Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bush's Spying on Americans Hitting the Fan

Republicans hoping that President Bush's latest salvo against our Constitution will blow over during the traditional holiday, no-work zone are in for a rude surprise.

For those of you unfamiliar with the latest example of how Team Bush hates what America truly stands for, The New York Times reported on Friday that Bush had used the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without the court orders required by law for such actions.

The Times started a firestorm by reporting – after sitting on the story for a year in deference to the White House – that "President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying."

Citing a presidential order signed in 2002 and interviews with numerous current and former intelligence officials, the Times reported that the NSA had monitored, without warrants, the communications and e-mails of hundreds of people inside the United States.

This is very likely a violation of the constitutional prohibition against unwarranted searches.

Despite claiming that he was operating "under the law," while never specifying exactly which law he was observing, Bush is being hit from both sides of the aisle about his unauthorized actions.

Saying he intends to hold formal Senate hearings on the breach, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Bush acted outside the law of the land.

"[These actions are] wrong, clearly and categorically wrong,'' said Specter, Friday on the Senate floor. "This will be a matter for oversight by the Judiciary committee as soon as we can get to it in the new year -- a very, very high priority item. They talk about constitutional authority [but] there are limits as to what the president can do."

"The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI). “I this revelation drives home to people that this [Senate] body must be absolutely vigilant in its oversight of government power. I don’t want to hear again from the Attorney General or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care. This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed with Feingold, calling the news "troubling."

"We are at war, and I applaud the president for being aggressive," said Graham, who also called for a congressional review. "But we cannot set aside the rule of law in a time of war."

Pamela Leavey at The Democratic Daily is all over this one today with a piece highlighting Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) dismay over the revelations.

“I think the president’s explanation is lame,” said Kerry of Bush's attempts to explain his actions. “The fact is that there is no wording whatsoever in the law that permits what he engaged in. … And the president’s claim that he has some inherent authority to do this -- against the stated intention of Congress not to -- is simply wrong.”

Go to The Democratic Daily to read the rest of this and another excellent piece, Feinstein, Bipartisan Group of Senators Seek Joint Judiciary-Intelligence Inquiry into Domestic Spying.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) makes it clear that, despite the holiday recess, this issue will be waiting on the White House doorstep when they arrive back in 2006.

"The president can't pass the buck on this one. This is his program," said Reid. "He's commander in chief. But commander in chief does not trump the Bill of Rights."