Monday, January 09, 2006

Oh, for God's sake

Lines like this drive me crazy: "The emphasis on presidential power reflects a debate over the legality of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on telephone calls and e-mails between U.S. citizens and suspected terrorist contacts overseas without first obtaining a warrant from a special court set up by Congress in 1978 to regulate such domestic intelligence-gathering."--Today's WaPo online story about the Alito hearing.

Let's get this straight. It's illegal, it's unconstitutional, it's wrong on so many levels. I don't care who the President is, if he says that he has been wiretapping American citizens (and he did admit this), without a warrant, it's an impeachable offense. He bypassed regular courts, he bypassed the FISA court, even though he had three days after the fact to get approval (making his claim of due speed a bunch of crap), he bypassed proper Congressional oversight. It's the stuff that dictatorships are made of. This isn't meant to be all tinfoil-hatty. It is what it is. When Sam Brownback is questioning Bush's authority and proclaiming this program to be shady, then there is clearly a problem here.

That Clinton and Carter stuff is crap, too, because the quote that my friend Em put up from Clinton's deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick related to physical searches of the person, and the case, as I recall, involved foreign nationals, not American citizens. This is spying on the American citizenry, and I will not take any leader simply at their word that they did not abuse an illegal spying effort. If you are willing to break the law, you're willing to abuse your power on a scale that cannot be comprehended.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Judiciary Committee (which is also hearing Alito) is calling Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General and Bush enabler, to testify publicly on these efforts. Thank God.


Blogger E. M. Zanotti said...

Argh. This isn't a privacy question. I agree with you that its a separation of powers argument: there is no teeth in the privacy argument, simply because of the general consensus on the part of the public that this is not a recognizable privacy interest (the foundation for a 4th amendment consideration). Chances are, this will be subject to judicial scrutiny: the President can only act outside of extreme situations when he has the backing of Congress. It will be up to the courts to determine whether FISA covered the intelligence gathering that the Exec branch did. If the courts find that it does, then the President is safe. If the court finds that it doesn't, then they will have to consider the circumstances. Clinton did the same wiretapping, even ordered Aldrich Ames house to be searched. Carter did similar things. Its no secret that, in history, Presidents have done, and have been able to do, this kind of thing, but in history, it has always been subject to judicial scrutiny. Sometimes its been upheld, sometimes it hasn't.

This isn't up to Specter. Its up to the courts.

6:35 PM  

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