Illegal Domestic Wiretapping: Bush Just Did It Again

Yesterday's Comey testimony was stunning. It clarifies that George Bush authorized a program he knew to be illegal, over Comey's and Ashcroft's objection. It shows that our top law enforcement officer has zero respect for the law (hey! look at me! In the Guardian!).

But we need to bring our outrage into the here and now. That's because, just two weeks ago, Bush did it again. He told the American people he could authorize a warrantless wiretap program if he wanted to–it didn't matter what Congress or the law said. 

Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants.

As a result of the January agreement, the administration said that the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program has been brought under the legal structure laid out in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court-approved warrants for the wiretapping of American citizens and others inside the United States.

But on Tuesday, the senior officials, including Michael McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said they believed that the president still had the authority under Article II of the Constitution to once again order the N.S.A. to conduct surveillance inside the country without warrants. 

In other words, even after the outcry over publication of details about this program in December 2005, even after the Administration came up with changes in the program to appease Congress, even though some amazingly conservative people stood with Comey when he opposed the program in 2004, the Administration just reasserted its willingness to wiretap Americans without a warrant, regardless of the law.

Comey's testimony yesterday dramatically altered the scope of discussions about whether Gonzales should or shouldn't be Attorney General (hint: the answer's no, but then it always was). But at the same time, we need to take yesterday's dramatic testimony and refocus our outrage on Bush himself, and his ongoing willingness to flout the law. Bush told Comey and Ashcroft to fuck off in 2004. But he told all of us to fuck off, publicly, just two weeks ago.

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