Why Congress won't get through to the NSA.
President Bush has reiterated in recent weeks that he "briefed" Congress about the spy program: In the summer of 2003 Dick Cheney sat down with a small handful of lawmakers, and described the program in broad strokes. Aides were excluded from the meeting and note-taking was not allowed. After attending the session, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., wrote a letter to Cheney, which he released to the press after the Times broke the wiretapping story in December. "I am neither a technician nor an attorney," Rockefeller wrote. "I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities." It's a dispiriting letter to read alongside the muckraking tour-de-force of the Church Committee reports. It's also a preview of all we're likely to get out of the hearings next week: I can't quite work out what's going on here. But I think I object.
Patrick Radden Keefe is is a fellow at the Century Foundation and the author of The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream.
Photograph of Capitol Hill by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.