had directed the Department to provide copies of relevant OLC opinions to members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but not this Committee.

[snip]

Our Committee plays an important role in providing congressional oversight over important national security and intelligence activities conducted by the Executive Branch, and our Members and our staff have frequently been provided access to highly classified documents. Given the important constitutional issues implicated by the targeted killing of U.S. citizens by our Government, and given our Committee’s jurisdiction over these issues and the Department, we respectfully request that you direct the Department to promptly provide our Committee with access to unredacted copies of any and all legal opinions drafted by OLC that pertain to the targeted killing of U.S. citizens abroad.

This is not exactly the way to conduct oversight, in my opinion, to contribute to the Administration’s limited hangout, leading people to believe the President isn’t, still, stonewalling.

Let’s be clear. According to both Ron Wyden and Dianne Feinstein, the Administration hasn’t even provided all the memos to the Intelligence Committees (it provided 2, but there are 8 more).

It seems the Administration plans to drib and drabble this demand, perhaps long enough to get past the date, tentatively scheduled for Valentines Day, when people will start voting for John Brennan’s nomination to be be CIA Director. That is, it seems the Administration plans to outlast these demands for accountability.

And Pat Leahy, insofar as he is muddling the issue of all memos to all the oversight committees (and the very least), is helping.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    one would think that if the prez and his advisors had a solid legal/constitutional/law of war argument to make, they would put it out there. there should be legions of republican congrs as well as conservative democrat congrs who would support such an argu.ent.

    but the memos are not being made available without a lot of arm-twisting by congress. this suggests that the arguments the administration has mustered are not viewed as strong from within the admin.

    probably with good reason:

    http://balkin.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-controversy-over-dojs-targeted.html

    dragging out the release of the numerous memos is only fueling distrust among the entire political spectrum of congrs.

    i conclude that the memos taken together are likely to show an ad hoc, cover-our-bare-asses-pronto effort at legal analysis.

    i am also curious about the possibility that the whole legal rstionale effort is post hoc. we are only focusi g on awlaki et al. what about american citizens killed elsewhere by us or y contracted third party.

    i forsee this mess continuing for the emperor obamaeven, even with feinstein’s and leaghy’s very considerable political skills.

    i wonder if brennen got kicked over to cia because he is considered responsible for initiating this mess.

  2. P J Evans says:

    I suspect that many senators would prefer not knowing what the government is doing in our names, as long as they can get away with claiming they’re doing their jobs while not being challenged on their actual job performance.

  3. PeasantParty says:

    @P J Evans: I agree. The entire institution is confused. They don’t know whether to support and uphold the Constitution or to promote terror via a war on it.

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