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Congress Passes Reform Legislation, While Iraq Debate Deepens

The administration announced key changes in its surveillance policy, the Senate passed a "historic" ethics reform bill, and the House finished its "100-hour agenda" this week. Political analysts David Brooks and Mark Shields discuss these developments and Iraq policy.

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    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    David, bottom line here is, should this be seen as a major reversal of policy by the president on this surveillance thing?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    It's hard to tell. It's clearly some sort of reversal. The question is what they got in their secret FISA procedure they've now established.

    And one of the things the senators are talking about is that the old system and the problem the administration had with it was that they had to do it case by case. And then, with some of this new technology where they sweep in, you know, lots of phone calls, they thought that was inappropriate.

    And some of the senators wanted to know, with this new procedure they've set up in secret that they're not sharing with anybody, is it still case by case or is it somehow allowing for large sweeps? And until we know that, it's sort of hard to know how big a reversal.

    Clearly the politics, the Democrats taking over the Congress, and the court cases that are burbling along clearly had some effect.


    Do you agree, this was not an accident?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    I do, Jim. I think that the announcement was made just prior to the attorney general's first testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee controlled by Democrats, chaired by Pat Leahy, and the July 31 date with the court of appeals.

    And I don't think they wanted to face the possibility — I think they will make the case now that, "We've changed our policy so that this is no longer relevant."


    So but there's clearly, whatever secret process there is, there is now going to be or is judicial review there wasn't before?


    That's exactly right.


    That is a change.


    They're going to comply with the same practices and procedures that every other administration has, which they had asserted this rather exceptional executive privilege for the past six years.