Friday, March 24, 2006

John Dean on Bush and FISA

John Dean has an excellent article in FindLaw concerning Bush's continued defiance of the FISA law. Here's the first paragraph:
President George Bush continues to openly and defiantly ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- the 1978 statute prohibiting electronic inspection of Americans' telephone and email communications with people outside the United States without a court-authorized warrant. (According to U.S. News & World Report, the President may also have authorized warrantless break-ins and other physical surveillance, such as opening regular mail, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.)
Dean points out that no other president except Nixon has ever defied Congress to the extent that Bush has. The only disagreement I have with Dean's article is this passage:
No one can question President Bush's goal: Protecting Americans from further terror attacks.
That would be a worthy goal if it were the only goal Bush has in regard to using the NSA to spy on Americans. Given the political nature of Bush, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (two of whom were politically weaned in the Nixon era), it's impossible for me to believe that if they could get away with it, Bush and his advisers wouldn't use information gained from spying for political purposes (and there have been news articles suggesting they have already done so). The terror issue itself has already been abused for political purposes on several occassions including for the purpose of justifying a war we did not need. Perhaps Dean is playing it safe in order to make the larger point about the need to have Bush respect Constitutional law but discussions about potential abuses are needed to remind us of why we have laws concerning the conduct of government in the first place and why putting so much power into the hands of one man is such a profound blunder.

It's bad enough to have one branch of government committing blunders and violating the law to cover up those blunders or for reasons that have little to to with the national interest; to have a second branch of government commit a series of blunders, in this case, Congress, is to risk bringing our democracy to its knees.


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