The controversy over warrantless wiretapping by the NSA takes center stage this week in the Senate with top administration officials making their case before two committees. Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Judiciary Committee in a public hearing. And on Thursday, Gonzales will be joined by deputy intel czar General Michael Hayden in a closed hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Hayden used to oversee NSA.)
Today's judiciary hearing will shed little--if any--new light on the specifics of the program. Instead, expect a debate on the legal underpinnings the administration cites for bypassing the special (FISA) court established by Congress in 1978 to approve wiretapping. Thursday's intelligence session, while closed to the press, may also yield few answers for the senators attending, because the administration thus far will share operational details of the super-secret program with only the panel's chairman (Pat Roberts, R-Kansas) and vice-chairman (John Rockefeller, D-W.V.).
Today Congress also receives the president's budget for fiscal 2007, which begins the parade of cabinet secretaries and agency directors marching to Capitol Hill to justify the billions of dollars they'll need to run their departments. This week's headliners include Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (with Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace) on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary John Snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolton on Tuesday.
There may also be as many as three Hurricane Katrina hearings this week, one of which is expected to bring back former FEMA director Michael Brown before the Homeland Security/Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating the federal preparation and response.