Bush on wiretaps

I really shouldn’t look at CNN.com right after dinner…makes it kind of hard to keep the meal down.

Bush defending the wiretaps:

“I’m mindful of your civil liberties, and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process. We briefed members of the United States Congress … about this program.”

The article goes on about all the reasons he thought he had to do what he did. Good enough. Here’s the kicker: it doesn’t matter whether Americans agree with him or not. I must have missed the part of the Constitution which says “this document is rendered null & void if the person violating it does so for a good reason.” I get that he thought he was doing the right thing. “A” for good intentions, as warped as I personally think they are. I’ll remember that when he’s impeached. Contrary to what some may think, impeachment is not a moral punishment.

He doesn’t get it. First Congress needs to pass a law. You don’t “brief” a few of your cronies and think that counts. After you have your law, the only lawyers whose opinion matters are the nine who work at that big white building across from the Capitol. You can’t miss them. They wear the black robes and have job security.


4 responses to “Bush on wiretaps”

  1. Even if every single person in America disagreed with the wiretaps, and even if Congress didn’t know wiretaps were taking place (much less passed a specific “law” enabling them), if the President was exercising his constitutional authority, that’s the end of it.

    I’m not defending the program or the president. But I sometimes regret that people just don’t understand civics. Try to remember this has nothing to do with whether people agree or if Congress passes a law.

    The debate is about whether the wiretaps fall under the president’s constitutional authority (and his alone) as commander-in-chief. If they do, he is not required to ask a court or Congress for permission. If they don’t, then he can’t do what he did. This is a case of first impression, and his lawyers felt he had the right, and privacy advocates clearly don’t.

    If the president has the power, there’s nothing Congress or the people can do about it, short of amending the constitution and taking the power away from him.

  2. Article II of the Constitution seems pretty concise about what the President is empowered to do and I don’t think it says that the president has executive authority to override the fourth amendment.

  3. Jack,

    I agree. The fourth amendment protections, however, are not absolute… hence the word “unreasonable.” That’s in part why there’s a debate.

    Note also that the amendment does not require the issuance of a warrant (notwithstanding the FISA law and the questionable constituationality of that law), only that if a warrant be issued, it meet the requirements of the amendment.

    Also note that the wiretaps were of conversations in which one participant was outside the U.S.

    I wish there were a smoking gun here showing the president’s actions to have been criminal. But it isn’t that cut-and-dried.

  4. Guess I fall square in the camp of the privacy advocates.

    It seems to me that regardless of how clear “unreasonable” is, any interpretation that impinges individual liberty is the wrong way to go.

    I look at this from the same philosophy of “letting 100 guilty men go free before convicting a single innocent man.”

    The system has to default to the rights of the individual, otherwise there will never be a check on this power and the abuses will continue. Note that I mean this in terms of all presidents.