CommunityPam's House Blend

'Pants on fire' press conference

(AFP/Leslie Kossoff)

[I see Russ just posted on this as well. Guess you Blenders will have to sit through two posts, lolol.]

Liars, liars. Bush and his crew have no shame. But he has no choice — he has to try to defend his Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM.

In what can only be described as a hastily held press conference (don’t give the lazy-ass press a chance to prepare), he papered it all over with a thick coat of “9/11…terror…9/11, danger…danger…warning…warning…give me my Patriot Act and unlimited powers. Damn you for exposing my domestic surveillance program, you unpatriotic bastards.” (AP):

Bush said the warrantless spying, conducted by the National Security Agency, was an essential element in the war on terror. “It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this important program in a time of war. The fact that we’re discussing this program is discussing the enemy,” he said.

…Normally, no wiretapping is permitted in the United States without a court warrant. But Bush said he approved the action without such orders “because it enables us to move faster and quicker. We’ve got to be fast on our feet.

Ummm. What do you say behind this?

President Bush, brushing aside bipartisan criticism in Congress, said Monday he approved spying on suspected terrorists without court orders because it was “a necessary part of my job to protect” Americans from attack.

The president said he would continue the program “for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens,” and added it included safeguards to protect civil liberties. [And what are left, at this point?]


Meanwhile, Alberto “Torture” Gonzales was weaseling and dissembling on the Today show, claiming Congress granted Bush the power to take on his Domestic Spying for Security InitiativeTM when the Authorization for War passed on September 14, 2001. Georgia10, over in a stellar DKos diary, calls “bullsh*t” on the administration’s attempt to blame Congress for this.

Having scoured the authorization (read it here) I can’t find anything that would grant the President the power to skirt the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Was Gonzales referring to the fact Congress gave the President the authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to combat terrorism?  But the word “force” there is invoked  with respect to the use of military force.  And even if in GonzalesWorldTM “force” includes spying just like “torture” excludes almost everything short of death, Congress added the phrase “necessary and appropriate” precisely because it intended to restrict the President to the confines of the law.

So the “resolved” clause is out. What other aspect of the authorization gives the President the right to ignore the 4th Amendment and the centuries of case law supporting it? Was Gonzales referring to this?:

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it resolved…

If he was referring to this clause, he should have his law license revoked. Because it is a basic tenet of statutory construction that “whereas” clauses have no binding legal effect.   Professor Glennon testified to the Senate that these specific “whereas” clauses have no legal effect back in 2002:nate that these specific “whereas” clauses have no legal effect back in 2002:

How much authority does this statute confer upon the President to use force in prosecuting the war against terrorism? Note at the outset that the statute contains five whereas clauses. Under traditional principles of statutory construction, these provisions have no binding legal effect. Only material that comes after the so-called “resolving clause”–“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled”–can have any operative effect. Material set out in a whereas clause is purely precatory. It may be relevant for the purpose of clarifying ambiguities in a statute’s legally operative terms, but in and of itself such a provision can confer no legal right or obligation.

Let’s step back into GonzalesWorldTM for a second and assume that his argument is operative; he says this clause recognized that the President has unfettered power under the Constitution to skirt the law and order warrantless spying.  But the Constitution mandates that the President preserve and defend the Constitution–which includes the Fourth Amendment and its protection against warrantless searches and seizures.

Naturally, being the stellar “inteviewer” that she is, Katie Couric failed to ask Gonzales any follow-up questions.  But at least Gonzales named a statute–as opposed to Condoleeza Rice who fumbled and squirmed when Russert asked her the same this weekend.

For additional MSM massaging of the message, the Dark Lord of Torture will appear on Nightline tonight.

Also surf over to Americablog, where John is speculating that the target of the surveillance could in fact, be journalists (though proving this one is going to be one tough nut to crack):

I don’t have proof yet, but Bush spying on US journalists would explain everything UNEXPLAINED about this entire story. Bush refusing to follow the law, Bush refusing to go to court, Bush refusing to tell more members of Congress, Bush’s concern that the terrorists, if they knew we were doing this, would be tipped off, and Bush’s desire to keep this from the public. It all makes sense that the target of the domestic spying could be US journalists.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding