By Martin Bosworth
In an act of absolutely unmitigated gall, George Bush is using the power granted to the Executive Branch by the Constitution (Article II, Section 3) to force Congress to stay in session, that they might pass a law legalizing his warrantless wiretap surveillance program–the same program that violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures” without sworn legal oath and verification.
The mind boggles.
Apparently legalizing this blatantly illegal program is now a top priority for the administration, mostly due to the fact that House Minority Leader John Boehner inadvertently revealed that the FISA court had ruled against aspects of the program as overreaching and illegal. As I’d reported back in January, the Bush crew had agreed to place the program under review of the FISA court, undoubtedly expecting to get a rubber stamp of approval on their plans as they so often do. It must have come as a severe shock to find out that yes, this program IS illegal and overreaching–and Boehner’s leak was either a well-timed jab to force the issue in Congress or a colossally stupid mistake. You be the judge.
In any event, the current FISA reform bill on the table gives tremendous latitude to the AG’s office and that of the Director of National Intelligence, as Spencer Ackerman notes:
What happens to U.S. persons who may be tapped? There isn’t any requirement for a probable-cause-derived warrant to continue surveillance on them. Instead, the attorney general would only have to create “guidelines” for surveillance on people in the U.S. as the result of one of the aforementioned warrants. Every 60 days the Justice Department’s inspector general would have to report to the FISA Court and to the Congressional intelligence committees on compliance — including handing over a list of names of those U.S. citizens and residents under surveillance during that time period. Nothing in the bill indicates any power for either the court or Congress to do anything about any American caught in the surveillance web.
Hardly what I’d call a blow for civil rights and privacy. But even this is apparently too much of a restriction for DNI Mitch McConnell, who wants as minimal court review from FISA as possible when engineering new wiretaps or surveillance.
That Bush should demand such immediate action from Congress simply to legitimize his folly–and to mandate that this dubiously legal infraction of our rights be placed under the aegis of the Worst. Attorney. General. Ever. borders on bad comedy. The only thing that could make this worse if Congress goes along with it.
So don’t. Simple as that. Wait them out and force them to put a bill on the docket that can be used for actual antiterrorism intelligence gathering that doesn’t violate our rights and turn us into objects of suspicions. Bush has been making a mockery of the Constitution since he took office. Don’t let his citing an article overwhelm his blatant disregard for the rest of it.