Thursday, May 18, 2006

 

Orrin Hatch Accidently Answers Reporter's Question, Confirms Phone Records Story

I somehow missed this interesting little story that Think Progress flagged yesterday. It pretty clearly demonstrates the perils of actually answering the questions of reporters.

It seems Utah Senator Orrin Hatch accidentally confirmed the existence of the phone monitoring programs that are causing the Bush administration such a political headache. Previously, the line had been that officials couldn't confirm the program's existence, because it's supposed to be classified.

Hatch did this by telling a reporter who'd queried him about the programs that at least two of the chief judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had been informed since 2001 of the operations, and that "none raised any objections." That appeared to be indirect confirmation of the program's existence.

Later, his spokesman tried to undo the damage. The AP story somewhat drolly adds: "An aide later said Hatch's comments should in no way be considered confirmation of any efforts to collect phone records."

Hatch confirmed it before he didn't confirm it, I guess.

Seriously, this suggests some very promising lines of inquiry for the press. What exactly were the FISA judges told? How much detail were they given? Why didn't they object?

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