The question is: given all the attention paid to Gonzales, Iraq, Rove, and myriad investigations into the un-Constitutional activities of the Bush administration, are we less exercised than we should be about the 2008 elections?
What opportunities exist for skewing the election? How many US attorneys' appointments have been about maintaining Republican domination of the electoral process? How much effort that the Bush administration puts into shielding its data mining from view is really about the use of data mining to control over the election outcomes?
I was thinking about that as I typed in this post today about the prospect of a Democratic victory leading to the immediate restoration of liberal-conservative balance in the Supreme Court and about how high that makes the stakes for the the radical right in the upcoming presidential and Congressional election.
The New York Times addresses those fears, at least in part in a summary of the situation the Senate Judiciary Committee faces with Attorney General Gonzales and the White House.
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
The N.S.A.’s data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.
Indeed. Why did the data mining cause such a "furious" debate? How much do we know about what data mining is actually taking place? How much of it is it about "terrorists" and how much about domestic political control? How much did that aspect of it provoke "top Justice Department officials" to threaten resignation?
If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.
But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who have been briefed on the program, called the testimony deceptive.
“I’ve had the opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here, and I believe that his testimony was misleading at best,” said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, joining three other Democrats in calling Thursday for a perjury investigation of Mr. Gonzales.
“This has gone on long enough,” Mr. Feingold said. “It is time for a special counsel to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought.”
Well, okay. But think about Ken Starr. Think about Patrick Fitzgerald. Imagine how long it will take -- if a special counsel were appointed in, say, August 2007 at the very earliest -- to come up with the goods? with the answers? particularly given a White House which blocks every move?
So I'm asking again. Are we being wary enough about the coming election? Are we at least demanding a paper trail, elementary though that is, given what could happen if we're not watching the process with very beady eyes?