Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
Countdown: FISA and Fear Mongering
Treason Under the
Video: CELL PHONE (FBI can listen even when phone is turned off)
C-SPAN BOOK TV - 9/11 COMMISSION INTERVIEW
9/11 ACCOUNTABILTY Vs. "The Case For Impeachment"
AUDIO (ABOUT 55 MINUTES)
9/11 ACCOUNTABILITY....WE WHERE VERY UNJUDGEMENTAL
THE 9/11 COMMISSION....THESE GUYS ARE SHOCKING!!!!
Philosophy Of Liberty
"There ought to be limits
-George W. Bush
Impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for violating the Constitution of the United States
Subject: "Why Bush's NSA Wire tapping is defeated by VoIP Networks on Google Video Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2006 11:33:17 -0700 From: Marc Perkel <email@example.com> To: APFN@apfn.org CC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a link to a Google video that I made of myself explaining a lot of the technical details of Bush's wire tapping program and why it will never work. It explains that terrorists would use private voice over IP networks (Internet phones) that can not be tapped. It is explained in a manner that the average viewer can get a good idea of how it works. Feel free to use this and pass it around. It puts a new light on the whole "we need NSA wiretapping to fight the terrorists" excuse. Show this to as many people as possible.
Your friend, email@example.com, has sent you the following video from Google Video and included this message:
From Capitol Hill Blue
Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'
By DOUG THOMPSON
Dec 9, 2005, 07:53
===================================================================================Ex-official warned against testifying on NSA Spying programsFri Jan 13, 2006 00:51
December 17, 2005 latimes.com
'78 Law Sought to Close Spy Loophole
Congress acted to prohibit the kind of domestic surveillance that is now at issue.By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writerhttp://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-legal17dec17,1,6257251.story?coll=la-news-a_section
WASHINGTON — In 1978, Congress thought it had closed a loophole in the law when it passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The loophole concerned secret spying authorized by the president on grounds of national security.On Friday, many in Washington were surprised to learn that despite the 1978 law, President Bush and his advisors had claimed the power to authorize secret spying within the United States.
The New York Times reported that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to listen in on the phone calls of thousands of people in this country without getting permission from a court. Bush's lawyers maintained that the president had the inherent authority as commander in chief to protect national security through secret spying. The account was confirmed by the Los Angeles Times."This sounds like an extraordinarily broad exemption to FISA," said Washington lawyer Kenneth C. Bass III, who worked on the 1978 law as an aide to President Carter. "This is well beyond the pale of what was anticipated back then."Other lawyers who helped write the law thought it prohibited what Bush apparently authorized."FISA was the sole authority for wiretapping" on national security grounds, said Jerry Berman, who worked on the 1978 law as a counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. "The statute would be a futile exercise if the president retained the authority to conduct these wiretaps on his own."As a general matter, the Constitution forbids the government from spying on Americans — including by listening in on their phone calls — without a court's permission. The 4th Amendment says police or federal agents must show a magistrate some evidence of wrongdoing before they can obtain a warrant that authorizes them to listen in on phone calls.However, through most of the 20th century, presidents maintained they had the power to protect the nation's security by, for example, spying on foreign agents who were operating in the United States. No one questioned that U.S. intelligence agencies could tap the phones of Soviet agents.In the mid-1970s, Congress learned the White House had abused this power: Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, had authorized the FBI to tap the phones of hundreds of political activists and celebrities, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Vietnam War protesters.Those revelations led to the 1978 law. One provision says it is a crime for anyone to "intentionally engage in electronic surveillance" except as authorized by law or a court order. However, "the president, through the attorney general, may authorize electronic surveillance … to acquire foreign intelligence information" if officials obtain a warrant from a special court that operates inside the Justice Department.The judges of what is known as the FISA court may issue warrants for wiretaps when the government has evidence that a person is working for a "foreign power" or is involved in terrorism. This is not a high standard, legal experts say. The judges issue warrants virtually whenever the government applies for one, the Justice Department has said in the past.However, the law requires evidence that the wiretap target has links to a foreign government or a terrorist group. It would not permit, for example, the wiretaps of hundreds of Muslim men in the United States simply because they telephoned the Middle East.Top intelligence officials have in the past assured Congress that they follow the law and do not engage in secret spying. "There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we — the CIA, the NSA and the FBI — scrupulously adhere to whenever conversations of U.S. persons are involved. We do not collect [information] against U.S. persons unless they are agents of a foreign power," then-CIA Director George J. Tenet told a House committee five years ago.After Sept. 11, Bush said he would use all the powers of the presidency to prevent another terrorist attack in the United States. His advisors feared then that secret Al Qaeda cells existed within the country and that further attacks were planned.Administration officials refused Friday to discuss the National Security Agency spying program or even to confirm its existence.Some former officials say it is important to put the program into the context of the time."I wasn't aware of this when I was at the White House, but there was a tremendous sense of urgency to take whatever steps were necessary to detect and disrupt any cells that were out there," said Bradford A. Berenson, a White House lawyer during Bush's first term. "The president was not going to let it be said that he had not used all the powers at his disposal to protect the American people."This would not be the first time Bush has claimed that his power as commander in chief can override the law.The Constitution forbids the government from arresting and holding people in the United States without "due process of law." Nonetheless, Bush has claimed the power as commander in chief to designate people as "enemy combatants" and imprison them indefinitely without filing charges.In 2002, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and held in military brigs for nearly three years. Civil libertarians said that was unconstitutional. His case had been heading toward the Supreme Court; the administration recently brought criminal charges against him, thereby thwarting a clear ruling on the issue.In the past, Congress has ratified treaties pledging that the United States and its agents will not use torture or inhumane treatment against captives. Once ratified, treaties become part of American law, according to the Constitution.But before this week, the White House maintained that the laws and treaties did not bind the president in handling terrorist leaders. White House lawyers wrote memos that appeared to justify the use of extreme measures — which critics called torture — in interrogating suspected terrorists.Civil libertarians say the latest revelations add to their frustration with the Bush administration. "If we are a nation of laws, then the president must be bound by the rule of law," said Lisa Graves, senior counsel at the ACLU in Washington. "This is clearly in violation of FISA and a violation of the Constitution. The president, no matter who he is, does not have the power to decide which laws he will follow."
Bush goes too far when he bypasses wiretap court
By Helen Thomas
© 2005 Hearst Newspapers - 12/22/05
WASHINGTON - It may come as a surprise to President Bush that under our constitutional system no one, not even a president, is above the law.
Bush has used the 9-11 attacks as his carte blanche to initiate domestic spying on Americans without a court warrant in pursuit of terrorists, although the law is very clear that he needs court approval.
Even some of his Republican supporters think he has overstepped his authority. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has announced plans to investigate.
Congress and the public in recent weeks have been stunned to learn that Bush has issued a secret order to the National Security Agency empowering it to listen in on the private conversations of Americans with suspected links to al-Qaida.
This completely bypasses the procedure that Congress established to prevent the abuse of government surveillance powers. That procedure was spelled out in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which set up a secret federal court that the executive branch is supposed to ask for permission before eavesdropping on Americans.
Bush admitted at a news conference Monday that he has authorized electronic spying by the NSA on Americans without seeking that permission. He claimed that he has the legal power because of his constitutional responsibility as commander in chief and because of the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" in the battle against terrorists.
Bush insisted that he was absolutely within his rights to wiretap on the home front without a warrant.
There is no reason why the administration cannot seek permission from the FISA court, which is empowered to issue warrants retroactively within 72 hours of the surveillance. This negates the administration argument that it bypassed the court to avoid any delays in pursuing a suspect.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. District Court James Robertson, a member of the FISA court, has resigned in protest against Bush's end run.
The surveillance program is highly classified - and Bush said he intends to keep it that way, despite the uproar in Congress over the federal intrusion into private lives.
"We're at war and we must protect America's secrets,"
Bush said. He also indicated that the Justice Department is hunting for the leakers who revealed the secret program to The New York Times. He called the leaks a "shameful act."
In comments to reporters en route to Pakistan, Vice President Dick Cheney bemoaned the restraints put on presidents in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, both of which involved flagrant illegalities and massive deceits by chief executives.
Cheney said he believed in "a strong robust executive authority and I believe the world we live in demands it." He added it was "no accident" that the U.S. has not been hit by a terrorist in four years.
He also warned that there may be a political backlash against those who oppose the administration's anti-terror strategy.
"The president and I believe there is a hell of a threat," he said.
He claimed that the White House helped protect presidential power by keeping secret the names of people he consulted on his task force on energy policy. The Supreme Court upheld the White House right to have "unfiltered advice," he noted. In this case, that advice appears to have come from Cheney's cronies in the oil industry.
Past presidents have asserted that their presidential power gives them the authority to ignore Congress. In 1952, the Supreme Court put President Harry S Truman in his place when he ordered a federal takeover of the steel industry to prevent a disruption of the flow of U.S. weapons during the Korean War. Truman argued that his role as commander in chief gave him that authority.
Justice Robert Jackson wrote that a president's power was "at its lowest ebb when he takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress."
Jackson also said "with all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the executive be under the law and that law be made by parliamentary deliberations"
Bush is learning that there are limits to presidential power, especially when he oversteps his constitutional bounds.
Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org .
UPDATE: Dec. 17, 2005 - Bush Will Continue to Spy on Americans:
Bush Acknowledges Approving Eavesdropping
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press President Bush delivered his weekly radio address live from the White House.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 17, 2005
Filed at 11:07 a.m. ET
Transcript: President Bush's Address (December 17, 2005)
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts (Dec. 16, 2005) WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush said Saturday he has no intention of stopping his personal authorizations of a post-Sept. 11 secret eavesdropping program in the U.S., lashing out at those involved in revealing it while defending it as crucial to preventing future attacks.
''This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security,'' he said in a radio address delivered live from the White House's Roosevelt Room.
''This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States,'' Bush said.
Angry members of Congress have demanded an explanation of the program, first revealed in Friday's New York Times and whether the monitoring by the National Security Agency without obtaining warrants from a court violates civil liberties. One Democrat said in response to Bush's remarks on the radio that Bush was acting more like a king than the elected president of a democracy.
Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ''consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.'' He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ''a clear link'' to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.
The program is reviewed every 45 days, using fresh threat assessments, legal reviews by the Justice Department, White House counsel and others, and information from previous activities under the program, the president said.
Without identifying specific lawmakers, Bush said congressional leaders have been briefed more than a dozen times on the program's activities.
The president also said the intelligence officials involved in the monitoring receive extensive training to make sure civil liberties are not violated.
Appearing angry at points during his eight-minute address, Bush said he had reauthorized the program more than 30 times since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and plans to continue doing so.
''I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups,'' he said.
The president contended the program has helped ''detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad,'' but did not provide specific examples.
He said it is designed in part to fix problems raised by the Sept. 11 commission, which found that two of the suicide hijackers were communicating from San Diego with al-Qaida operatives overseas.
''The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9-11 hijackers will be identified and located in time,'' he said.
In an effort by the administration that appeared coordinated to stem criticism, Bush's remarks echoed -- in many cases word-for-word -- those issued Friday night by a senior intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The president's highly unusual discussion of classified activities showed the sensitive nature of the program, whose existence was revealed as Congress was trying to renew the terrorism-fighting Patriot Act and complicated that effort, a top priority of Bush's.
Senate Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans on Friday to stall the bill. Those opposing the renewal of key provisions of the act that are expiring say they threaten constitutional liberties.
Reacting to Bush's defense of the NSA program, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said the president's remarks were ''breathtaking in how extreme they were.''
Feingold said it was ''absurd'' that Bush said he relied on his inherent power as president to authorize the wiretaps.
''If that's true, he doesn't need the Patriot Act because he can just make it up as he goes along. I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for,'' Feingold told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The president had harsh words for those who talked about the program to the media, saying their actions were illegal and improper.
''As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have,'' he said. ''The unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.''
Note to Mr. Bush: The U.S. is not a monarchy
Posted on Wed, Dec. 21, 2005
Note to Mr. Bush: The U.S. is not a monarchyBy Joseph L. GallowayKnight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - Our forefathers created a system of government built on checks and balances that they envisioned would protect a free people from abuses of their privacy, their property and their liberty at the hands of anyone, especially anyone in public office.
They never intended for an imperial presidency to rise above the legislative and judicial branches of government, for they had their fill of kings and emperors who ruled with absolute power in the old world. They knew that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
They wanted none of this, and wrote a Constitution and Bill of Rights to enshrine the protections they knew were needed to keep Americans free and democracy healthy.
They crafted a system of government rooted in the principle that citizens have rights and presidents violate those rights at their own peril.
Let us review the bidding as the dark year 2005 fades:
President Bush admits that he secretly ordered the government to eavesdrop on American citizens, without recourse to the established legal methods of doing that. He declares that he had and has the right to do so. Says who? Well, he says so, and Vice President Cheney says so, and his attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, says so too.
Some legal scholars beg to differ, arguing that the president has violated federal law and has opened himself to impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. They contend that he trampled the Constitution in a bid to expand the powers of the executive branch and conduct the war on terrorism.
This is the same president, the same administration, that under cover of the same wartime power grab declared their right to detain prisoners outside the court system in secret foreign prisons and the right to use inhumane and degrading measures in interrogating those prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
In ordering the National Security Agency to intercept phone and e-mail traffic of American citizens, members of the administration chose not to avail themselves of a secret federal court established nearly 30 years ago to provide the government the means to secretly investigate anyone believed to have ties to foreign governments or movements that threaten the United States.
They say it is too cumbersome and slow to seek warrants from that court - even though the court has granted such warrants in more than 17,400 cases and only rejected them four times. They say they must move more swiftly - even though the law permits them to eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant that is routinely and quickly granted.
Some suggest that the Bush administration's real reason for cutting the secret court out of the loop is that some of the information they are basing the secret wiretaps on was gotten through torture. The court warned early on that it would not permit information gotten through extra-legal or illegal methods to pervert the American court system.
Congress passed the law creating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court precisely because another president, Richard Nixon, bent the intelligence agencies and the entire government to his will in pursuing those he considered his enemies. If you made the Nixon enemies list, then your phones were tapped, your comings and goings watched, your tax returns audited.
How big a leap is it from ignoring the rule of law in pursuing foreign enemies to pursuing and punishing domestic enemies, those Americans who for political reasons or reasons of principle oppose your aims?
The president and his vice president and his attorney general are saying, essentially, trust us. We won't use our extra-legal powers against ordinary Americans. We just want to protect you from further terrorist attacks. Trust us. We are honorable men who have nothing but your well being at heart.
Sorry. That won't cut it. They have all the legal tools any president needs already on the books for our protection. Congress makes the laws. The judiciary interprets them. The president and all the rest of us live by them.
George W. Bush is not the emperor of America or the king of the 50 states of the union. He, like us, must live by the rule of law. He is bound by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the end, he works for us.
As Ben Franklin wrote more than two centuries ago: "Those who would give up essential liberty in the pursuit of a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, 700 12th St. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005-3994.
IS BUSH ABOVE THE LAW?
TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 1809
§ 1809. Criminal sanctions
Release date: 2005-03-17 (a) Prohibited activitiesA person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally—(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.(b) DefenseIt is a defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) of this section that the defendant was a law enforcement or investigative officer engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction.(c) PenaltiesAn offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.(d) Federal jurisdictionThere is Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section if the person committing the offense was an officer or employee of the United States at the time the offense was committed.
TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36
CHAPTER 36—FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE
Release date: 2005-03-17 SUBCHAPTER I—ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE SUBCHAPTER II—PHYSICAL SEARCHES SUBCHAPTER III—PEN REGISTERS AND TRAP AND TRACE DEVICES FOR FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE PURPOSES SUBCHAPTER IV—ACCESS TO CERTAIN BUSINESS RECORDS FOR FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE PURPOSES
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Washington MonthlyPolitical Animalby Kevin DrumDecember 16, 2005http://washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_12/007789.php
I just wanted to echo what Shakespearer's Sister said about the report that Bush signed an order allowing the NSA to spy on US citizens without a warrant.
This is against the law. I have put references to the relevant statute below the fold; the brief version is: the law forbids warrantless surveillance of US citizens, and it provides procedures to be followed in emergencies that do not leave enough time for federal agents to get a warrant. If the NY Times report is correct, the government did not follow these procedures. It therefore acted illegally.
Bush's order is arguably unconstitutional as well: it seems to violate the fourth amendment, and it certainly violates the requirement (Article II, sec. 3) that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."
I am normally extremely wary of talking about impeachment. I think that impeachment is a trauma for the country, and that it should only be considered in extreme cases. Moreover, I think that the fact that Clinton was impeached raises the bar as far as impeaching Bush: two traumas in a row is really not good for the country, and even though my reluctance to go through a second impeachment benefits the very Republicans who needlessly inflicted the first on us, I don't care. It's bad for the country, and that matters most.
But I have a high bar, not a nonexistent one. And for a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment. This is exactly what got Nixon in trouble: he ordered his subordinates to obstruct justice. To the extent that the two cases differ, the differences make what Bush did worse: after all, it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside.
And this is something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached.
FISA does authorize surveillance without a warrant, but not on US citizens (with the possible exception of citizens speaking from property openly owned by a foreign power; e.g., an embassy.)
FISA also says that the Attorney General can authorize emergency surveillance without a warrant when there is no time to obtain one. But it requires that the Attorney General notify the judge of that authorization immediately, and that he (and yes, the law does say 'he') apply for a warrant "as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance."
It also says this:
"In the absence of a judicial order approving such electronic surveillance, the surveillance shall terminate when the information sought is obtained, when the application for the order is denied, or after the expiration of 72 hours from the time of authorization by the Attorney General, whichever is earliest. In the event that such application for approval is denied, or in any other case where the electronic surveillance is terminated and no order is issued approving the surveillance, no information obtained or evidence derived from such surveillance shall be received in evidence or otherwise disclosed in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, office, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or political subdivision thereof".
Nothing in the New York Times report suggests that the wiretaps Bush authorized extended only for 72 hours, or that normal warrants were sought in each case within 72 hours after the wiretap began. On the contrary, no one would have needed a special program or presidential order if they had.
According to the Times, "the Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to the United States." But this is just wrong. As I noted above, the law specifically allows for warrantless surveillance in emergencies, when the government needs to start surveillance before it can get a warrant. It explains exactly what the government needs to do under those circumstances. It therefore provides the flexibility the administration claims it needed.
They had no need to go around the law. They could easily have obeyed it. They just didn't want to.
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
5 page article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/politics/16program.html
By JAMES RISEN and ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: December 16, 2005
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, 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, according to government officials.
Doug Mills/Associated Press
In 2002, President Bush toured the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., with Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was then the agency's director and is now a full general and the principal deputy director of national intelligence.
A Half-Century of Surveillance (December 16, 2005)
In the Blogs: Reaction to Relaxed Restrictions on Domestic Spying (December 16, 2005)
Forum: National Security
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.
According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.
The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to the United States, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
Dealing With a New Threat
While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it say the N.S.A. eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials.
Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches. What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program, the officials said. But they said most people targeted for N.S.A. monitoring have never been charged with a crime, including an Iranian-American doctor in the South who came under suspicion because of what one official described as dubious ties to Osama bin Laden.
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
The eavesdropping program grew out of concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks that the nation's intelligence agencies were not poised to deal effectively with the new threat of Al Qaeda and that they were handcuffed by legal and bureaucratic restrictions better suited to peacetime than war, according to officials. In response, President Bush significantly eased limits on American intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the military.
But some of the administration's antiterrorism initiatives have provoked an outcry from members of Congress, watchdog groups, immigrants and others who argue that the measures erode protections for civil liberties and intrude on Americans' privacy.
Opponents have challenged provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the focus of contentious debate on Capitol Hill this week, that expand domestic surveillance by giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation more power to collect information like library lending lists or Internet use. Military and F.B.I. officials have drawn criticism for monitoring what were largely peaceful antiwar protests. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security were forced to retreat on plans to use public and private databases to hunt for possible terrorists. And last year, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's claim that those labeled "enemy combatants" were not entitled to judicial review of their open-ended detention.
Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.
The National Security Agency, which is based at Fort Meade, Md., is the nation's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, so intent on remaining out of public view that it has long been nicknamed "No Such Agency." It breaks codes and maintains listening posts around the world to eavesdrop on foreign governments, diplomats and trade negotiators as well as drug lords and terrorists. But the agency ordinarily operates under tight restrictions on any spying on Americans, even if they are overseas, or disseminating information about them.
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, they said.
In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.
Under the agency's longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in the United States by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.
Traditionally, the F.B.I., not the N.S.A., seeks such warrants and conducts most domestic eavesdropping. Until the new program began, the N.S.A. typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities, and obtained court orders to do so.
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
Since 2002, the agency has been conducting some warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States who are linked, even if indirectly, to suspected terrorists through the chain of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to several officials who know of the operation. Under the special program, the agency monitors their international communications, the officials said. The agency, for example, can target phone calls from someone in New York to someone in Afghanistan.
Warrants are still required for eavesdropping on entirely domestic-to-domestic communications, those officials say, meaning that calls from that New Yorker to someone in California could not be monitored without first going to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court.
A White House Briefing
After the special program started, Congressional leaders from both political parties were brought to Vice President Dick Cheney's office in the White House. The leaders, who included the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, learned of the N.S.A. operation from Mr. Cheney, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden of the Air Force, who was then the agency's director and is now a full general and the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and George J. Tenet, then the director of the C.I.A., officials said.
It is not clear how much the members of Congress were told about the presidential order and the eavesdropping program. Some of them declined to comment about the matter, while others did not return phone calls.
Later briefings were held for members of Congress as they assumed leadership roles on the intelligence committees, officials familiar with the program said. After a 2003 briefing, Senator Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who became vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that year, wrote a letter to Mr. Cheney expressing concerns about the program, officials knowledgeable about the letter said. It could not be determined if he received a reply. Mr. Rockefeller declined to comment. Aside from the Congressional leaders, only a small group of people, including several cabinet members and officials at the N.S.A., the C.I.A. and the Justice Department, know of the program.
Some officials familiar with it say they consider warrantless eavesdropping inside the United States to be unlawful and possibly unconstitutional, amounting to an improper search. One government official involved in the operation said he privately complained to a Congressional official about his doubts about the program's legality. But nothing came of his inquiry. "People just looked the other way because they didn't want to know what was going on," he said.
A senior government official recalled that he was taken aback when he first learned of the operation. "My first reaction was, 'We're doing what?' " he said. While he said he eventually felt that adequate safeguards were put in place, he added that questions about the program's legitimacy were understandable.
Some of those who object to the operation argue that is unnecessary. By getting warrants through the foreign intelligence court, the N.S.A. and F.B.I. could eavesdrop on people inside the United States who might be tied to terrorist groups without skirting longstanding rules, they say.
The standard of proof required to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is generally considered lower than that required for a criminal warrant - intelligence officials only have to show probable cause that someone may be "an agent of a foreign power," which includes international terrorist groups - and the secret court has turned down only a small number of requests over the years. In 2004, according to the Justice Department, 1,754 warrants were approved. And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can grant emergency approval for wiretaps within hours, officials say.
Administration officials counter that they sometimes need to move more urgently, the officials said. Those involved in the program also said that the N.S.A.'s eavesdroppers might need to start monitoring large batches of numbers all at once, and that it would be impractical to seek permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first, according to the officials.
The N.S.A. domestic spying operation has stirred such controversy among some national security officials in part because of the agency's cautious culture and longstanding rules.
Widespread abuses - including eavesdropping on Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists - by American intelligence agencies became public in the 1970's and led to passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which imposed strict limits on intelligence gathering on American soil. Among other things, the law required search warrants, approved by the secret F.I.S.A. court, for wiretaps in national security cases. The agency, deeply scarred by the scandals, adopted additional rules that all but ended domestic spying on its part.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, though, the United States intelligence community was criticized for being too risk-averse. The National Security Agency was even cited by the independent 9/11 Commission for adhering to self-imposed rules that were stricter than those set by federal law.
Several senior government officials say that when the special operation began, there were few controls on it and little formal oversight outside the N.S.A. The agency can choose its eavesdropping targets and does not have to seek approval from Justice Department or other Bush administration officials. Some agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation, a former senior Bush administration official said. Before the 2004 election, the official said, some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president.
In mid-2004, concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it.
For the first time, the Justice Department audited the N.S.A. program, several officials said. And to provide more guidance, the Justice Department and the agency expanded and refined a checklist to follow in deciding whether probable cause existed to start monitoring someone's communications, several officials said.
A complaint from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the federal judge who oversees the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, helped spur the suspension, officials said. The judge questioned whether information obtained under the N.S.A. program was being improperly used as the basis for F.I.S.A. wiretap warrant requests from the Justice Department, according to senior government officials. While not knowing all the details of the exchange, several government lawyers said there appeared to be concerns that the Justice Department, by trying to shield the existence of the N.S.A. program, was in danger of misleading the court about the origins of the information cited to justify the warrants.
One official familiar with the episode said the judge insisted to Justice Department lawyers at one point that any material gathered under the special N.S.A. program not be used in seeking wiretap warrants from her court. Judge Kollar-Kotelly did not return calls for comment.
A related issue arose in a case in which the F.B.I. was monitoring the communications of a terrorist suspect under a F.I.S.A.-approved warrant, even though the National Security Agency was already conducting warrantless eavesdropping.
According to officials, F.B.I. surveillance of Mr. Faris, the Brooklyn Bridge plotter, was dropped for a short time because of technical problems. At the time, senior Justice Department officials worried what would happen if the N.S.A. picked up information that needed to be presented in court. The government would then either have to disclose the N.S.A. program or mislead a criminal court about how it had gotten the information.
Several national security officials say the powers granted the N.S.A. by President Bush go far beyond the expanded counterterrorism powers granted by Congress under the USA Patriot Act, which is up for renewal. The House on Wednesday approved a plan to reauthorize crucial parts of the law. But final passage has been delayed under the threat of a Senate filibuster because of concerns from both parties over possible intrusions on Americans' civil liberties and privacy.
Under the act, law enforcement and intelligence officials are still required to seek a F.I.S.A. warrant every time they want to eavesdrop within the United States. A recent agreement reached by Republican leaders and the Bush administration would modify the standard for F.B.I. wiretap warrants, requiring, for instance, a description of a specific target. Critics say the bar would remain too low to prevent abuses.
Bush administration officials argue that the civil liberties concerns are unfounded, and they say pointedly that the Patriot Act has not freed the N.S.A. to target Americans. "Nothing could be further from the truth," wrote John Yoo, a former official in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and his co-author in a Wall Street Journal opinion article in December 2003. Mr. Yoo worked on a classified legal opinion on the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.
At an April hearing on the Patriot Act renewal, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., "Can the National Security Agency, the great electronic snooper, spy on the American people?"
"Generally," Mr. Mueller said, "I would say generally, they are not allowed to spy or to gather information on American citizens."
President Bush did not ask Congress to include provisions for the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program as part of the Patriot Act and has not sought any other laws to authorize the operation. Bush administration lawyers argued that such new laws were unnecessary, because they believed that the Congressional resolution on the campaign against terrorism provided ample authorization, officials said.
The Legal Line Shifts
Seeking Congressional approval was also viewed as politically risky because the proposal would be certain to face intense opposition on civil liberties grounds. The administration also feared that by publicly disclosing the existence of the operation, its usefulness in tracking terrorists would end, officials said.
The legal opinions that support the N.S.A. operation remain classified, but they appear to have followed private discussions among senior administration lawyers and other officials about the need to pursue aggressive strategies that once may have been seen as crossing a legal line, according to senior officials who participated in the discussions.
For example, just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Mr. Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer, wrote an internal memorandum that argued that the government might use "electronic surveillance techniques and equipment that are more powerful and sophisticated than those available to law enforcement agencies in order to intercept telephonic communications and observe the movement of persons but without obtaining warrants for such uses."
Mr. Yoo noted that while such actions could raise constitutional issues, in the face of devastating terrorist attacks "the government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties."
The next year, Justice Department lawyers disclosed their thinking on the issue of warrantless wiretaps in national security cases in a little-noticed brief in an unrelated court case. In that 2002 brief, the government said that "the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority."
Administration officials were also encouraged by a November 2002 appeals court decision in an unrelated matter. The decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which sided with the administration in dismantling a bureaucratic "wall" limiting cooperation between prosecutors and intelligence officers, cited "the president's inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance."
But the same court suggested that national security interests should not be grounds "to jettison the Fourth Amendment requirements" protecting the rights of Americans against undue searches. The dividing line, the court acknowledged, "is a very difficult one to administer."
Americans wiretapped without court approval
Report that Bush OKd wiretapping of Americans, without court approval, fuels criticism, accusations
BY TOM BRUNE AND JOHN RILEY
December 16, 2005, 10:28 PM EST
WASHINGTON -- A report that President George W. Bush authorized wiretapping of Americans and others in the United States without the normally required court approval touched off a furor Friday, as some experts and senators charged the action violates the federal law governing national security surveillance.
Since Bush issued the order in 2002, The New York Times reported Friday, the secretive National Security Agency has monitored the international phone calls and e-mails of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people in this country without warrants to track possible links to al-Qaida terrorists.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported Friday night that Bush had personally renewed the NSA eavesdropping program more than three dozen times since October 2001. A senior intelligence official said that on each occasion, the president's legal counsel and the attorney general certify that the program is lawful and the document is then signed by Bush.
Bush refused to discuss intelligence operations in an interview on PBS on Friday night.
"I will make this point," he said. "That whatever I do to protect the American people, and I have an obligation to do so, that we will uphold the law."
News of the report Friday led the Senate to block a vote on renewing the Patriot Act and prompted the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, to announce he would hold hearings next month on the NSA surveillance, which he called "inappropriate."
Democrats denounced the administration, accusing it of ignoring or violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enacted in 1978 to end the government spying on Americans by creating a special court to oversee domestic surveillance of foreign agents.
"This is Big Brother run amok," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The NSA, which by law operates almost completely overseas, began a "special collection program" to spy on terrorists after the 9/11 attacks and accelerated it following capture of al-Qaida leaders and their computers and cell phones with numbers and e-mail addresses of contacts in the U.S., the Times said.
A classified memo, the Times reported, argued that Congress' September 2001 resolution authorizing war on al-Qaida permitted Bush to ignore the surveillance law.
Bush defenders, such as David Rivkin, a former Reagan administration official, said the surveillance law should not tie the president's hands to act decisively in the face of the terrorist threat.
"You would completely eviscerate the president's power as commander in chief," Rivkin said.
But some former federal intelligence officials disagreed.
"I do think it was illegal, based upon what I read in the newspaper," said Mary DeRosa, a National Security Council legal counsel from 1997 to 2001 who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "I'm extremely troubled."
Congress acted to set up the route by which national security wiretaps can be acquired in the 1978 law, she said. "To say he [the president] can go outside of it suggests an almost unlimited authority," she said.
"That they're wiretapping Americans is stunning," said another former senior intelligence official who left the government in 2003.
"The scary thing is that there's no checks and balances," the official added. "And if you can ignore the FISA law, what else can you ignore?"
Bush refuses to say if NSA spied on Americans
Some senators outraged over reported eavesdropping
WASHINGTON — President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.
The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for a congressional inquiry into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties.
"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year.
Bush on Friday refused to discuss whether he had authorized such domestic spying without obtaining warrants from a court, saying that to comment would tie his hands in fighting terrorists.
In a broad defense of the program put forward hours later, however, a senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that the eavesdropping was narrowly designed to go after possible terrorist threats in the United States.
The official said that since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorization.
At each review, government officials have provided a fresh assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to the country or government, the official said.
"Only if those conditions apply do we even begin to think about this," he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence operation.
"The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources — let me underscore this now — consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend the United States and its citizens," the official said, adding that congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.
Senior officials asserted that that the president would do everything in his power to protect the American people while safeguarding civil liberties.
"I will make this point," Bush said in an interview with "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "That whatever I do to protect the American people — and I have an obligation to do so — that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people."
The surveillance, disclosed in Friday's New York Times, is said to allow the agency to monitor international calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States. But the paper said the agency would still seek warrants to snoop on purely domestic communications — for example, Americans' calls between New York and California.
"I want to know precisely what they did," said Specter. "How NSA utilized their technical equipment, whose conversations they overheard, how many conversations they overheard, what they did with the material, what purported justification there was."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he wanted to know exactly what is going on before deciding whether an investigation is called for. "Theoretically, I obviously wouldn't like it," he said of the program.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said, "This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American."
Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush chief of staff Andrew Card went to the Capitol Friday to meet with congressional leaders and the top members of the intelligence committees, who are often briefed on spy agencies' most classified programs. The Times said they had been previously told of the program. Members and their aides would not discuss the subject of the closed sessions Friday.
Some intelligence experts who believe in broad presidential power argued that Bush would have the authority to order searches without warrants under the Constitution.
In a case unrelated to NSA eavesdropping in this country, the administration has argued that the president has vast authority to order intelligence surveillance without warrants "of foreign powers or their agents."
"Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority," the Justice Department said in a 2002 legal filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.
Other intelligence veterans found difficulty with the program in light of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed after the intelligence community came under fire for spying on Americans. That law gives government — with approval from a secretive U.S. court — the authority to conduct covert wiretaps and surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies.
In a written statement, NSA spokesman Don Weber said the agency would not provide any information on the reported surveillance program. "We do not discuss actual or alleged operational issues," he said.
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former NSA general counsel, said it was troubling that such a change would have been made by executive order, even if it turns out to be within the law.
Parker, who has no direct knowledge of the program, said the effect could be corrosive. "There are programs that do push the edge, and would be appropriate, but will be thrown out," she said.
Prior to 9/11, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance activities to foreign embassies and missions — and obtained court orders for such investigations. Much of its work was overseas, where thousands of people with suspected terrorist ties or other valuable intelligence may be monitored.
The report surfaced as the administration and its GOP allies on Capitol Hill were fighting to save provisions of the expiring USA Patriot Act that they believe are key tools in the fight against terrorism. An attempt to rescue the approach favored by the White House and Republicans failed on a procedural vote.
Patriot Act I - 342 pages Download PDF (637k)
Patriot Act I I - 120 pages Download PDF
U.S. PATRIOT ACT HR 3162
Police State: Ron Paul says the text of the USA PATRIOT bill was not made available for review before the vote.
THE CREATED CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
I have found evidence that this entire Presidential election has been planned years in advance by those who want to abolish the Constitution. If I am right, then this article of 12 pages is one of the most important you will ever read.
The COMMITTEE was formed in 1982, and the 200 "prominent citizens" met "in Washington and in regional settings around the country to examine the political system and to search for ways to improve its performance."
They published such a book as this entitled REFORMING AMERICAN GOVERN-MENT, (ISBN 0-8133-7114-7), a review of 40 articles written by 29 of its members.
This book was published in 1985 by a group calling itself THE COMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM, just such a group of 200 "prominent citizens" (page xiv.)
These articles expressed their "concerns and solutions," and a review of what they have written is very revealing, because their conclusion is that THE CONSTITUTION IS OUTMODED and needs to be replaced!!
BUT ONLY AFTER A CRISIS IS CREATED THAT WILL CONVINCE US OF A NEED TO DO SO!
Could that Crisis be 9/11/01???? (editor's note)
Jay expressed concerns in 2003
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, DW.Va., released a letter Monday that he wrote to Vice President Dick Cheney in the summer of 2003, expressing concern over the domestic ...
Letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Vice President Cheney regarding NSA domestic wiretapping, July 17th 2003.
George W. Bush's Impeachable Offenses
December 19, 2005
Several recent presidents could have been impeached for selected unconstitutional or illegal actions during their presidencies. But the sitting president, George W. Bush, may win the prize for committing the most impeachable offenses of any recent president.
Yet when one thinks of bad behavior leading down the road to possible impeachment, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon come to mind first. Although Bill Clinton was impeached for having sex with an intern and then lying about it to a grand jury, a better case could have been made to impeach him for conducting an unconstitutional war over Kosovo without approval by Congress. The articles of Nixon’s impeachment centered on his use of illegal surveillance methods against political opponents and obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress in covering it up. His launching of an unconstitutional war in Cambodia without congressional approval was equally serious, but was left out of the articles. Curiously, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon’s predecessor, also used illegal surveillance activities against political rivals, but was not impeached.
Ronald Reagan, who is now a celebrated past president and icon of conservatives, justifiably feared impeachment for the Iran-Contra affair. He knowingly violated the Arms Export Control Act, a criminal statute, and sold arms to radical supporters of terrorists. His administration also unconstitutionally violated a congressional prohibition on providing money and support to the Nicaraguan Contra fighters. The Reagan administration’s violation of the Boland Amendment stuck a knife in the heart of the checks and balances system in the U.S. Constitution by circumventing Congress’s most important power—the appropriation of public monies.
George W. Bush is following in the footsteps of his predecessors, but may have left more tracks. For starters, invading another country on false pretenses is grounds for impeachment. Also, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution essentially says that the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable government searches and seizures and that no search warrants shall be issued without probable cause that a crime has been committed. And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires that warrants for national security wiretaps be authorized by the secret FISA court. The law says that it is a crime for government officials to conduct electronic surveillance outside the exclusive purviews of that law or the criminal wiretap statute. President Bush’s authorization of the monitoring of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls by the National Security Agency (NSA) without even the minimal protection of FISA court warrants is clearly unconstitutional and illegal. Executive searches without judicial review violate the unique checks and balances that the nation’s founders created in the U.S. government and are a considerable threat to American liberty. Furthermore, surveillance of Americans by the NSA, an intelligence service rather than a law enforcement agency, is a regression to the practices of the Vietnam-era, when intelligence agencies were misused to spy on anti-war protesters—another impeachable violation of peoples’ constitutional rights by LBJ and Nixon.
President Bush defiantly admits initiating such flagrant domestic spying but contends that the Congress implicitly authorized such activities when it approved the use of force against al Qaeda and that such actions fit within his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. But the founders never intended core principles of the Constitution to be suspended during wartime. In fact, they realized that it was in times of war and crisis that constitutional protections of the people were most at risk of usurpation by politicians, who purport to defend American freedom while actually undermining it.
The Bush administration’s FBI has also expanded its use of national security letters to examine the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans who are not suspected of being involved in terrorism or even illegal acts.
Apparently the president is also taking us back to the Vietnam era by monitoring anti-war protesters. Information on peaceful anti-war demonstrations has apparently found its way into Pentagon databases on possible threats to U.S. security.
Finally, the president’s policies on detainees in the “war on terror” probably qualify as impeachable offenses. The Bush administration decided that the “war on terror” exempted it from an unambiguous criminal law and international conventions (which are also the law of the land) preventing torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. An American president permitting torture is both disgraceful and ineffective in getting good information from those held. Furthermore, the administration concocted the fictitious category of “enemy combatants” to deprive detainees of the legal protections of either the U.S. courts or “prisoner-of-war” status. The administration then tried to detain these enemy combatants, some of them American citizens, indefinitely without trial, access to counsel, or the right to have courts to review their cases.
All of these actions are part of President Bush’s attempt to expand the power of presidency during wartime—as if the imperial presidency hadn’t been expanded enough by his recent predecessors. President Bush usually gets the Attorney General or the White House Counsel to agree with his usurpation of congressional and judicial powers, but, of course, who in the executive is going to disagree with their boss? According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration describes the president’s war making power under the Constitution as “plenary”—meaning absolute. The founders would roll over in their graves at this interpretation of a document that was actually designed to limit the presidential war power, resulting from their revulsion at the way European monarchs easily took their countries to war and foisted the costs—in blood and treasure—on their people. Conservative Bob Barr, a former Congressman from Georgia who was quoted in the Post, said it best: “The American people are going to have to say, ‘Enough of this business of justifying everything as necessary for the war on terror.’ Either the Constitution and the laws of this country mean something or they don’t. It is truly frightening what is going on in this country.”
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, Director of the Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, and author of the books The Empire Has No Clothes, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.
Bush as Nixon
By Ruth Conniff
December 19, 2005
President Bush is looking more and more like Richard Nixon every day--between his secret plan to win the war and his domestic spying operation. Certainly Sunday night's "mistakes were made" Oval Office speech smacked of a Nixonian combination of self-pity and stubborn pugnaciousness.
All Bush needs now is an official enemies list. And who knows, maybe he has one. There's no telling who is a target of the White House/NSA eavesdropping program. In the biggest news of the week, we learned last Thursday that the New York Times has been sitting on a story all year that the White House has a secret spying operation, authorizing the NSA to listen in on overseas phone calls placed by Americans. The program defies the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the FBI and the NSA to obtain warrants from a special court if they want to tap phones and conduct other forms of electronic surveillance of Americans. Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney have gone out of their way to insist that the warrant process is a cumbersome barrier that would prevent them from "saving lives." Had they been able to spy on Americans at will, it "might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11," the Vice President claimed. Never mind that the warrant process can be expedited to take hours or even minutes, according to the New York Times. Under especially urgent circumstances, the government can even get a warrant 72 hours AFTER the spying has already begun.
Naturally, the White House insists that it is only spying on "terrorists"--though it is unwilling to allow Congress or the courts to review any evidence that the targets of its spying have any terrorist links at all. In the same way, Bush continues to insist that withdrawing from Iraq would be a victory for "the terrorists.” The term is so broad it can cover anyone the Administration deems an enemy. And this constant harangue is what is wearing down support for the Administration.
How many times can Bush use the threat of terrorism to terrify Americans into giving him carte blanche to violate civil liberties at home, torture people abroad, and recklessly disregard any political or legal process that might stand in his way? The controlling, secretive style of this White House is particularly distasteful given its lousy track record in Iraq, its failure to prevent 9/11 despite all the warnings, and then letting Osama bin Laden get away. "Just trust us" isn't cutting it anymore, as Bush's sinking poll numbers show. Even Republicans aren't buying it. Dick Cheney's defense of torture as a necessary technique in the war on terror lost to John McCain's ringing denunciation of cruelty to prisoners, and the White House was forced to drop its opposition. The Senate's rejection of the USA Patriot Act is another bad sign for the Administration--though a deal for reauthorization might still be worked out before the act expires.
With so much evidence of Administration bumbling and wrongdoing--from the phony intelligence that go us into the war in Iraq to the gross miscalculation of the war's winnability, to the violations of the Constitution and human rights--there is no reason a movement to throw out Bush, ala Richard Nixon, couldn't gain traction.
Unfortunately, one of the highest profile Democrats, and an all-but-certain candidate for President in 2008, Hillary Clinton, took the opportunity last week to sponsor two pieces of legislation that show how far her party is from mounting an effective opposition: one was an anti-flag-burning act, the other was a new form of vetting for adult content on DVD rentals.
Not surprisingly, former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan praised Hillary for her reluctance to seem unpatriotic, and her willingness to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on the Iraq war. But the rest of the country is not so patient. "I can't imagine a more shocking example of an abuse of power," said Senator Russ Feingold, during the floor debate on reauthorizing the Patriot Act, "than to eavesdrop on American citizens without first getting a court order based on some evidence that they are possibly criminals, terrorists, or spies."
Feingold was the lone Senate voice against the Patriot Act four years ago. Now he is joined by a majority of his colleagues in blocking it--in part because of the news of NSA domestic spying news.
Abuse of power--that's another phrase from the Nixon years, and one that may ultimately be used to sum up the legacy of the Bush Administration.
The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom.
George W. Bush
George Orwell's 1984
Citizen's Rule Book 44 pages
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Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
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Secret Court - Secret Laws
Original 13th Amendment
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The United Nations plans to CONFISCATE your profit and ---.
Government has its eye on your money !
It's Time to Circle The Wagons
While the sheep are sleeping, the predators move in.
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