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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Screw You, Congress -- I'll Do As I Please

The NSA Domestic Spying issue is heating up to a full boil -- with Glenn Greenwald leading the charge and a number of reporters and Senators picking up the ball and running with it.

Bottom line: it's another case of Bushie trying to get Congress and the media to look at what he's saying now, not what he's been doing all along. Unfortunately for the Preznit, this time he left a hefty paper trail -- in the form of proposed legislation by both his Administration and by a number of Congressman, all of which raised big red legality flags for folks at the DoJ.

Thought it would be useful to walk through the discussion and activity from the last couple of days up until today on this issue. Hearings are coming up soon in the Senate Judiciary Committee on these issues, and in my opinion, the Administration's attempts at obfuscation and muddying the waters ought to be called for what they are: a big finger at Congress and the American public and the Constitution.

For more on the Administration's latest hollow attempt to justify their illegal power grab for King George, Jeralyn has a copy of the latest DoJ press release on the subject. One of the big excuses is that 72 hours doesn't allow enough time to prepare a FISA application on an emergency warrant for surveillance -- but there is no explanation whatsoever as to why the Administration just started breaking the law instead of asking Congress for an amendment to give them extended time. (Nor any explanation as to why every other Administration since 1978 hasn't had that same problem...but I digress.)

What I would like to see is a lot more reporting like this from the NYDaily News -- where the Preznit's statements are actually fact-checked with people who would have reason to know whether or not he is exaggerating his claims.
In speech after speech, President Bush claims that if the National Security Agency could have wiretapped two Al Qaeda operatives living in San Diego, the 9/11 attacks might have been thwarted.
That's a whopper, critics say.

"We didn't realize they were here plotting the attack until it was too late," Bush said Wednesday at NSA headquarters.

"It's not true," ex-9/11 commissioner Bob Kerrey, president of the New School in Manhattan, told the Daily News. "We knew about those two guys - the CIA lost them."

The two guys were Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar, who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon.

They were identified in late 1999 by the NSA as Al Qaeda agents and tracked by the CIA to Malaysia and Thailand, where they were lost, according to the 9/11 Commission's report. The CIA learned in March 2000 that Al-Hazmi flew to Los Angeles in January, but kept it secret.
Isn't that refreshing? Actual facts and stuff.

Or this piece from the Boston Globe, which calls into question the Administration's assertions about their FISA-end run and the support of the Patriot Act, due to AG Alberto Gonzalez' arguing that the Preznit would do what he thought was appropriate in a terrorism investigation context, with or without the legal authority under the Patriot Act. Where I come from, that's called disrespect for the law -- and it sounds to me a whole helluva lot like a Preznit who would be King.

Also, in case you've missed it, Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen have done a tremendous amount of work on these issues in the last few days -- really some top notch reporting and digging, and they ought to be commended for it. Eggen's latest article digs into some 2003 legislation which sought to legalize the Preznit's actions by amending FISA -- legislation which was proposed by the Administration, and which Glenn thinks (and I agree) amounts to a tacit acknowledgment by the Administration that the laws needed to be amended in order for the actions to actually be legal. (Glenn also reports that Dianne Feinstein has requested information about the Administration's DoJ objections to the legality of the 2002 DeWine amendment be included in the upcoming hearings. That should be interesting.)

Eggen's article was a follow-up on some issues he first touched on Thursday, and which he and Walter Pincus explored a bit more on Friday in an article that looked at the shifting rationales that the Administration has been using to justify breaking the law. I'll say it again, great digging and great follow-up on this.

In case you missed one of the rationale arguments, Soj at DKos had a great diary going through Gen. Hayden's speech point by point. Well worth a read if you missed the speech and subsequent analysis earlier in the week. Additionally, Georgia10 has been doing fantastic work at DKos on this issue, with the article from yesterday hitting the issue of lack of oversight with a sledge hammer -- great read and well done.

If you are wondering about the next step in rationale for the Administration on this, look no further than Rove's speech to the RNC. Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald nailed this question: it's fear, plain and simple. President broke the law? Well, he was just trying to save us all from the evil terrorists. President overstepped his authority and gave the finger to Congress? Well, thank goodness he's tough on protecting all of us.

Well, here's a thought: since when does the President of the United States not have to obey the law like everyone else? And since when is he such a chicken shit that he can't go to a Republican-controlled Congress over a five year period of time and ask them to amend to law so that his actions are legal? Oh, and while we're asking, since when did we decide we had a King?

Liberty is not free -- it takes work and fighting for individual rights every single day. A President who does not respect our Constitution, our Congress nor the rule of law is no President. And I don't know about you, but I'm sure as hell not comfortable with a dicatator. Congress needs to step up to the plate on this one -- or they might as well stop drawing their paychecks.

And if you think that Judge Alito isn't going to have an impact on this, I've got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. Presidential power and separation of powers and the unitary executive were a centerpiece of the Judiciary Committee's questions for a reason.

(Photo via Idaho Observer.)

UPDATE: It seems Chuck Hagel agreed with my on this morning's This Week. Think Progress has the transcript -- where Hagel says things like "he just can’t unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law." Sometimes being an American patriot is more important that being one of Karl's good soldiers.

UPDATE #2: Hat tip to reader DrBB, who spotlight's this editorial from the NYTimes in the comments. It appropriately gives props to Glenn's DeWine find (without, unfortunately, giving any actual credit to Glenn). And they use the term Imperial Presidency for extra points.

UPDATE #3: The indespensible Crooks and Liars has the video of Chuck Hagel from this morning. He talks about the illegality of the Preznit's actions, and also manages to blast Karl Rove. Talk about yer must see teevee.