Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush Trumps Citizen's Rights

Bush is not deterred by criticism or the law as he made very clear this morning.
President Bush brushed aside criticism over his decision to spy on suspected terrorists without court warrants Monday and said he will keep it up "for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens."

"As president of the United States and commander in chief I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country," he said at a year-end White House news conference.

Bush might want to consult the Supreme Court before he makes such statements:
President Bush's assertion that his powers as commander in chief allowed him to authorize wiretaps on Americans despite a 1978 wiretapping law has little support in past Supreme Court rulings.

Congress enacted the law requiring investigators to seek judicial warrants before wiretapping citizens in response to revelations that former President Richard Nixon had used the FBI to spy on his political enemies.

The court's view is that Bush's powers do not supersede other legal protections.
"A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

UPDATE: I came across this relevant bit of information at TomPaine that I felt needed to be passed along:
Justifying the NSA’s spying as necessary, the Bush administration points to a need to “move quickly” in eavesdropping. But FISA already contains an exception for emergencies that allows the attorney general to authorize foreign intelligence surveillance for up to 72 hours without judicial approval. Also, it is unclear how news of the NSA’s program “alerts our enemies,” as president argued: FISA allows the same surveillance to be conducted under the rule of law...

The words, “Just trust us,” do not appear in the United States Constitution...Intelligence policymaking benefits from public debate — when officials must justify and explain their decisions.

Congress owes it to the American public to demand disclosure from the Bush administration. After all, they do work for us and not the president.


mikevotes said...

The more we know about this story, the stranger it seems. There is no real obvious explanation for going around FISA unless the targets would not have been approved.

One possibility I read that seemed intriguing is that it might have been, in part, reporters who had contacts within al qaeda or with foreign governments or intel services.

Nothing to back that up, but that would be impossible to get out of a FISA court.


Kathy said...

Mike, I read the same thing at Americablog, and he presents a sound argument. Do you really think the court would refuse Bush if he had sound information though? We can't assume all reporters are above suspect and never side with the enemy, so wouldn't the court allow some wiretapping of one or two suspicious journalists if sufficient evidence was presented?

I also read that Bush might be wiretapping Democrats and he doesn't want that to get out. Geez, that almost makes sense too. Did Nixon take possession of Bush after he died. The similarities are eerie!