Cheney's Still Got It

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, March 8, 2006; 12:12 PM

Faced with the frightening prospect of public hearings and active Congressional oversight into President Bush's contested domestic spying program, the White House sent out its big dog -- Vice President Cheney -- to bring straying moderate Republicans to heel.

Indeed, no matter what you have may have heard lately, the fact is that Cheney is still the Bush Administration's most ferocious warrior. Never mind the rumpus about his initial refusal to tell anyone -- even Bush -- that he shot someone while hunting in Texas. Disregard those reports of tensions between the vice president's office and, well, pretty much everyone else at the White House.

Cheney took point in the White House effort to quash a full-blown investigation into the program. And the guy still gets the job done.

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post: "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted along party lines yesterday to reject a Democratic proposal to investigate the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program and instead approved establishing, with White House approval, a seven-member panel to oversee the effort.

"Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters after the closed session that he had asked the committee 'to reject confrontation in favor of accommodation' and that the new subcommittee, which he described as 'an accommodation with the White House,' would 'conduct oversight of the terrorist surveillance program.' . . .

"The panel's vice chairman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), took a sharply different view of yesterday's outcome. 'The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House through its chairman,' he told reporters. 'At the direction of the White House, the Republican majority has voted down my motion to have a careful and fact-based review of the National Security Agency's surveillance eavesdropping activities inside the United States.' "

David D. Kirkpatrick and Scott Shane write in the New York Times: "Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.

"The agreement, hashed out in weeks of negotiations between Vice President Dick Cheney and Republicans critical of the program, dashes Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. The two, both Republicans, had threatened to support a fuller inquiry if the White House did not disclose more about the program to Congress."

So what happened?

"Mr. Hagel said the group worked out the last-minute deal in long telephone calls with Mr. Cheney; the White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers; and Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security."

There's some dispute about whether the White House gave in a bit, or not at all.

Greg Miller and Maura Reynolds write in the Los Angeles Times: "The developments enraged Democrats but delivered mixed results for the White House, which avoided a full-scale investigation of the spying operation, according to Senate Republicans, by agreeing to provide detailed briefings on the program to a larger number of lawmakers."

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