Friday, May 18, 2007
Beyond the pale
Bush certified the program, allowing it to continue even as the top officials in the Justice Department prepared to resign en masse. The President did give them the changes they required to stay in their jobs, but the program ran for an additional several weeks before those changes were agreed upon.
This means that the President allowed a program to continue even after he was explicitly told by the Justice Department, headed by John Ashcroft, that the program was unconstitutional. In searching for reactions to that particular aspect of the story, I found the following highly dubious claim in an article in the Washington Post:
[T]he president authorized the program the Justice lawyers had refused to certify as legally permissible, and it continued for a few weeks more, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey's careful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under the Constitution, the president has the final authority in the executive branch to say what the law is.Wapo seems to be laboring under the delusion that the President, as the head of the executive branch, is able to determine what is or is not allowed by the constitution in regards to actions by his branch of government. There is not a hint of any stricture upon executive behavior in that belief. The President may merely declare that warrantless spying is constitutional, even though that action is obviously a breach of the 4th amendment. That amendment is very clear. We are secure in our "persons, houses papers and effects" and can not be searched unless a warrant is issued based upon probable cause, which warrant is issued with an oath or affirmation as to the particulars of the search.
I appreciate WAPO paying attention to this story, but their interpretation of Presidential powers is completely beyond the pale. We know that the President allowed a blatantly unconstitutional program to go into effect, even after he was told in no uncertain terms that the program was unconstitutional. Also the FISA law is still the law of the land and this program was an explicit violation of that statute. The President does not have the authority under any reading of the constitution to revoke laws despite WAPO's dubious logic.
The House has recently approved a reaffirmation of the FISA law in the authorization of the budget for intelligence activities. If this gets to the Presidents desk it would have to be the first time in our nations history that a law was re-presented for Presidential approval after having successfully been passed initially, and never being repealed by Congress. It is shameful that the President has violated that law, and proudly proclaimed his intention to keep doing so going forward.
Finally... I don't care if Congressional committees were briefed on this program in super secret confidential terms. The members can not disagree with the program publicly without facing 10 years in prison. That is not consultation, but rather it is a monologue with the audience being threatened with jail if they retell the story. This figleaf offered up by the President and his apologists in no way gives him any more right to act unlawfully and in violation of the constitution than some thug with a gun alerting a bank manager he's taking all the money, and if the manager hits the alarm it's curtains, allowing the thug to later claim that the manager let them have the money.
This travesty of an administration is doing it's best to bring our constitutional form of government to a sad conclusion. They have accrued to themselves dictatorial powers, allowing for the torture of detainees, the suspension of habeas corpus for American citizens upon the sole determination of the President that the citizen is a threat, misled the Congress and the American people in order to start a disastrous and unnecessary war, allowed for the defacto revocation of laws that the President determines are not to his liking, and instituted the blatantly unconstitutional NSA spy program. The Congress does not have the cajones to take the only remedy constitutionally provided for this type of danger as represented by the President to our fundamental way of life, impeachment. If it is not this President which brings down the curtain on our Republic, it will be another in the not too distant future if this is allowed to progress unchecked.
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