Bush: Secret Spying Scandal
|December 23, 2005||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Bush: Secret Spying Scandal
Rogue Surveillance Goes Beyond the Law
Here is a good, sharp editorial being distributed by the NY Transfer News Collective, originally appearing in Newsday (U.S.).
Congress Needs to Draw the Line — But Will It?
In defiantly defending his appalling decision to authorize agents to eavesdrop on private U.S.-overseas telephone and e-mail conversations without warrants, President George W. Bush is betting that Americans’ fear of terrorism will trump their love of freedom. The public, Congress and the nation’s courts must not let that happen.
Congress should put an immediate stop to the rogue surveillance that Bush insists will continue. The public should demand nothing less, and the courts should punctuate that decision by making it clear that the clandestine snooping that Bush has allowed to go on for three years crossed a very important constitutional line.
To recap, since 2002 Bush has allowed agents of the National Security Agency, the nation’s largest spy shop, to secretly monitor phone calls and e-mail between people in the U.S. and those abroad. Since the New York Times revealed the snooping Friday, Bush has insisted that when Congress authorized the war on terror, it gave him carte blanche to ignore the courts and the Constitution and to monitor such communications at will, in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That’s an absurd stretch.
That 1978 law created a mechanism for legal surveillance of people believed to be spies or terrorists: Secret warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court has approved 5,640 warrants since 2001. It has denied only four. So there was no need for Bush to skirt the law. And there is nothing in the bipartisan shock and outrage coming out of Washington to support Bush’s contention that Congress intended for him to have sweeping power to operate outside the courts. If anything, Congress is moving in the opposite direction.
Just last week the Senate refused to reauthorize portions of the USA Patriot Act, signaling the strongly held view that provisions allowing officials to rummage in bank, credit, medical, library and other personal business records without warrants or court oversight, was an unjustifiable invasion of privacy. That was the right thing to do.
Now Congress needs to make its intentions clear on electronic eavesdropping as well. The Sept. 18, 2001, authorization for the use of military force did not empower Bush to ignore the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable searches. Congress needs to say so — emphatically.
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