< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: Bush Defends Eavesdropping Program

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush Defends Eavesdropping Program

President Bush defended his authorization of domestic spying today in a news conference. The President also argued that he was given authority to do so from Congress and that he is able to do so because he is Commander in Chief. If Bush is in fact authorized to circumvent the Constitution and that being Commander in Chief is supreme to everything else in a time of war, this certainly begs the question of what actions would the President be prevented from taking in a time of war? The Bush administration argues they can detain foreigners and citizens for as long as they want without a trial, that they can spy on anyone they want without court order, etc. But if we are to take this to its logical conclusion following the administration's argument, there is in fact no check on the President's power in wartime. Again, this seems to be ridiculous and unconstitutional to say the least. Please feel free to post comments and check a few of the sections from an article from the Washington Post below:

President Bush today 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...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."...FISA says that, "A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally . . . engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute." Congress did indeed authorize the newly disclosed eavesdropping by statute, said Gonzales, when it passed the 2001 resolution called "Authorization for the Use of Military Force."
The resolution does not mention eavesdropping or detention, which the administration has also said is supported by the authorization. It says, "The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In a briefing for reporters after his television appearances, Gonzales said his position was bolstered by the Supreme Court's 2004 ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. In that decision, written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the court said the resolution constituted "explicit congressional authorization for the detention of individuals" in the narrow category of terrorism related to the Sept. 11 attacks. At the same time, the court said the legality of any individual detention could not be determined by the government alone, but required a judgment by some neutral third party.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes


Blogger ICHR said...

John Yoo would respond to your "begged question" with something like the following: There is, indeed, a check on the President's wartime power - he needs money to do his own bidding. The Power of the Purse. It acts as the ultimate check on, in Yoo's eyes, the President's otherwise unbridled discretion during a time of war.

Whether this power acts as an actual check is debatable. But, as far as the Constitution is concerned, it is the ONLY check given to Congress by the Framers.

Perhaps more people who have reservations with regards to presidential wartime powers ought to consider another amendment to the Constitution.

Just a thought.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Colorado Coalition for Human Rights said...

It's important to note that Yoo worked for the Bush administration and wrote most of the legal wartime memos after 9-11. This is not to take away from his argument, but rather to show readers where he sits in this argument. For more information read an article from the Washington Post about him at:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/25/AR2005122500570.html

I think this issue is something that needs to go before the courts, in order to determine the exact nature of Presidential authority in wartime. If Yoo's argument does in fact hold up, that seems to be a dangerous precendent, because 1. The War on Terror will never end 2. The President will be able to do whatever he wants during war, being able to circumvent any law he wants, even at home. That seems like a lot of power given to a branch that the framers were apprehensive about giving power to. In Hamdi v. Rumsefeld, Justice O'Connor did write in the majority decision, “a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens.” Just my thoughts, coming from someone who hasn't attended law school.

--Tom Hayes

10:29 PM  

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