Remember the televised May 2006 Pentagon question-and-answer session after a speech by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in which a man in the audience accused Rumsfeld of lying on several occasions about known weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  If not, you can read about it here. Anyway, the questioner was Ray McGovern, whose mixed interests and experience in intelligence analysis and theology have led him to protest, at different times, policies emanating from the White House and from the Vatican.

Midway through a dot-connecting essay titled “Creeping Fascism: History’s Lessons,” McGovern has the following paragraph that might be of particular interest to Californians.

It Started Seven Months Before 9/11

How many times have you heard it? The mantra “after 9/11 everything changed” has given absolution to all manner of sin.
    We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of our leaders, and this tends to make us negligent. After all, we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that drastic changes were made in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue and toward Iraq at the first National Security Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2001.
    Should we not have anticipated far-reaching changes at home as well?
    Reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and court documents and testimony in a case involving Qwest strongly suggest that in February 2001 (National Security Agency’s General Michael) Hayden saluted smartly when the Bush administration instructed NSA to suborn AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest to spy illegally on you, me, and other Americans.
    Bear in mind that this would have had nothing to do with terrorism, which did not really appear on the new administration’s radar screen until a week before 9/11, despite the pleading of Clinton aides that the issue deserved extremely high priority.
    So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us.
    We know that the Democrats briefed on the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, D-Florida, and Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, respectively.
    May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy?

Not necessarily; maybe no one asked them for comment at the time. But it’s not too late.  Perhaps the most memorable words from the investigation of the Senate Watergate Committee were those of the late Senator Howard Baker (R-Tenn): “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”  When indeed were our Congress members first informed of the plans for wholesale warrantless wiretapping, and what did they do with what they knew?