Monday, September 24, 2007

Bush on Warrantless Wiretaps: 'F--- the Constitution!'

President Is Determined to Make Permanent His Warrantless Spying on Americans -- and to Hell With a 1972 Supreme Court Ruling That Warrants are Required By the Fourth Amendment

Lame-duck Congress unlikely to authorize Bush's warrantless terrorism wiretaps

How much longer are you going to put up with the government listening in on your telephone conversations or reading your Internet correspondence without first obtaining court warrants -- as the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires? And if you're a member of an adults-only social networking Web site, are you going to sit back and do nothing while your name and address that's on record at the Web site is subjected to warrantless government "data-mining?" Don't believe what the government says; your constitutional right to privacy is being systematically destroyed. (Image Courtesy WHDH-TV, Boston)

(Updated 8:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday, September 26, 2007)
(Link to Supreme Court Ruling Below)
(Readers' Feedbacks Follow)



PORTLAND, Oregon -- Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

-- The Associated Press


By Skeeter Sanders

As an American who's now well past the age of 50, never in a thousand years would I have thought that after Richard Nixon, we would ever again have a president in the White House during my lifetime more contemptuous of the constitutional right of Americans to disagree with his policies without fear of having their rights violated.

Confronted with massive protests against the Vietnam War in 1970, Nixon ordered a massive police crackdown on anti-war demonstrators in the nation's capital. Thousands were rounded up and arrested in the May Day protests that year. An angry Nixon later approved a plan for greatly expanding domestic intelligence-gathering on anti-war activists by the FBI, CIA and other agencies without court orders.

That this violated the Constitution was made crystal clear when the Supreme Court declared unanimously in 1972 that warrantless wiretaps and other electronic surveillance by the Nixon administration for national security purposes were an impermissible breach of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures (See Blog Archive: December 18, 2005, July 9, 2007).

The justices handed down their ruling in United States v. Plamondon (Listed formally in the high court's archives as United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, et al. -- Case No. 70-153) on June 19, 1972 -- just two days after the infamous Watergate break-in that ultimately led to Nixon's downfall.

Nixon's obsession with silencing his political opponents -- particularly over the Vietnam War -- ultimately prompted those who worked for him to resort to outright criminality, including the break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters at Washington's Watergate complex in 1972.

The rest, as they say, is history. Indeed, these and other abuses of executive power by Nixon were cited in the second of the three articles of impeachment handed up in Congress against Nixon in 1974. After Nixon's subsequent resignation, I came away with the firm expectation that we would never again have a president who would abuse his authority as recklessly as Nixon did.

Bush Proving to be More Reckless Than Nixon

But three decades later, I've been proven wrong -- in spades. In George W. Bush, not only do we have another president who is abusing his powers and endangering Americans' constitutional rights, but he's doing it with an imperious arrogance that goes far beyond anything that Nixon did. An arrogance that is turning this government dangerously into an authoritarian dictatorship.

As by now everyone knows, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Bush ordered the super-secret National Security Agency to initiate monitoring of Americans' international telephone calls, whether originating in the U.S. or originating abroad. And like Nixon before him, Bush did not seek prior court orders.

This is in clear violation of both the Supreme Court's ruling in the Plamondon case and the law it spawned -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed by Congress in 1978 in response to the widespread abuses by the nation's intelligence community on American citizens during the Nixon era (That the mainstream media have failed to mention the high court ruling angers me to no end. More on that later).

Since it first exposed this unconstitutional surveillance in December 2005, The New York Times has gone on to reveal a massive program of "data-mining" literally millions of Americans' phone calls that has gone on for more than five years. And Bush has vowed to continue it, stubbornly insisting that he has the constitutional authority to implement it -- despite the Supreme Court's 35-year-old ruling to the contrary.

Yet instead of warning the president that his warrantless spying program was skating on dangerously thin legal and constitutional ice, Bush's now-former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, ordered a criminal investigation in January 2006 to find out who told The Times about it.

That Gonzales' predecessor, John Ashcroft, refused to give his blessing to the warrantless spy program, despite strong lobbying pressure from Gonzales -- which may have been a contributing factor in Ashcroft's decision to step down rather than stay on for Bush's second term -- made Gonzales' action all the more mind-boggling. He clearly had no respect for Americans' constitutional rights and thank God he's no longer in office, having resigned in disgrace last month.

A President Who Thinks He's Above the Law -- and the Constitution

Rather than admit that it's wrong, the Bush-Cheney regime instead ratcheted up its defense of its unconstitutional NSA spying program, with the Justice Department claiming that the power of the president to gather such intelligence during wartime was well-established and had been practiced by some of the nation's most revered commanders in chief, including Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Gonzales asserted that the inherent power of the president to order such warrantless surveillance was confirmed and enhanced by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The attorney general asserts that FISA did not close the door on surveillance that had not been approved by a special court created by that law.

What rubbish! Members of Congress -- Republican and Democrat alike -- flatly declared that they gave the president no such authority when they voted to authorize Bush to use force against al-Qaida and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan who gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

The lawmakers were quick to point out that the FISA statute contains a provision that requires court approval within 15 days of the launching of electronic surveillance for national security purposes within the borders of the U.S.

To this day, there is no record of the FISA court ever approving the NSA's wiretaps. None of the court's 10 members have acknowledged approving the program. In fact, Judge James Robinson resigned from the FISA court two days after publication of the The Times' expose in protest of the president's action.

Why Won't Media Mention 1972 High Court Ruling?

Under Gonzales, the Justice Department's rationale for the warrantless spying was -- and still is -- constitutional bullpucky. Not only has the White House chosen to ignore the fact that Congress has the exclusive constitutional authority to declare war -- an authority Congress has not exercised since 1941 -- Bush has also chosen to defy the Supreme Court's 1972 Plamondon decision.

Incredibly, in none of the reports on the NSA spying program in the mainstream media to date has there been any mention of the Plamondon ruling. I broke that story on this blog within hours of Bush's December 19, 2005 press conference, when the president first claimed that he had the authority to order the warrantless wiretaps.

It is a patently false claim.

Why have the mainstream media -- including The Times, which banner-headlined the high court's 1972 ruling in the Plamondon case the morning after it was handed down -- failed to cite it in their reports on the NSA warrantless spying program? Bush is bullheadedly insisting that he has an authority that a unanimous Supreme Court long ago declared illegal under the Fourth Amendment. What is it going to take to get the mainstream media to wake up and tell the American people that what the Bush-Cheney regime is doing is unconstitutional?

Big Brother Is Watching You On the Internet, Too

If the warrantless NSA spying wasn't bad enough, the Bush-Cheney regime's snooping isn't limited to telephone calls. In January 2006, The Times revealed that federal investigators obtained through subpoenas potentially billions of Internet search requests made by millions of Americans using major search engines run by Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and America Online Inc.

What makes this Internet "data-mining" outrageous is that the Justice Department wants to see what Web sites Americans are looking for online as part of an effort to restore an anti-pornography law that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.

And now the Justice Department want to amend a federal recordkeeping law to require operators of adults-only social networking Web sites to collect the names and addresses of their millions of users. The reason should by now be obvious: Uncle Sam wants to "data-mine" these social networking sites, too -- and very likely without constitutionally-mandated warrants.

Intelligence Chief Says Warrantless Wiretaps have Stopped -- But Don't You Believe It

The nation’s top intelligence officer told Congress last week that the NSA hasn't conducted warrantless wiretapping Americans' telephones since February, after the White House agreed to allow the FISA court to oversee the program.

But this blogger doesn't believe it -- and neither should you, especially since Congress, in a rush just before the August recess, Congress passed a law -- effective for only six months -- authorizing the government to eavesdrop, without court-approved warrants, on international communications between an American and someone overseas, as long as the foreigner is the target of the surveillance.

Regardless of the intent of the law, it's still unconstitutional. It still violates the Fourth Amendment's requirement that warrants be obtained for such surveillance. Congress, therefore, is just as guilty as the White House in violating the very Constitution its officers are sworn by their oath of office to "uphold and support" -- and in the case of the president, "preserve, protect and defend."

Bush is still lobbying hard for Congress to make the warrantless wiretapping law permanent. I say no way. It's time for Congress to end this blatant disregard of the Fourth Amendment and force the Bush-Cheney regime to obey the "Supreme Law of the Land [Article VI, Section 2]" it is bound by its oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend" and obtain warrants for any and all future wiretaps.

On the Web: 1972 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Warrantless Wiretaps



From: R. Fowler

Great post about the Plamondon case, especially your statements about the major media (CNN, NBC, MSNBC etc.) being too lazy, or too frightened, to locate and present the absolute "constitutional gold" in this Supreme Court opinion.

Keep up the good work.

From: Grumpyhippy

You may say "No way," Skeeter, but with [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi bowing down before Bush and saying "Thank You Sir! May I have another?", I think you're SOL.

The GOPers take away our rights, but the Dems give away our rights. Same result.

I've lost hope in the Dems, especially after the MoveOn ad debacle. What a bunch of spineless wimps! I've come to the conclusion that the only difference between the Dems and the GOP are that the Dems want me to pay more taxes and then give my money to irresponsible people who shouldn't be having children unless they can afford to raise them, but still breed like rabbits anyway.

If we have to live in a fascist society, I think I'd rather have the GOP in charge so I can keep more of my money.

Skeeter Sanders replies: I agree with you, Grumpyhippy -- up to a point. On the one hand, it is utterly outrageous for the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass that law authorizing the president to continue with his warrantless wiretapping program, even if it's only temporary. What in God's name were they thinking? On the other hand, you're forgetting that the Democrats' majority falls far short of the two-thirds required in both houses of Congress to override Bush vetoes. In the Senate, the Democrats, with only 49 seats plus two allied independents, lack even the three-fifths majority required to break Republican filibusters. To make matters worse, Democrat-turned-independent Senator Joe Leiberman of Connecitcut has repeatedly threatened to jump to the GOP if the Democrats cut off funding for the Iraq surge -- which, if he makes good on his threat, would throw control of the Senate back to the Republicans, with Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote. Bottom line: You can't really blame the Democrats for their inability to end the war when they don't have enough votes to do so. The American people, unfortunately, failed to elect enough Democrats to Capitol Hill to truly neutralize Bush.

From: No Exit

Right on Skeeter!

Herr Busch, who ran on a platform of restoring honesty and integrity to the WH has proceeded to do exactly the opposite.

I guess that's in keeping with the Orwellian theme he has kept up and running throughout his malAdministration.

Clean Air Act = Pollution
No Child Left Behind = Unfunded educational mandates
Fiscal Responsibility = massive deficits
Integrity = Unprecedented corruption
Faith in Jesus = Faith in War
Democracy in Iraq = Dictatorship at home

One can go on and on, but note that every person with a reasonably respected reputation has left this administration with their reputation in tatters.

# # #

Volume II, Number 49
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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