Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Our President, the King

From Reason

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says Congress approved the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic wiretaps when it authorized a military response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He also has said President Bush later decided not to ask for congressional approval of the surveillance program (approval he supposedly already had) because Congress probably would have said no (even though, by Gonzales' account, it already had said yes).

Now the Bush administration is pursuing legislation suggested by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) that would provide the congressional blessing it says it always had yet never sought. But since the president apparently thinks he has unilateral authority to do whatever he deems necessary to prevent terrorism, any law that aims to regulate his conduct in this area may not accomplish much.


The administration's defense of the NSA's wiretaps suggests the PATRIOT Act's electronic surveillance provisions are superfluous at best. And if Bush thinks he has the authority to quietly disregard statutory restrictions on wiretaps, how can we be sure his administration is punctiliously following the legal requirements for seizing records or conducting physical searches? The president's secret exercise of undefined powers renders "clear red lines" invisible.

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."
This is one of the grieavances against King George III listed in the Declaration of Independence.

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