Thursday :: Dec 22, 2005

Bush Says This PM That September 2001 Resolution Gave Him Authority To Spy Inside US

by Steve

Late this afternoon, Bush had the Justice Department send a letter over to the two intelligence committee chairmen in the Congress, and defend his decision to conduct electronic eavesdropping by saying that protecting us from terrorists is more important that privacy rights. Really?

When did we, or Congress for that matter have that debate or grant the president that authority?

The issue here isn’t whether or not Bush was trying to protect us from terrorists; we can have that debate too. The issue is what authority does Bush claim he has to do this spying outside of FISA, congressional authority, or the Constitution of the United States? If Bush wants to claim that his oath of office to the Constitution grants him broad extra-judicial authority to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens without probable cause or due process, or if he claims that the post-9/11 military authorization grants him powers in excess of going after militarily those who attacked us, then we should have both Congress and the courts deal with this now.

It appears that the fall-back defense put forward by Bush today is simply that the September 18, 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) clearly contemplated action within the United States, something that members of Congress have already said isn’t true. And today’s letter apparently also doesn’t answer why Bush didn’t seek warrants under the current law after he had already initiated the spying. So it is a risky proposition for Bush to say that his power derives from the AUMF when the record shows that the debate never addressed domestic intelligence or spying, whereas the Patriot Act did. So why would Bush take this approach, instead of basing his case on his interpretation of his oath? Well, he would take this approach if he wants to blame Congress for passing a resolution that they didn’t understand in light of the new threat we face. In other words, it’s a replay of the “it’s your fault you authorized me to use force against Saddam” routine.

And as I said, it begs the question: If he can't be trusted, shouldn't Congress withdraw the September 2001 AUMF and debate the limits of executive power, congressional oversight, and how far we are really willing to allow the federal government to eviscerate our privacy rights in the alleged interest of protecting us from terrorists, when these terror threats have magically disappeared since November 2004? Maybe that is the debate we should be having about the Patriot Act's renewal, and now would be a good time to do so.

Steve :: 4:02 PM :: Comments (84) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!