Civil Liberties

Bush Deigns to Follow the Law

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Facing stepped-up opposition from a Democratic Congress to its Nixonian position that "if the president does it, that means it's not illegal," the Bush administration now says it will deign to follow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, at least insofar as the law requires permission from the special FISA court for monitoring communications involving people on U.S. soil. Recall that until this very moment the president and his men insisted this approach was simply unworkable, so cumbersome that it posed an intolerable threat to national security. Now? Not so much. White House spokesman Tony Snow says the FISA court has satisfied "administration concerns about speed and agility when it comes to responding to bits of intelligence where we may be able to save American lives."

Evidently the administration chose to operate outside the law for years when all that was necessary was a few tweaks in FISA procedure, so minor they do not even require congressional action. The president's contempt for the rule of law has never been more apparent.

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  1. The president’s contempt for the rule of law has never been more apparent.

    Now if only we could muster up a little outrage over said contempt.

  2. Now if only we could muster up a little outrage over said contempt.

    There’s outrage in many sectors of the American public. That people exist that still defend this mans administration baffles me. Maybe it’s just reflexive, e.g. I supported him and I won’t admit I was wrong.

    Hell, I voted for him once, but that doesn’t mean I have to follow him over a cliff.

  3. I’m glad he finally backed down. That makes it slightly less likely that another president will use Bush’s imperial approach to search & seizure as a precedent.

  4. Why he didn’t use FISA in the first place is beyond me.

  5. Why he didn’t use FISA in the first place is beyond me.

    I believe that falls under the heading of “showing ’em who’s boss.”

  6. My guess is that Bush realizes his legacy is shot on the War on Terror, so he’s going to give in on a lot of this stuff.

    He’s also going to drop some new huge domestic initiative on us during the SOTU speech, in order to recapture his “compassionate conservative” cred and try to salvage what looks to be a piss-poor 8-year record.

  7. We didn’t find nuthin’ that was any good anyways.

  8. Now if only we could muster up a little outrage over said contempt.

    I’m outraged at what this administration has done, but what am I do to? And I mean that seriously? I’m starting to lose hope that there’s any way to stop the leviathan. I’m starting to think we just have to bide our time until things get so bad, enough people get outraged and start a violent revolution. Is the constitution even salvageable at this point or do we need to start from scratch?

  9. Is the constitution even salvageable at this point or do we need to start from scratch?
    John, You may too pessimistic, but I understand where that comes from.

  10. I wonder if this would have been the case if the midterms had turned out differently. Or even if the Reps had held the Senate. If Sen. Johnson (D-Coma) croaks will they go back to flouting the law?

  11. I don’t buy it. This is a White House that thinks that it is above the law, that it can re-write the law, and that it can ignore the law at any time it feels “the need” to do so. If you want to keep the White House honest, then you need to push the Dems to bring up articles of impeachment and start the hearings.

  12. Probably most of you already know this, but it looks like I’m at least half-right:

    Energy will be a central theme of President George W.?Bush’s state of the union speech this month.

    I’d invest in any company doing anything with hydrogen fuel cell research, as Bush has already shown a hard-on for that, and I bet the stocks from that sector are going to go through the roof with the government handouts coming their way.

  13. There is no problem with the Constitution. The problem is with people ignoring it. So, if you rebuilt it from scratch, what would prevent people from ignoring the new one?

    I agree with John’s post. I wonder if we are too far down the slope for it to matter anymore. The question is what are we to do. The problem is in the “we”. There are many that is part of the “we” that want to wage a “culture war” against each other. To me, that’s the divide that allowed(s) Bush to conquer. As long as we stay divided we will rarely have the ability to bring it back in line. That has been the contribution of the media pundits. Fight our neighbors not our government. So, I’m guessing we are screwed as long as we listen to these yahoos on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ect. Many of the “we” are sheeps and lemmings that would rather be fed their beliefs from a 24 hour news channel.

    The big question is if Bush has secertly authorized some other program that can skip FISA? Such as moving domestic intel to the DOD or an agency not bound by law such as the CIA. We may never know. When Congress voted to defund the Total Information Awareness program, it was renamed and moved to another agency and it’s still funded with tax dollars.

    If the Bush adminsistration deserves any credit, it’s for the ability to repackage something to get around the law and over the heads of the American citizen. Of course, the contra side is that he has the uncanny habit of confirming questionable stories in the NY Times.

    Secondly, A violent revolution we get us nothing. Not because I think they are useless, one got us out from under British rule. But, I doubt we have true individual freedom oriented leadership to make a better place after the revolution. The odds are it will be another power addict.

  14. “I wonder if this would have been the case if the midterms had turned out differently. Or even if the Reps had held the Senate. If Sen. Johnson (D-Coma) croaks will they go back to flouting the law?”

    That’s a possibility. Another is that their plan from the beginning was to get away with as much as they could, for as long as the courts let them get away with. W. and Gonzo actually proclaim a degree of respect for the will of the courts, as opposed to the legislature, and the legal cases are making their way throug the system.

  15. That people exist that still defend this mans administration baffles me. Maybe it’s just reflexive, e.g. I supported him and I won’t admit I was wrong.

    It’s more than just that for Bush’s few remaining supporters. There are people who actually think this asshole is the greatest president of all time and it’s the rest of the nation (especially those treasonous liberals in the MSM) who are simpering weaklings who don’t have the stomach to stand up to “America’s enemies.” To them, Bush’s failures are never his fault: No WMD’s in Iraq? That’s only because Saddam shipped over the border to Syria, and Bush would have found them if the Democrats and the UN had let him go in sooner! The response to Hurricane Katrina was laughable? That’s only because New Orleans and Louisiana are run by a corrupt Democratic politicians who made the situation worse…somehow! Massive budget deficients? That’s only because we have to fund the holy War On Terror because that peacenik Bill Clinton didn’t take care of Osama Bin Ladin sooner!

    My father is one of these people. For him, Dubbya is the Second Coming and the great Christian Warrior-King President this country has been waiting for. Those who are against Bush are against America. “How dare these people attack the President in a time of war,” he’ll bellow before implying that there should be punishment for those who speak such “sedition.” He was particularly disgusted by November’s election returns, claiming that American have “no spine anymore”, and that we had “voted that way in WWII, we’d all be speaking German right now.” Of course, he also believes that one of the primary reasons the Democrats won was because “they let the niggers and wetbacks vote as often as they wanted.”

    That’s the sort of people who continue to support Bush.

  16. I’m starting to think we just have to bide our time until things get so bad, enough people get outraged and start a violent revolution.

    Not a chance. If you can’t get people to stop voting for these bastards, no way are they going to pick up a gun and follow you.

    I’m resigned to living in a Constitution free zone. However, this administration has stepped much farther over the line than any other. There needs to be consequences. Bush and his cronies need to be convicted of war crimes. That would be the very best thing for the future of the republic. I’m not holding my breath though.

  17. I usually roll my eyes when I hear folks talking “impeachment,” but as I read this post, I was thinking, well, the President and his administration very obviously broke the law (and he even lied about it while they were doing it).

    So, if the President broke the law, and no man is above the law, why shouldn’t he be impeached?

  18. Akira-

    There are people who actually think this asshole is the greatest president of all time and it’s the rest of the nation (especially those treasonous liberals in the MSM) who are simpering weaklings who don’t have the stomach to stand up to “America’s enemies.”

    My father is one of these people.

    Yup. I’m an idiot.

    BTW, when are you moving out?

  19. I am all for impeachment proceedings, but only if that is the ONLY thing that congress does for the next two years. I don’t care if Bush is impeachable or not, just give the brats on the hill something to occupy thier time for a while and takes the focus off of the ‘helping’ the populace.

  20. There are people who actually think this asshole is the greatest president of all time and it’s the rest of the nation (especially those treasonous liberals in the MSM) who are simpering weaklings who don’t have the stomach to stand up to “America’s enemies.”

    I think that can be said during the reigns of many of our recent former presidents. I’m just guessing here, but I’m sure that during their terms, many people said “FDR/Truman/Eisenhower/Nixon/Reagan/Clinton is the greatest president ever”. The ones I skipped from FDR to Clinton are the only ones I doubt too many people really said that about.

  21. We’ve had six years where the Republican Congress put party over patriotism and respect for the Constitution. People who voiced dissent were branded as traitors, “blame America-firsters” (as if a handful of wealthy and corrupt Republican political elites were the avatars of America), and dirty hippies who couldn’t be trusted in a time of war and “moral seriousness.” And a stenographic media that let them get away with it.
    Despite that, Bush only got 51% in ’04.
    I think the Democrats need a good two to three months of hearings, buttressed by the honest Republicans who don’t kowtow to Bush (like Hagel) to really expose the malfeasance.
    It will take some time to dig up the dirt after 6 years of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil done by any Republican, especially those named Bush.
    Then it will take a few more months for all this information to sink into the reporting of the media, then a few more to fully sink into the populace.
    I predict that by November of 2007, the President will lose more support and there will be much stronger calls for impeachment. However, it will be so close to another election, that he will just be censured and then kept under a tight leash by Congress.

  22. Don’t worry. I’m sure the Office of the Special Counsel is on top of this already. Indictments are sure to be handed out any day now.

    …er, while we’re waiting, does anybody else out there think we need an Independent Counsel?

    If there is evidence that Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumsfeld circumvented FISA, or conspired to circumvent FISA, among other things, why shouldn’t they have to answer for it in court?

  23. It’s amazing how so many people are spinning this as some sort of defeat or capitulation – according to the NY Times

    Mr. Gonzales told the committee’s chairman and ranking Republican that the secret court issued orders on Jan. 10 authorizing the government to monitor communications “into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of Al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.”

    Which means they are just going to continue doing what they were doing with the stamp of approval from the FISA court. The only thing this does is make it almost impossible for the majority Democrat congress to shut the program down.

    FISA gave the administration the cover of a blanket approval of the existing program and people are calling this a defeat?

  24. That’s the sort of people who continue to support Bush.

    Heh. Poison the well much?

    Not that I have anything nice to say about them. There’s so much not to like. I still can’t believe how far we’ve come that FISA seems like a better idea.

    As to seeing Gonzales and Rumsfeld in court, I just hope they wait until W can’t pardon them.

  25. Akira, you MUST have been a fly on the wall at my in-laws over the holidays. I think they made all of those arguments, nothing ever seems to phase them. Thank God for spiked eggnog.

  26. Akira – is dad a big Fox News fan? Kind of like a family member joining a cult. You can listen to G. Gordon Liddy, then Rush, then Hannity, then Fox from 5 to bedtime (if your in the car, maybe you tune into Savage Nation). It’s a formidable machine they got there.

  27. Bush keeps predicting that, someday, history will view him like Truman. I predict his administration is more like rotten fish – the more time passes, the worse it’s going to smell.

    We’ll see who’s right.

  28. Rep. Wilson of New Mexico is suspicious of said “surrender.” She believes the Administration (or Regime, if you prefer) may have simply convinced a single FISA judge to issue a blanket order covering the whole program. She wants hearings to find out just who approved what.

    Meanwhile, on the subject of prosecutions, the President has basically fired seven US attorneys, most of whom were investigating corrupt lobbyists and lawmakers, and replaced them with candidates that haven’t been approved by the Senate, using a previously unheralded provision in the Patriot Act. Can anyone explain why the Patriot Act had this provision?

  29. “replaced them with candidates that haven’t been approved by the Senate, using a previously unheralded provision in the Patriot Act. Can anyone explain why the Patriot Act had this provision?”

    Not just “candidates”, but Bush-connected candidates. One is close to Rove. At *least* one, that is.

    And in addition to lobbyists and lawmakers, they’ve been looking at Bush appointees.

  30. Bush’s disdain for the law ended almost simultaneously with the very real prospect that he may have to answer to that law. The Dems will play nice for a bit but some presidential vetoes on key legislation will unleash hearings. It will be sweet to behold.

  31. Meanwhile, on the subject of prosecutions, the President has basically fired seven US attorneys, most of whom were investigating corrupt lobbyists and lawmakers, and replaced them with candidates that haven’t been approved by the Senate, using a previously unheralded provision in the Patriot Act. Can anyone explain why the Patriot Act had this provision?

    Do you have a link to this story? That sounds kind of scary.

  32. What we need is ZERO tolerance for crooked politicians. We need to completly outlaw lobbists. Any politician that is being investigated and says ” I don’t remember” should be construed as an admission of guilt with automatic stiff sentancing. Just like refusing a drug test. Also since they work for us we need to closly monitor them. We need cameras and recorders in all public offices, vehicals, etc. After all if they aren’t doing anything wrong thay won’t have anything to worry about. Outlaw signing statements, patoffs by corporations, religous groups etc. the “special” laws the these groups get passed because of bribes should be outlawed. ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BAD GOVERNMENT. AUTOMATIC MANDATORY SENTANCES. When are we going to get serious about the destruction of our country by our own government?

  33. Stephen Macklin spins, “Which means they are just going to continue doing what they were doing with the stamp of approval from the FISA court.” Carrying out the spying without warrants is what the controversy was about.

    “The only thing this does is make it almost impossible for the majority Democrat congress to shut the program down.” The majority Democrats didn’t want to shut the program down; they wanted the president to obey the law, and wanted eavesdropping to be conducted only when a warrant has been issued.

    “FISA gave the administration the cover of a blanket approval of the existing program and people are calling this a defeat?” Since the controversy was based on the President’s refusal to follow the warrant requirements of FISA, and the White House has now announced that they are going to follow the warrant requirements of FISA, as their detractors demanded, yes, that counts as a defeat.

    It’s always sad to see someone fall for his own propaganda.

  34. Akira, you have to remember the Christianized cult of personality that Rove built around Bush after 9/11. Jesus chose him to lead our nation, remember?

    If the President is chosen by Jesus, it follows that whatever he does is right. Therefore, when examining Bush’s decisions and leadership, the only thought required is to figure how HOW a particular action is right.

  35. These most shocking and appalling violations of civil liberties (I’m also adding in habeus corpus restrictions and the whole indefinite detention shebang) gall, at most, 20% of the electorate.

    Another 20% or so think that these things are amongst the greatest weapons we have against an existential threat to our very existence.

    The rest just don’t fucking care.

    I’m gonna go listen to Regina Spektor now and try to smile, but I’ll probably just end up crying anyway.

  36. “existential threat to our very existence”

    I’m way into redundancy today.

  37. Congrats for the comments above. For once, a bunch of libertarians are living up to what I’ve hoped is a very basic plank of the Libertarian party: CIVIL LIBERTIES.

    Looks like a large percentage of Americans don’t care about them, do they?

  38. A good deal of the controversy was not about the fact that they didn’t have the blessing of the FISA court. What people were screaming about the loudest was the “Domestic Spying” program. The threat of widespread invasion of privacy by the government listening to citizen’s phone calls on the basis of nothing but their assertion of probable cause.

    Guess what – that’s still what they are doing. They don’t have to go and get a warrant for every call they intercpet. Do all of you now think it’s OK now because the FISA court rubber stamped it?

  39. thoreau-
    Here’s a collection of stories from TPM Muckraker on the forced resignations of US attorneys, replaced by partisan hacks without Senate approval.

    Regarding Bush’s domestic spying program, this seems to be another instance where he is preserving his “Executive Authority” to engage in warrantless eavesdropping by avoiding any consitutional review by a Democratic Senate, similar to their tactics in the Padilla case where they have avoided judicial review. They are not reauthorizing the Terrorist Prevention Act now, but he still retains the power to do so in the future.

  40. Stephen Macklin spins…It’s always sad to see someone fall for his own propaganda.

    Er, he seems to be suggesting that an objectionable thing is continuing, not obviously crowing about the fact that it is.

    And yes, this is only the weakest and most minimal of victories for civil liberties.

  41. Hmm, on closer reading, I seem to have misunderstood.

    Apologies for getting snippy, Mr. Macklin.

  42. Guess what – that’s still what they are doing. They don’t have to go and get a warrant for every call they intercpet. Do all of you now think it’s OK now because the FISA court rubber stamped it?

    Apologies!

    Why doesn’t he just come out and say it was all about sex?

  43. Actually, I made no statement as to whether the program was good or bad. Perfectly legal and within Presidential authority or an abomination against the Constitution.

    I merely pointed out that all of those who were triumphal about the Bush administration’s stunning reversal and defeat on the issue were perhaps wrong to cheering, but it doesn’t seem that they won much.

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