Bush Unlimited?

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 14 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

This is an update to the BoingBoing article The Dynamic of a Bush Scandal: How the Spying Story Will Unfold (and Fade):

Maybe it won’t go down as described above. The Washington Times, an ultraconservative paper that usually sides with the President, ran a sharply critical commentary by Bruce Fein, a former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan.

President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.

In all honesty, I am worried about the next ten years of life in America. At the end of X-Men, Magneto (aka Eric Lensherr) says, “The war is still coming, Charles, and I intend to fight it… by any means necessary.” I believe this is the case within America (and it is something I will fight). We are slowly giving away our rights. We’re giving them to the government, were giving them to the media (i.e. RIAA/MPAA), we’re giving them to anyone with enough money to buy them (although we don’t actually get any of the money). It’s sickening, not because it’s happening (although that is also sickening), but more because people think that it’s okay and the right thing to do! What Bush has done (and will continue to do, if unchecked) is unacceptable. Some might even consider it treasonous. Why anyone would so openly defend someone who has so openly violated US law is beyond me.

Note: The entirety of The Washington Times commentary is published after the break in case the link goes down.

[tags]george bush, NSA, washington times, Bruce Fein, domestic spying[/tags]

According to President George W. Bush, being president in wartime means never having to concede co-equal branches of government have a role when it comes to hidden encroachments on civil liberties.
    Last Saturday, he thus aggressively defended the constitutionality of his secret order to the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international communications of Americans whom the executive branch speculates might be tied to terrorists. Authorized after the September 11, 2001 abominations, the eavesdropping clashes with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), excludes judicial or legislative oversight, and circumvented public accountability for four years until disclosed by the New York Times last Friday. Mr. Bush’s defense generally echoed previous outlandish assertions that the commander in chief enjoys inherent constitutional power to ignore customary congressional, judicial or public checks on executive tyranny under the banner of defeating international terrorism, for example, defying treaty or statutory prohibitions on torture or indefinitely detaining United States citizens as illegal combatants on the president’s say-so.
    President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.
    The war against global terrorism is serious business. The enemy has placed every American at risk, a tactic that justifies altering the customary balance between liberty and security. But like all other constitutional authorities, the war powers of the president are a matter of degree. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952), the U.S. Supreme Court denied President Harry Truman’s claim of inherent constitutional power to seize a steel mill threatened with a strike to avert a steel shortage that might have impaired the war effort in Korea. A strike occurred, but Truman’s fear proved unfounded.
    Neither President Richard Nixon nor Gerald Ford was empowered to suspend Congress for failing to appropriate funds they requested to fight in Cambodia or South Vietnam. And the Supreme Court rejected Nixon’s claim of inherent power to enjoin publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War in New York Times v. United States (1971).
    Mr. Bush insisted in his radio address that the NSA targets only citizens “with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist organizations.”
    But there are no checks on NSA errors or abuses, the hallmark of a rule of law as opposed to a rule of men. Truth and accuracy are the first casualties of war. President Bush assured the world Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion. He was wrong. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Americans of Japanese ancestry were security threats to justify interning them in concentration camps during World War II. He was wrong. President Lyndon Johnson maintained communists masterminded and funded the massive Vietnam War protests in the United States. He was wrong. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan’s remark to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President Bush can be trusted in wartime, but only with independent verification.
    The NSA eavesdropping is further troublesome because it easily evades judicial review. Targeted citizens are never informed their international communications have been intercepted. Unless a criminal prosecution is forthcoming (which seems unlikely), the citizen has no forum to test the government’s claim the interceptions were triggered by known links to a terrorist organization.
    Mr. Bush acclaimed the secret surveillance as “crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies.” But if that were justified, why was Congress not asked for legislative authorization in light of the legal cloud created by FISA and the legislative branch’s sympathies shown in the Patriot Act and joint resolution for war? FISA requires court approval for national security wiretaps, and makes it a crime for a person to intentionally engage “in electronic surveillance under color of law, except as authorized by statute.”
    Mr. Bush cited the disruptions of “terrorist” cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio as evidence of a pronounced domestic threat that compelled unilateral and secret action. But he failed to demonstrate those cells could not have been equally penetrated with customary legislative and judicial checks on executive overreaching.
    The president maintained that, “As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.” But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA’s surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping? And why is he so carefree about risking the liberties of both the living and those yet to be born by flouting the Constitution’s separation of powers and conflating constructive criticism with treason?
    
    Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

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3 thoughts on “Bush Unlimited?”

  1. Arthur W. Kelly III

    You better hope someone is “listening in” while you are sharpening pencils at a undisclosed location outside of Seattle for the Boeing Corporation. Make sure you take the call from the NSA when it comes in because they are about to tell you that an AWAC has been stolen and Bin Laden himself is getting ready to fly it straight into your office. Hopefully, you have time to get ole Dunston into a file cabinet. As Tommy Boy would say…..Ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark!

  2. Arthur W. Kelly III

    By the way, since when are the New York Times and Washington Times authorities on anything? They do have some use I suppose. Hpusebreaking new pets come to mind.

  3. The point, at least for me, is that there are certain things that a person simply can and can not do in the United States, even if they are the President. By explicitly authorizing the NSA the tap the communications of citizens within the US, President Bush has overstepped his boundaries.

    As far as I know the NSA, much like the CIA, is not allowed to spy domestically. However, from time to time, there might be a feasible reason for doing such. When there is, a system has been implemented called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. FISAC is the exclusive body allowed to grant the NSA the authority to spy domestically. Note the word “exclusive”. Unless a resolution were passed in Congress granting the Executive Branch the authority to allow the NSA to spy domestically, then what President Bush has done is in fact illegal and frankly, I don’t care how many people die.

    I know that sounds harsh, but there is something special about the United States. There is a reason we are the most successfully democracy the world has ever known. A system of checks and balances between the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Branches ensures that the rights of the people are preserved. These are rights that millions of American’s have shed their blood for and I will not stand idly and watch them be thrown out the window on the basis that we might be safer.

    At the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock says, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”

    Let’s suppose that Bush had authorized the NSA to spy domestically before 9/11/2001 just as he has done now. And let’s suppose that we can prove without doubt that because of his order to the NSA, we were able to capture the terrorists before they had a chance to hijack the planes. I would still say what I’m saying now, and I would have no issue condemning the few for the needs of the many. Because that is what being an American is about. It’s about upholding the law, not because it’s convenient, but because it’s hard. And more importantly, because it’s right.

    As for the authority of any one paper, I always make it a point to get multiple viewpoints. However, this is commentary written by Bruce Fein of The Washington Times is just that, a commentary. It’s an opinion and not fact. I happen to agree with him; but again, this is just my opinion.

    P.S. It’s Dunstan, not Dunston

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