The Note: Won't Be Lame

Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Pat Leahy (D-VT), the chair and Ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, hold an 11:30 am ET briefing on "The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005." Under the legislation, the federal government would establish a $140 billion national trust fund that would be privately funded by asbestos defendant companies and insurers, with no liability by the United States government. If the fund is unable to pay all eligible claims, victims will also have the option to return to the tort system to seek compensation.

The Senate meets at 2:00 pm ET for debate and to consider the asbestos claims bill. Jury selection in the penalty phase of the Moussaoui trial begins at 10:00 am ET.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) participate in the kickoff of "National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention" week.

Politics of domestic surveillance:

According to a Senate Democratic aide familiar with planning for today's hearing, Democrats are eager to emphasize that they will take a back seat to no one when it comes to national security. Democrats are also wary of falling into what they see as the Republicans' trap that asking questions about a questionably legal program is similar to handing the terrorists the American playbook.

In his role as one of the principal authors of the 1978 FISA law, Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) is expected to question Gonzales about the effectiveness of the warrantless wiretapping program from the national security standpoint.

Per Time Magazine's Mike Allen, Gonzales will defend the program by telling Senators that the program targets suspects, not innocents. LINK

Gonzales plans to "lash out" at "misinformed, confused" news accounts about the program, and to declare it "is not a dragnet," according to administration documents provided to Time Magazine.

In a well-placed Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Attorney General argues that the surveillance program is not in violation of the FISA statute because he believes that the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force provides statutory authorization for the program to operate as an exception to FISA.

The AG also argues that the NSA's terrorist surveillance program is "narrowly focused" on the international communications of persons believed to be members or agents of al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) told his political supporters by e-mail last week that he will have "particularly strong questions" for Gonzales because the Wisconsin Senator believes the answers Gonzales gave a year ago under oath at his confirmation hearings "were misleading."

On Friday, Sen. Feingold's office distributed to members of the press the video of Feingold's questioning of Gonzales last year. Watch. The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drumm argues that what's remarkable about Gonzales' answers to Feingold last year is that he "rather plainly didn't promise that the president would never violate the law. What he said is that if he did ignore a statute, he would do it with a 'great deal of care and seriousness.' And furthermore that it was not the president's 'policy or agenda' to violate the law -- meaning, I suppose, that he would only do it occasionally." LINK

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