The entire world knows now that Bush has authorized a domestic eavesdropping program. Clearly it appears that he is in the wrong with this and many Democrats and some Republican members of Congress “have questioned the source of the president’s power to engage in eavesdropping without the involvement of a judge, as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.)”
The WaPo reports that Bush “offered his most elaborate defense yet of his administration’s domestic eavesdropping program, saying he was legally and constitutionally authorized to implement it and obligated to do so in order to protect the country from a new kind of enemy.”
In a wide-ranging news conference this morning, Bush said his authority to have the National Security Agency eavesdrop without judicial involvement derived from his inherent constitutional powers as commander in chief as well as from the authorization for the use of military force approved by Congress in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Congress gave me authority,” he said.
He expressed anger at the fact that someone revealed the secret program, saying he assumed the Department of Justice would launch an investigation to determine the source of the leak. “My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this program in a time of war. . . . The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy,” he said.
And he was visibly angered when a reporter asked him what limits there were on “unchecked” presidential authority during wartime. “I disagree with your assertion of unchecked power,” Bush said. “There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law for starters. There is oversight. We’re talking to Congress all the time. . . . To say ‘unchecked power’ is to ascribe dictatorial power to the president, to which I object.”
Mr. Bush, the shameful act is that you authorized this program without going through proper channels. There are limits to your powers, Mr. Bush – they are not ALL inherent, as you would like Americans to believe. In a news conference responding to Bush’s statements, three Democratic Senators challenged “the legal justification for the domestic spying program and said Bush should stick to the FISA process.”
“Where does he find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?” demanded Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He also disputed Bush’s statement in the news conference that checks on his executive power — such as his authority to order the secret surveillance — came from his oath of office and congressional oversight.
“That’s not a check on the executive branch, notifying some members of Congress — if he did — that he’s taken the law into his own hands,” Levin said. “That is not a check on the executive branch, nor is the fact that he gets opinions from six lawyers in the executive branch, all under his control, that he can do this.”
Levin noted that FISA allows for retroactively seeking the court’s permission for wiretaps in the event of an emergency. “And so he can’t just simply use the necessity to move quickly as an excuse to bypass the law,” he said.
“The president does not have a leg to stand on legally with regard to this program,” said Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.). He added, “I think it’s one of the weakest legal arguments I’ve heard that this [Afghanistan] war resolution somehow undid the basic laws of wiretapping in the United States.”
If Bush feels the FISA law needs to be changed, “he should come to us and we should debate it,” Feingold said. Meanwhile, Bush should respect the FISA court and “cease doing anything else he might be doing for which there is not legal authority that we don’t know about,” he said. “He is the president, not a king.”
Feingold was not the only member of Congress today to remind Bush that he is the president, not a king. As Ron noted in the post below, Rep. John Lewis said, “He is not King, he is president.” Lewis also called for impeachment today.
Bush has been busy objecting to questions from reporters of late — personally I think it’s time for the American public to object to Bush’s “inherent” powers. He’s not a king and he’s not Superman. He’s by far the worst president in my lifetime. His actions are beyond shameful.