By Brad Friedman on 1/23/2006, 12:33pm PT  

The BRAD BLOG has obtained the official transcript of last week's congressional hearings on warrantless NSA wiretapping as authorized (on at least thirty occassions) by the Bush Administration. The event was officially titled, "CONSTITUTION IN CRISIS: DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE AND EXECUTIVE POWER".

The hearing, chaired by ranking House Judiciary Committee minority member, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), was held in the basement of the Rayburn building last Friday after the Republican leadership once again (as they did for hearings on the "Downing Street Documents" last year) refused the Democrats a formal hearing room to conduct the congressional oversight forum. That, despite the House having been in recess on Friday and the official hearing rooms otherwise vacant.

C-SPAN carried the hearings live as seven House members sat on the panel to hear testimony and question the following expert witnesses:

  • Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan
  • James Bamford, Author of "The Puzzle Palace"
  • Professor Jonathan Turley, George Washington Law School
  • Richard Hersh, The Truth Project
  • Caroline Fredrickson, Washington Legislative Director, ACLU
  • Kate Martin, Director, Center for National Security Studies
  • As The BRAD BLOG reported in an exclusive prior to the hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has defended the Administration's warrantless wiretapping of American citizens on U.S. soil as "legal", despite the prohibition against such activity as outlined by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), was invited to give testimony as well in defense of the Administration's position. He declined to appear, as did any other representative from the Bush Dept. of Justice.

    On the day prior to the hearings, however, the DoJ issued a 42-page document declaring the warrantless wiretaps of American citizens on U.S. soil to be "legal". Judiciary Committee member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) spoke to that document during the hearings, commenting that "making their argument longer did not make it any better." The statement received laughter from the hearing room. Van Hollen followed up by charging:

    I have to say that any first-year law student would, after reading this, quickly conclude that the arguments were specious. And I think that if you had a private attorney in Washington, D.C., or anywhere in this country provide their client with this kind of advice, they would be sued for malpractice. And I believe that this opinion is malpractice on the American people.

    Some remarkable testimony was given by each of the witnesses at the hearings. It's all now available in full, via the complete 122-page transcript.

    -- Complete Transcript of House Democratic Hearings on Warrantless NSA Wiretaps [PDF]