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Another Shot at the Safety Net

Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes in the Baltimore Sun: "When President Bush addresses employees at the National Security Agency today, he will also be aiming his message at millions of independent voters who have not made up their minds about the agency's warrantless eavesdropping program, pollsters and strategists say."

Mike Allen writes for "Even as the White House launches a media blitz to portray its controversial wiretapping program as a perfectly legal weapon in the war on terror, administration officials have begun dropping subtle hints -- without explicitly saying so -- that President Bush could go to Congress to seek more specific authority to listen in on U.S. citizens who are suspected of entanglement with terrorists. . . .

"No such move is imminent, a top aide stressed. But administration lawyers are said to be debating whether the President would be better off putting the monitoring on more solid footing, or whether seeking additional latitude would amount to admitting the government had not been following the law."

Setting Some Sort of Record

The White House issued another of its war-room style "Setting the Record Straight" memos yesterday, this one suggesting that it is wrong to call the NSA's domestic spying program "domestic."

It's like spin meets kindergarten:

"DEFINITION: Domestic Vs. International.

" * Domestic Calls are calls inside the United States. International Calls are calls either to or from the United States.

" * Domestic Flights are flights from one American city to another. International Flights are flights to or from the United States."

But hitherto, warrantless NSA spying has been limited to international-to-international communication. The big news is that now it's looking at phone calls -- and e-mail messages -- that include domestic starting or ending points.

So calling it international spying would be fundamentally dishonest.

Now You Know What It Feels Like

Senators are getting a little lesson in what it's like to be a White House correspondent.

Lara Jakes Jordan writes for the Associated Press: "The White House is crippling a Senate inquiry into the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina by barring administration officials from answering questions and failing to hand over documents, senators leading the investigation said Tuesday.

"In some cases, staff at the White House and other federal agencies have refused to be interviewed by congressional investigators, said the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition, agency officials won't answer seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House, the senators said."

Eric Lipton writes in the New York Times: "In response to questions later from a reporter, the deputy White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, said the administration had declined requests to provide testimony by Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff; Mr. Card's deputy, Joe Hagin; Frances Fragos Townsend, the homeland security adviser; and her deputy, Ken Rapuano."

Abramoff and the White House

The Think Progress blog spots Newsweek correspondent Michael Isikoff on MSNBC saying that it was disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff himself who showed photographs of his White House visits to Washingtonian magazine.

The Washington Post editorial board wants the White House to end its Abramoff stonewall.

Pakistan Watch

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "President Bush said Tuesday that he would travel to India and Pakistan in March, but made no public comment about the American airstrikes that killed 18 civilians, including women and children, in one of Pakistan's remote tribal areas earlier this month.

"With Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, at his side, Mr. Bush spoke about areas of agreement, like trade and fighting terrorism, in four minutes of public remarks in the Oval Office. The president called the countries' relationship 'vital' while Mr. Aziz called it 'multifaceted.'

"The two leaders took no questions, and afterward the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, sidestepped queries about whether Mr. Bush had spoken in private to Mr. Aziz about the airstrikes."

Here's the text of their remarks.

Luckily, Aziz himself was more forthcoming after the meeting, telling the Associated Press : "We have conveyed our concerns and apprehensions, and we agreed that there's a need to coordinate and communicate better."

Impeachment Watch

Jim Puzzanghera writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "The word 'impeachment' is popping up increasingly these days and not just off the lips of liberal activists spouting predictable bumper-sticker slogans.

"After the unfounded claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and recent news of domestic spying without warrants, mainstream politicians and ordinary voters are talking openly about the possibility that President Bush could be impeached. So is at least one powerful Republican senator, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"So far, it's just talk. And with Republicans controlling Congress -- and memories still fresh of the bitter fight and national distraction inflamed by former President Clinton's 1998 impeachment -- even the launching of an official inquiry is a very long shot.

"But a poll released last week by Zogby International showed 52 percent of American adults thought Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he wiretapped U.S. citizens without court approval, including 59 percent of independents and 23 percent of Republicans. (The survey had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.)"

Isn't He Awesome?

Via Salon's Video Dog , the Rocketboom videoblog asks men and women on the street: "Why is President Bush so awesome?" It turns out that even the most loaded question doesn't always get the expected response. (Warning: Adult language.)

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