01.24.06

Bush broke the law

Posted in Liberty, Society at 13:08 by RjZ

Little has changed since the story broke more than a month ago that President Bush has authorized wire-tapping of American citizens. Little more has been revealed and the arguments haven’t changed much. That in itself is amazing to me. The administration’s plan remains ‘if we say we’re right to do this and that everyone who questions our right to do it is a threat then we are.’ I don’t know if American citizens are buying it but those who didn’t like Bush and the administration before are going nuts.

Well, it’s not exactly true that little has been added to the debate. The administration has gone on the defensive on multiple fronts. Attorney General Gonzales claims there is legal justification for the president’s actions. And there’s precedent for it too. Gonzales tells us George Washington even read letters between British and Americans during the revolutionary war. Now that’s just silly. The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791. The revolutionary war was long over by that time. But this is a point. What presidents have done before FISA may or may not be constitutional. What President Bush and the NSA have done is break the law. Actions during war or otherwise that happened before FISA are not justifications to break FISA now. FISA was enacted by congress and signed by the president because it was felt necessary to enable flexibility for the executive office while still upholding checks and balances to the 1st and 4th amendment of the constitution protecting the rights and freedoms of U.S. citizens.

The president, like every other member of U.S. society is bound by the law of the land. Laws may be found to be unconstitutional, but they are valid up until that time and breaking them requires punishment. The administration believes that the power to wire-tap U.S. Americans was given to him by the 2001 Authorization of force act. My post linked above shows the wording of that act and it’s a stretch at best to think that it authorizes wire-taps. Regardless, wire-taps are allowed and regulated under the FISA and if the administration didn’t think FISA was sufficient or flexible enough it is their responsibility to ask congress to change the law, not to flout it.

The president is the chief executive, in charge of executing the laws of the land. Bush has ignored his solemn oath of office by breaking these laws and spying on American citizens. Perhaps he needs this power to protect us from terrorism (I don’t think so.) Perhaps civil liberties must be sacrificed in a time of war (I don’t think so.) Just the same, the law of the land must remain in tact, even in times of war.

So the only thing new to the debate is that other presidents did similar things in the past and that apparently, in a time of war a president may do whatever he wishes if he feels it is necessary to protect the safety of Americans. Even if you trust Bush implicitly, it’s fairly easy to see why this is not how our system is supposed to work. Be careful what power you confer on the president. The power given to this president stays with the office regardless of who fills the seat in the future.

1 Comment »

  1. Tim Rohrer said,

    January 26, 2006 at 10:56

    My sister and brother and law lived in Austrailia over the last couple of years. As I understand what Bush did, he had NSA software randomly sample phone conversations for words like terrorist, jihad, and who know what all else. So if I or my wife talked about current events, we might have been eavesdropped on, and Bush et al might have targeted our phone conversations for eavesdropping, perhaps even without bothereing to get a warrant (FISA or otherwise)–simply because one end of the conversation was overseas.

    I know lots of people who said–oh, it would never happen to me. I don’t talk to foreigners, I don’t make overseas calls, I don’t care. Well, it might well have happened to my family. And if your cousin or brother gets posted overseas, your family could be next.

    This random eavesdropping is simply wrong, regardless of legal wrangling over whether Bush broke the law. And instead of apologizing to the American people and saying it won’t happen again, he just says “Trust us. it’s a war. We had and still have good intentions.” Yes, and so did we when we locked up the Japanese Americans in internment (concentration) camps in the 40s. Violating our rights without first showing just cause is wrong.

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