12.19.2005

In America, We Keep Our Proof in Our Pudding

As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it. And after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda.
So I was able to watch the president swear that he has and had the authority to order wiretaps of American citizens without court approval. This is shaping up to be a wee bit more of a boondoggle then I think he thought it would be.

He invoked Article 2 of the Constitution as the root seat of his authority. And what's article 2 got to say? Well, among other things it says...
Article 2 Section 4
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
But I couldn't see anything in there that says a president can invoke superpowers and break the law. Stuff about appointing judges and requesting opinions of leaders but nothing that would appear to grant him any power to circumvent the rule of the Constitution just as any other citizen. Oh yeah, maybe he means this part, the stuff he actually says as he's sworn in, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." But that's not tacit permission to break the law, not in any way at all.

It will be interesting to see who's wire was being tapped without court approval. That ought to make for an interesting day, especially if its readily obvious that the "suspects" are not terrorist suspects at all. Such as, I don't know, political opponents, business competitors to cohorts, etc.

So who was the last president who ordered wiretaps without court approval? And he didn't go on national TV and admit that he approved of them either. Not like George. Nope. You see, George's government is (ab)uses the Freedom of Information Act too. The FoIA contains this little gem, “ specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy” and “trade secrets” to “ clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” [III - Section 552 – (b) 1, 4 and 6] which is like a cheapass loophole (specifically, Executive Order 13233 that locked up Reagan and Bush Sr.s records among others ostensibly because to reveal them would weaken the nation though its eminently suggestible that the revelations in the records would be far more damaging to the current Republican power structure in this nation).

And then there's the question of the Supreme Court that would hear, eventually, this case. The newly shuffled Supreme Court with a couple of, hey crazy how this works, Bush Jr. appointees. So there's instantly a, how shall I say it, clear and substantial conflict of interests in the involved parties? Yeah, that'll work.

So there are a couple of questions that should be answered.
One, what is the constitutional legality of presidential privilege as is being invoked by Bush?
Two, who were the people being spied upon that are so important that Bush couldn't get a court's permission to spy on?
Three, is wiretapping via presidential decree an impeachable offense?
Four, can Bush fully articulate his position of how he arrived at the legality of implementing wiretaps without the benefit and review of a court?
Five, at what point is a full and complete examination, investigation and clarification of every decision the Bush presidency has made warranted in order to determine the full extent of and damage caused by presidential "privilege" as Bush interprets it?
Six, what's Fitz up to these days?
Seven, how does one impeach an entire administration?

[Update: President Bush gave a speech in April of 2004, here's a link to it in which he states (about two thirds of the way down the page), emphasis is mine:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
This is a man who firmly believes his vision is enough of a reason to warrant the trampling of our rights as Americans and the document that he swore to uphold and protect. And he made this speech after authorizing illegal wiretaps for three years. Keep that in mind.]
[Second update: One of the FISA judges has resigned in protest of Bush's use of illegal wiretaps. More cards will fall.]
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