"This Washington Post account makes clear that U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, is making crucial decisions about the extent of the country's surveillance operations against al Qaeda --on her own.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly may be a fine judge and a wonderful person, but her background simply does not suggest she is competent to make these sorts of decisions --on her own. The Post reports that Kollar-Kotelly (and for eight months, Judge Royce Lambert, Chief Judge of FISC on 9/11 through May of the following year when Kollar-Kotelly took over) has been fashioning rules about the NSA program without appellate review or the input of other FISC judges.
This is an alarming detail, and not because the judge is a Clinton appointee with limited if any national security background. Rather, it is simply too much to ask of one judge to shape the intelligence gathering rules for the nation."
Let's add to his observations the point noted in the WSJ editorial that judges aren't elected but members of Congress are.
So, I've been asking myself why the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding hearings on the NSA flap? Why not the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress? Let's take a look at what the Senate Committee on Intelligence describes as its job:
"Created pursuant to S.Res. 400, 94th Congress: to oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs. In carrying out this purpose, the Select Committee on Intelligence shall make every effort to assure that the appropriate departments and agencies of the United States provide informed and timely intelligence necessary for the executive and legislative branches to make sound decisions affecting the security and vital interests of the Nation. It is further the purpose of this resolution to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States."
Isn't this interesting? Sounds to me like this committee's very purpose and reason for being is to pay attention to the President's actions in gaining the intelligence our country needs for national security. I'm guessing at least some of the Senators on this committee have been paying attention.
So, why was the Judiciary Committee holding hearings and not the Senate Committee on Intelligence?
The juxtaposition of a secret court and a judge on a secret court being involved in intelligence decision making, while the relevant Senate committee is not holding a hearing, all the while the media and scribblers are furiously throwing about charges and justifications, seems to me curiouser and curiouser. It is almost as though we don't trust our system of political economy to have elected leaders we can trust in a time of war. The Senators on the Intelligence Committee have the clear responsibility to know about the country's intelligence activities. Shouldn't we be trusting them? What are the actions of this committee suggesting about whether the President has abused the powers of office?