SPECTER HANGS UP ON NSA OVERSIGHT….In May, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) talked tough in response to revelations about Bush’s legally dubious surveillance efforts. At one point, Specter even complained publicly, “[T]here really has to be in our system of law and government, checks and balance, separation of powers, congressional oversight and…there has been no meaningful congressional oversight on these [surveillance] programs.”

Of course, Specter has a track record of not exactly walking the walk when it comes to follow through on administrative oversight. A few weeks ago, Specter cut a weak deal with conservatives on the committee on legislation on NSA surveillance, and yesterday, the other shoe dropped.

After weeks of anticipation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter deferred a decision about whether to force executives from three telecom companies to testify about their involvement in the National Security Agency’s terrorist-surveillance program. His decision came as a total surprise to Democrats on the committee, leading Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin to suggest Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, had succumbed to a “June swoon.”

According to those in attendance, Specter said he’d been “advised informally” that the phone companies they planned to subpoena — BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T, would be precluded from providing any information about the secret program by the government. Thus, a vote was therefore postponed on the matter, Senate staffers said.

Instead, Specter said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had extracted a promise from Vice President Cheney himself to work with the Senate on proposed legislation related to the NSA and its oversight.

How utterly predictable. Instead of meaningful oversight, Hatch has invited Dick Cheney to “help” the Senate Judiciary Committee determine how it can exercise its oversight responsibilities.

I’m sure the Vice President will be forthcoming and ensure the NSA’s activities are open to scrutiny, right?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.