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Pakistan Update: Graham Advocates Escalation, Chaman Crossing Closed After Tanker Bombed

Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Pakistan?

In the latest developments in the US-Pakistan war of words, the Pakistani Prime Minister said the US must stop blaming Pakistan, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested the US should start using bombers in the region held by the Haqqani network and the Chaman crossing, one of two major border crossings into Afghanistan used as US supply routes, has been closedafter a bomb detonated, killing a disposal expert.

In remarks broadcast on television less than an hour ago as of this writing, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani warned the United States to stop blaming Pakistan for regional instability:

“The blame game should end, and Pakistan’s sensitive national interests should be respected,” Yusuf Raza Gilani said in comments carried live on local television stations.

Gilani’s remarks were prompted in part by Lindsey Graham raising his anti-Pakistan rhetoric yet another level. From the same Reuters article:

Graham said in an interview with Reuters that U.S. lawmakers might support military options beyond drone strikes that have been going on for years inside Pakistani territory.

Those options may include using U.S. bomber planes within Pakistan. The South Carolina Republican said he did not advocate sending U.S. ground troops into Pakistan.

“I would say when it comes to defending American troops, you don’t want to limit yourself,” Graham said. “This is not a boots-on-the-ground engagement — I’m not talking about that, but we have a lot of assets beyond drones.”

Almost exactly a year ago, on September 30, 2010, the Torkham Crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan was closed in retaliation for the US killing three Pakistani soldiers in a botched cross-border operation. The closing of this key supply route was a major move, and a number of fuel tankers subsequently were burned as they were idled in various locations around Pakistan. Today, we learn that the Chaman Crossing was closed a couple of hours ago in response to a bomb disposal expert being killed when the bomb he was attempting to disarm detonated:

Pakistani authorities have closed one of the two border crossings used by trucks carrying NATO war supplies into Afghanistan after a bomb hit an oil tanker.

Police officer Mohammad Tayab was quoted as saying by media reports that the Chaman border crossing was closed “for security reasons” after an explosion on Thursday killed a bomb disposal expert who was trying to defuse the device.

It has not been announced how long the crossing will remain closed, but I would not be surprised if the investigation into the bombing of the tanker will be cited as a reason for keeping the crossing closed for several days. Should that happen, a key development to watch for will be whether additional tankers caught in the back-up will be attacked. In last year’s closure of the Torkham Crossing, there were suggestions that the number of tankers attacked could only be explained if one assumed that Pakistan reduced the level of security being provided for transport convoys. Will the same thing happen again this year?

State Department, DoD Argue Over “Rules” for Drone Targets Outside Pakistan

Fire away!

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ed: Now that he’s on the mend from heart surgery, Jim is going to do some posting at EW. Welcome, Jim!

Charlie Savage notes in today’s New York Times that the Departments of State and Defense are engaged in an argument over the choosing of targets for drone attacks outside Pakistan. The primary point of contention centers on whether only high level al Qaeda figures in places like Yemen and Somalia can be targeted or if even low level operatives in these areas can be targeted there, just as they are in Pakistan.

Arguing for a more constrained approach is Harold Koh at the State Department:

The State Department’s top lawyer, Harold H. Koh, has agreed that the armed conflict with Al Qaeda is not limited to the battlefield theater of Afghanistan and adjoining parts of Pakistan. But, officials say, he has also contended that international law imposes additional constraints on the use of force elsewhere. To kill people elsewhere, he has said, the United States must be able to justify the act as necessary for its self-defense — meaning it should focus only on individuals plotting to attack the United States.

A more wide open approach is favored by Jeh Johnson at the Pentagon:

The Defense Department’s general counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, has argued that the United States could significantly widen its targeting, officials said. His view, they explained, is that if a group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda against Americans, the United States can take aim at any of its combatants, especially in a country that is unable or unwilling to suppress them.

Sensing an opportunity to add to his “tough on terrorism” credentials, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) can’t help but join in the DoD’s line of argument: Read more

Lindsey Graham Calls Raymond Davis an “Agent”

AFP has a report (notably picked up by Pakistan’s Dawn) on the Senate’s hand-wringing over whether we should tie aid to Pakistan to the release of Raymond Davis, the “consulate employee” who shot two alleged Pakistani spies. Here’s what Lindsey Graham had to say:

But Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on Leahy’s subcommittee, strongly warned against any rollback of assistance to Pakistan, citing the need for help in the war in Afghanistan and the hunt for suspected terrorists.

“Our relationship’s got to be bigger than this,” Graham said.

“This is a friction point, this is a troubling matter, it doesn’t play well in Afghanistan. We can’t throw this agent over, I don’t know all the details, but we cannot define the relationship based on one incident because it is too important at a time when we’re making progress in Afghanistan,” he said. [my emphasis]

Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey! Under Ben Cardin’s proposed law criminalizing leaks (and, frankly, under existing law), you could go to jail for such honesty. Good thing you have immunity as a member of Congress.

Though in the spirit of Bob Novak–who claimed to be thinking of a political professional running congressional campaigns in Dick Cheney’s state when he called Valerie Plame an “operative”–I suppose Graham could claim he just thought Davis serves some kind of service employee at the consulate, one of the “agents” that help with visas or some such nonsense.

Not that that’ll help the tensions over this incident in Pakistan at all.

Obama’s EO on Indefinite Detention: Wanting Bud McKeon’s Cake and Eating It Too

[Update, 12/7/11: I find I’m still linking back to this post, and cringing everytime I see I got McKeon’s name, Buck, wrong. Apologies.]

I plan to do some more reading on Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Indefinite Detention (not least, once an EO becomes public). But here are some preliminary thoughts after having read Adam Serwer’s very good summary of the debate thus far.

The biggest reason to do this, IMO, is to head Lindsey Graham (who wants to pass a law authorizing indefinite detention) and Bud McKeon (who wants to rewrite the AUMF to authorize a limitless war on terror, along with the detention that would “authorize”) off at the pass. What Graham and McKeon want is undoubtedly worse.

But there are several problems with this as is.

1) I’m with Ben Wittes. I have a real problem with doing this via Executive Order. The whole problem with an executive just inventing his own judicial system is that it is unilateral and probably no more legal than Bush’s original review boards were. So even though liberals might LIKE this outcome better (and like it FAR better than what McKeon wants), legally it seems no more defensible. It still is an abuse of separation of powers.

2) Moreover, doing this with an EO is all the more problematic because EOs, as Bush showed and Obama’s first White House Counsel endorsed, are susceptible to pixie dust–to being changed with no public notice. There is nothing in principle to prevent Obama from secretly changing the terms of his EO on indefinite detention from including just al Qaeda and related groups to including FARC and drug traffickers to including Assange.

3) You might say the AUMF prevents that from happening. But if that’s so, then why is the AUMF not sufficient (that is, if as everyone says and DOJ concluded last year, international law provides for detention during wartime, then why do we need an EO reasserting that authority?). Sure, this EO puts a nice gloss on indefinite detention authorized–they say–under AUMF, but I’m afraid it also serves to push the boundaries of the AUMF. After all, Obama’s own Guantanamo Task Force has said the Yemenis could be released but couldn’t be released to Yemen, suggesting his own lawyers agree that they are not the kind of High Value Detainees who really fall under detention guidelines under the AUMF, but we’ve got to keep them anyway–partly–because of a war against AQAP, a force not included in the AUMF, but also–partly–because our unreliable ally there is fighting a civil war that threatens to morph into our war on terror and makes it dangerous–for reasons that may not have anything to do with Islamic terrorism–to release into that country. Yet the Yemenis appear to be included in this EO. In other words, the notion that such issues should form the basis for indefinite detention when they are not tied to the terms of the AUMF seems more likely to be abused under an EO.

4) All of which comes back to Bud McKeon, who wants to rewrite the AUMF to authorize foreever whereever war. This EO seems, as much an effort to get around Republican hopes for expansive indefinite detention, also an effort to get around revisiting the terms of the AUMF, even though we badly need to do so. Mind you, I’d like us to revisit it, declare the War on Terror as defined by the AUMF won, and the ongoing fight against terrorism a law enforcement exercise. That is, in my opinion, the legally correct thing to do. But Obama doesn’t want to lose his expansive executive powers which a law enforcement approach would require (and surely is unwilling to take the politically bold stance of observing that the war we’re fighting in Afghanistan has little to do with 9/11). So he’s basically endorsing McKeon’s awful stance, while trying to avoid doing so publicly. He basically wants the untenable outcome McKeon is pushing without the backlash from civil libertarians in this country (which are admittedly an increasingly small concern for Obama) or the international community (which is probably a growing concern) that he’d get for embracing McKeon’s unjustifiable stance. He wants to have Bud McKeon’s cake and eat it too.

And no matter what one thinks the correct stance is, this seems to be all about Obama having missed his opportunity to take a correct and defensible legal stance in 2009 (thanks Rahm), but also refusing to take a stance he’ll need to fight for going forward. Now, frankly, of all the political fights Obama refuses to fight, I suspect an assessment that this is now an unwinnable fight might, for once, be accurate (which is different than agreeing that it was unwinnable in summer 2009). In other words, his assessment than an attempt to head Bud McKeon off at the pass may indeed be morally preferable if legally suspect. But all the claims about EOs stopping short of institutionalizing a permanent system of indefinite detention also ignore the ways that doing this via EO is at the least legally troublesome and may be far worse in the long run.

Lindsey Graham Predicts Successful Terrorist Attack Followed by Harsh Resolution of Gitmo

Josh Gerstein provides Lindsey Graham a soap box to complain that his efforts to craft a grand compromise with the Administration on Gitmo stalled in May.

“I thought we were close to getting a deal,” Graham told POLITICO last week. “I had some meetings where I walked out of the White House and said, ‘This is great.’ These were better meetings than I ever had with the Bush administration.”

But sometime around May, according to Graham, the line of communication with the White House shut down.

“It went completely dead,” Graham said. “Like it got hit by a Predator drone.”

The article as a whole suggests that Administration was fairly close to a deal, though even that deal was threatened by Graham’s inability to bring a number of Republicans along on the compromise as a whole, rather than a series of solutions. Efforts to craft a deal intensified following the Faisal Shahzad attempted Times Square bombing. Gerstein suggests that Eric Holder’s big appearance on the Sunday shows on May 9–to entertain thoughts of a Miranda compromise–was a sign of how close the Administration and Graham were to a deal.

“We had a great discussion on Miranda warning reform,” Graham recalled about an evening session with Bauer and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I spent three hours down at the White House — it was probably the best meeting I’ve ever been in — where we game-planned this. … I left the meeting thinking we’re going to get a statute.”

Indeed, on May 9, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly embraced the idea on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Calling Miranda-related legislation a “new priority,” he declared: “This is a proposal that we’re going to be making.”

And then the efforts to craft a compromise died (and, as a result, Miranda remains intact). Gerstein suggests Graham’s flip-flopping on other key legislation made it clear that Graham was not an honest broker.

Graham also may have lost credibility with the administration after he lashed out at the White House in disputes over the health care bill, climate legislation and immigration reform.

The timing certainly makes sense. During the last week of April, Graham threatened to kill the climate change bill he was crafting with the Administration as a way of keeping immigration reform from coming to a vote. By early June, he was promising to vote against any energy or climate bill. So the collapse of the grand “bargain” on Gitmo may have as much to do with Graham’s apparently successful effort to prevent Democrats from focusing on the legislative goals of a key constituency. And that may be why the electoral calendar is cited for killing the compromise as much as anything else: Graham’s yoking of immigration and climate change to Gitmo.

But I also wonder whether the Administration got a sense of just how bad Graham’s “compromise” really was. Negotiations on the grand compromise seem to have been at their height just as DOD was kicking four reporters out of Gitmo for making clear what was already in the public domain: that the interrogator who threatened a child with rape and possibly death in US prisons is the same guy who was convicted in relation to the death of another detainee. Since then (in July), Omar Khadr fired the lawyers who were crafting a plea deal, thus closing off one of the most palatable ways for the Administration to avoid making Khadr the poster child for America’s continued abuse of power at Gitmo.

I also suspect the nomination of Elena Kagan on May 10 may have played a part in the timing, not least because no Republicans would be willing to make a deal against the background of a SCOTUS nomination.

As it is, Graham seems to be using Gerstein’s article to issue two threats: first, that he will push for his own legislation in the next Congress, presumably with the votes of a few teabaggers to help him. And, his implicit threat that there will be another terrorist attack after which any decisions on Gitmo will be far worse than the policies being discussed now.

“There’s going to be an attack. That’s going to be the impetus. That’s going to be what it takes to get Congress and the administration talking; we have to get hit again,” the senator said, suggesting that passing a bill before that happens might be more reasonable than what would come afterward.

“If there is a successful attack, there is going to be a real violent reaction in the Congress, where we will react more emotionally than thoughtfully,” Graham said.

Let it be remembered–for the day when we’ve completely capitulated to those who want to use the threat of terrorism to establish a police state–that Lindsey Graham planned for it to happen.

The Things Bob Bauer Was Doing before Taking over Ethics

The White House Ethics Czar, Norman Eisen, has gotten himself nominated to serve as Ambassador in one of the greatest places on earth, Prague, Czech Republic. To replace the function of Ethics Czar, the White House has announced that White House Counsel Bob Bauer will take over, and Steven Croley (who worked on the campaign) will lead a team of six to oversee ethics.

Ethics wonks are mixed about whether this arrangement will meet the high standards Obama set when he came into the White House. POGO’s Danielle Brian takes Bauer’s appointment as a good sign that ethics will continue to be a priority. OMB Watch’s Gary Bass is happy the White House worked so quickly to implement a plan to replace Eisen. But Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller views the appointment of Bauer–who has a history of supporting bad ethics habits–as a setback.

This concern is magnified manifold when Eisen’s key successor – Bauer — can hardly be described as having the DNA of a ‘reformer.’  This is the man who invented the rationale for the acceptance of “soft money’’ – unregulated (chiefly corporate) funds that flooded elections to the tune of $1.5 billion between 1992 and 2002, and the man who sided with arch conservatives in their defense of lack of transparency.

[Update: CREW has concerns as well.]

I’ll leave it to the ethics wonks to decide whether Bauer can do the job–on ethics–well or not. And FWIW, the one time I’ve seen Bauer’s work close up (during an election-related suit here in MI in 2008), I thought he was the kind of fighter Dems need more of.

But I am worried about what this says about the Administration’s focus on two other critically important functions. You see, when Bauer took over for Greg Craig, he was hailed as the kind of guy who could solve two problems Craig had failed to: judicial confirmations and closing Gitmo.

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Even the Crusades Weren’t “Forever”

I’m going to assume John Cole was asking sincerely when he posted this request.

Can someone explain this reaction from Emptywheel:

After prompting Kagan to deliver the standard justification for detaining enemy combatants during war and rewarding her with a condescending compliment, Lindsey starts by getting Kagan to agree that the war on terror will never end.

Lindsey: [Speaking of her rote recitation of the basis for indefinite detention] That’s a good summary. The problem with this war is that there will never be a definable end to hostilities, will there?

Kagan: [Nodding] That is exactly the problem, Senator.

 

What a breath-taking exchange! Rather than challenge Lindsey on his slippery definition (referring to “hostilities” rather than war), rather than challenging him on the premise, Kagan simply nods in agreement. One minority party Senator and the Solicitor General sat in a hearing today and decided between them the state of hostilities under which the Executive Branch has assumed war-like powers to fight terrorism will never end.

The police state will continue forever.

Maybe I am misinterpreting these remarks, and you have to watch the video, but didn’t Kagan just say it is a bad thing that we are currently engaged in never-ending hostilities? Don’t we agree that is a bad thing? Isn’t Kagan right? What should she have said?

The question of whether the GWOT will have a “definable end” that justifies indefinite detention means two things in practical terms. First, how long will a state of war exist that justifies our holding of 48 Gitmo detainees who can’t otherwise be prosecuted. And second, how long will a state of war exist that justifies holding people at Bagram, including bringing them to Afghanistan after being captured in other locations, for indefinite detention.

48 Gitmo detainees

So how long will we have a legal claim–both within US and international law–to justify holding the 48 detainees at Gitmo that we currently can’t charge but deem too dangerous to release?

As I pointed out in this post, the Gitmo Review Task Force Report provided the following reasons why we can’t charge these men:

  • At least some of these detainees can’t be charged because evidence against them is tainted (this probably includes people like Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abu Zubaydah).
  • For others, we only have evidence they were members of al-Qaeda, and not that they engaged in any actual terrorism against the United States, even including actions taken after October 2001 which might be legally considered self-defense but which in some cases (such as with Omar Khadr) we’ve chosen to label as terrorism. If these people had engaged in the same activities for which we’ve got evidence after October 2001–and especially after December 2004–we might be able to charge them, but they haven’t.
  • For a number of these men, we had evidence that we could have used to charge them with material support for terrorism but held them so long without charges that the statute of limitations has expired.
  • For some of these men, we purportedly could have charged them with material support, but did not because of “sentencing considerations,” which I take to mean we believed that the 15 year maximum sentence was too short, and so have not charged them (note, the Obama administration has not gone to Congress and asked for a change to this sentence).

Given that we can’t try these men, we are instead justifying holding them under the law of war. As Kagan explained,

Under the traditional law of war, it is permissible to hold an enemy combatant until the end of hostilities and the idea behind that is that the enemy combatant not be enabled to return to the battlefield.

And, as she made explicit elsewhere in this exchange and repeatedly during her hearings, our ability to invoke the law of war depends on our ability to invoke the AUMF passed after 9/11, which states,

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons. [my emphasis]

We can only legally use this justification against people who either by themselves aided 9/11, or were members of an organization or nation that aided 9/11.

Now, we’re already pushing this, as the government’s lousy 14-36 record on habeas cases makes plain. For example, the Gitmo Task Force claimed the ability to hold people who simply have a “history of associations with extremist activity” without requiring that they have actually either membership in al Qaeda or direct participation in 9/11.

But to envision that the hostilities authorized by the AUMF will not end, you have to envision both that the  al Qaeda and affiliates that existed at the time of 9/11 will exist indefinitely, and/or that we will remain at war against the Taliban forever.  In some cases, this is obviously not going to be the case. Hamid Karzai is already talking about bringing Gulbuddin Hekmatyar into government. If he does so, will we still have justification to hold the members of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin who are among the 48? Discussions about a deal with the Taliban are less optimistic, but if we really do withdraw in 2011, will we still have the basis to hold the Taliban members who are among the 48? If we kill or capture Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, will we still claim holding someone who served as OBL’s guard in 2001 is too dangerous to release?

But even the al Qaeda and affiliates described in the AUMF seem to have a definite endpoint. After OBL and Zawahiri are gone and we’ve managed to kill our 217th “al Qaeda Number 3” will we still be able to say that the al Qaeda that hit us on 9/11 still exists? At some point, judges are going to consider the al Qaeda copycat groups that pop up in various locales to be too tenuously connected to the al Qaeda of 9/11 to be meaningfully the same group anymore.

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Elena Kagan and Lindsey Graham on the Global Battlefield, the Sequel

This exchange is one of the most telling from the entire Kagan hearing today (note; we’ve edited this exchange for length; here’s the full exchange; also, while you’re watching, keep an eye on the body language of the bearded man sitting behind Kagan, White House Counsel Bob Bauer).

It’s striking, first of all, because Lindsey Graham plays the role of the cross-examiner and his delivery largely overwhelms Kagan. As they go on, Kagan manages to reclaim her ground–on the issue of whether or not the entire world is the battlefield of the war on terror. But even there, the difference in her various answers suggests troubling things about her stance on habeas.

After prompting Kagan to deliver the standard justification for detaining enemy combatants during war and rewarding her with a condescending compliment, Lindsey starts by getting Kagan to agree that the war on terror will never end.

Lindsey: [Speaking of her rote recitation of the basis for indefinite detention] That’s a good summary. The problem with this war is that there will never be a definable end to hostilities, will there?

Kagan: [Nodding] That is exactly the problem, Senator.

What a breath-taking exchange! Rather than challenge Lindsey on his slippery definition (referring to “hostilities” rather than war), rather than challenging him on the premise, Kagan simply nods in agreement. One minority party Senator and the Solicitor General sat in a hearing today and decided between them the state of hostilities under which the Executive Branch has assumed war-like powers to fight terrorism will never end.

The police state will continue forever.

Perhaps sensing the danger, Kagan notes that the Hamdi decision envisions such an indefinite war might require a different approach to detention, perhaps a review to ensure a detainee’s continuing dangerousness. This thrusts Kagan not into the realm of legal review, but the policy disputes between the White House and Lindsey (again, the watchful eye of Bob Bauer here is worth noting).

Our excerpt jumps here (after Lindsey makes his pitch for just such a program).

Lindsey comes back by getting Kagan to personally endorse the stance she embraced in her Solicitor General role, arguing against habeas rights for Bagram detainees.

Lindsey: You argued against expanding habeas rights to Bagram detainees held in Afghanistan, is that correct?

Kagan: I did, Senator Graham.

Lindsey: As a matter of fact, you won.

Kagan: [pushing back with apparent discomfort] Uh, in the DC Circuit–

Lindsey: [interrupting] And you probably won’t be able to hear that case if it comes to the Supreme Court, will you?

Kagan: Well, that’s correct, and the reason–

Lindsey: [interrupting again] Well, that’s good cause then we can talk openly about it.

Kagan: [laughing] Uh, if I could just say, the Solicitor General only signs her name to briefs in the Supreme Court, authorizes appeal, but does not sign Appellate briefs, but I determined that I should be the Counsel of Record on that brief because I felt that the United States’ interests were so strong in that case based on what the Department of Defense told our office.

Lindsey: Right. I want every conservative legal scholar and commentator to know that you did an excellent job in my view of representing the United States in that case.

Lindsey then gets her to reiterate that she signed that brief because of the seriousness of the issues for the government. He interrupts again:

Lindsey: Well, let me read a quote: “The Federal Courts should not become the vehicle by which the Executive is forced to choose between two intolerable options: submitting to intrusive and harmful discovery, or releasing a dangerous detainee.” Do you stand by that statement?

Kagan: Senator Graham, can I ask whether that statement comes from that brief?

Lindsey: Yes it does.

Kagan: No, I uh, that statement is my best understanding of the very significant interests of the United States government in that case, which we tried forcefully to present to the Court and as you said before, the DC Circuit–a very mixed panel of the DC Circuit–upheld our argument.

Lindsey: Right. You also said “The Courts of the United States have never entertained habeas lawsuits filed by enemy forces detained in war zones. If Courts are ever to take that radical step, they should do so only with explicit blessing by statute.” You stand by that?

Kagan: Anything that is in that brief I stand by as the appropriate position of the United States government.

Lindsey: [while she is speaking] Fair enough.

Throughout this exchange, Lindsey basically had Kagan cornered, not wanting to disavow a document she had signed in unusual circumstances, but seemingly recognizing the risk of adopting these harsh statements as her own. Read more

DiFi Will Cave on Intelligence Reform

As I’ve noted before (here and here), confirmation hearings for James Clapper have gotten bogged down in a dispute between the Administration and both houses of Congress over whether Congress should have the tools to exercise real oversight of intelligence functions.

Right now, Nancy Pelosi is holding out for both extended notification to the Intelligence Committees and GAO audit power over intelligence community functions. But, in spite of earlier claims that she would not hold a confirmation hearing for Clapper until the intelligence authorization passed, DiFi now appears to be softening that stance. She told Chris Wallace yesterday that she will move forward with confirmation hearings provided that Obama chat to Pelosi about her intelligence related concerns (starting at 14:07).

Chris Wallace: One of your other hats that you wear is Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee–Director of National Intelligence Blair has been fired. The Acting Director Gompert is resigning. Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats are deadlocked over the intel reform bill and the whole question of Congressional oversight of spy agencies. How quickly are you going to get this resolved and how quickly are you going to confirm so that we have a Director of National intelligence?

Feinstein: Well the process has begun, he has received the questions. On Friday–

Wallace: This is General Clapper?

Feinstein:  Yes, General Clapper. Friday I learned the questions have been answered. They were at the White House. We would expect to receive them this week. We can move. I have requested that the President call the Speaker and try to move our Intelligence bill. the reason the Speaker has a problem with it is because we removed two things which the White House found to be veto-able. One was an extension of notification on certain very sensitive matters to all Members rather than the Gang of Eight. The second was Government Accountability Office, we call it the GAO, oversight which was anathema to the White House. We took that out. The bill passed the Senate, our committee, and the Senate unanimously. We have conferenced it, we’ve pre-conferenced it, with the House Committee. We believe we are in agreement, we’re ready to move. If the Speaker will allow them to go to conference then we can move the bill–

Chris Wallace: But very quickly, will you hold up confirmation hearings for Clapper until you get resolution on the intel report?

Feinstein: Well, I have asked that the President would please talk to the Speaker. If he does that, I will move ahead.

Now, to be fair, Obama’s threatening a recess appointment for Clapper in any case. And–as Wallace pointed out–the resignation of  Acting Director of National Intelligence David Gompert and the planned retirement of his possible replacement has ratcheted up pressure to get a permanent replacement in (I’ll point out once again that there seems to be a double standard between the treatment of ODNI and OLC). So the choice is likely between a recess appointment with no intelligence reform and a confirmation hearing with intelligence reform (Clapper’s approval is not assured).

But Pelosi’s making a stand to fix two of the problems that the Bush Administration exploited–and which the Obama Administration, particularly given their veto threat, may plan to exploit as well. DiFi appears to be saying that the principle of real Congressional oversight is worth nothing more than a conversation with the President.

Meet Deputy Attorney General Robert Gibbs

I guess, in addition to President Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Lindsey Graham, Deputy Attorney General Robert Gibbs sees the wisdom in putting aside rule of law for political expediency.

Some policy advisers have wondered why the administration’s flack is so often in attendance, but insiders fluent in the administration’s power dynamics know Obama values his views. According to one administration official, who would not be quoted speaking about internal White House discussions, Gibbs late last year pointed out the political perils of letting the Justice Department try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court and has urged the president to ignore Wall Street critics who argue Obama has adopted too populist a tone when speaking out against executive bonuses. [my emphasis]

You know, when Karl Rove unacceptably took over DOJ, he did so to support world domination. He had a plan.

But apparently we’ve decided to shred the Constitution for no other reason than a press flack thinks it would be smart.