Bush claims that he and his office disregarded FISA because he needed to be able to move fast (cell phone numbers changing all the time) and because the constitution allows him to in order to protect national security. The "act fast" idea seems to be subverted by the fact that FISA was set up for such fast action: an application for a warrant can be submitted 72 hours AFTER the fact under FISA. But I am not an expert on the workings of the FISA court, so it is hard for me to know. One expert, however, seems to have quit his job as a judge on the FISA court out of protest: Judge James Robertson. The specifics of the judges action are still unclear.
With respect to acting in the interest of national security, there are many issues to consider. John Dean, Nixon's former lawyer and an expert on issues of impeachment, recently stated that "Bush is the first president to admit to an impeachable offense." Dean's comparison of Bush and Nixon is a must-read when considering these issues of Bush's breaking the FISA laws, national security, and impeachment. With impeachment talk finally being discussed in the media, it is informative to note what paragraph 2 of Nixon's second article of impeachment states:
-- "RESOLVED, That Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment are to be exhibited to the Senate:
Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.
This conduct has included one or more of the following:
2 He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance." --
It is not hard to imagine the Bush lawyers reading this and thinking that rationalizing using the NSA's wiretapping abilities on US citizens would be a simple matter of arguing that Bush's law breaking, unlike Nixon's, was in the service of national defense. This may be why Bush feels he can be the "first president to admit an impeachable offense"—because he thinks national security concerns trump what are otherwise impeachable offenses.
Of course, Bush's lawyers are the same guys who believe that the president's power cannot be too great: he can use torture whenever he wants, and he can listen to any phone conversations he wants. In fact, I see no limit to what they believe the presidents powers are during a time of crisis. Basically, for them, 9/11 made Bush king indefinitely. This type of rhetoric is particularly shrill with respect to Cheney and his crew, particularly his new chief of staff, David Addington.
If Nixon had used the FBI to wiretap US citizens, and then had been able to argue it was for national security, this aspect of this article of impeachment, it seems, would not have held up. He may have still been impeached, but this aspect of his impeachment—the one that applies so directly to the recent high crimes—might not have been included in the articles of impeachment.
What seems clear, however, is that FISA was a direct response to Nixon's criminal-imperial wiretapping. It seems clear that this law is intended to go beyond Nixon's crime—that is, intended to protect these civil liberties even in times of crisis. In other words, it is intended to not allow the president to wiretap US citizens without a warrant--even during a time of crisis. Therefore, Bush has been working under different laws than Nixon was working under. These laws are called FISA and he and his office have admitted to breaking the law.
It seems odd that, given Bush and Co.'s claim to care so much about national security—caring so much that they would risk obviously breaking the law—that the 9/11 Commission gave the administration such bad grades on its national security report card. Thomas Kean, the former chairman of the commission, and former GOP Governor of New Jersey, put it pretty clearly, as the Washington Post reported:
-- "Look at this report card!" he demanded. "There are too many C's, D's and F's in this report card!" Kean was standing on a stage in the Ronald Reagan Building in front of a giant poster grading the federal government's response to the 9/11 commission's recommendations. And the results weren't pretty: Five F's, 12 D's, two incompletes and only one A, which translates to a grade-point average of 1.8. "Our leadership has been distracted in this country," Kean protested, citing the "scandalous" failures to improve emergency communications or get security money to highest-risk areas. "We're frustrated at the lack of urgency in addressing these various problems." --
What is even more regrettable is that the fact that the Bushies don't do national security well is so seldom brought up.
So, wiretapping is so important to Bush and Co. that they risk what many consider to be impeachable offense, but they don't seem to care enough about national security to work on the broad and basic issues the commission has deemed important, such as making sure that first responders have an easy way to communicate with each other—the type of thing that would have seriously paid off in the response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the response to Katrina.
I think it is hard to avoid the obvious: Bush and Co. don't care all that much about national security. They have done little to secure the southern border since 9/11 ("Come on in Al Qaeda, but use the back door!") Bush and Co. got a "D" for the national security efforts concerning Saudi Arabia, one of the hot-beds of the type of Jihadism behind Al Qaeda (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi). I'd give them an "F" for what I consider to be their pandering to the Saud regime.
If they care so much about securing the US against Jihadist attacks like 9/11, why do they put so little emphasis on capturing Osama Bin Laden, and so much emphasis on Iraq and Saddam Hussein? The latter has made Iraq a hotbed of Jihadist terrorism, and therefore made us less secure. It seems to be turning Iraq into another Iran—and therefore making us less secure. It wasn't close to being either a Jihadist hotbed or Iran-like before the invasion. Moreover, troops and money continue to be diverted away from operations in Afghanistan while Iraq tours are extended and the Iraq bill climbs into the stratosphere. What does Bush and Co. care about?
If Bush and Co. don't care about national security enough to get a decent grade on the 9/11 Commission's report card, why do they risk using the NSA illegally?
Again, it might be useful to look at why Nixon used the FBI to wiretap US citizens. Basically, Nixon used the FBI to further his causes, increase or secure his power, and to subvert the power of his domestic political enemies—mostly liberals and leftists who deserve credit for clearly seeing him as the very dangerous man he was.
But the media is reporting that Bush is only using this "program" to spy on terrorists and their abettors. This CLAIM by Bush and Co. is being accepted as FACT by the irresponsible, lap-dog media. Leaving aside, for now, the egregious year-long withholding of this major story by the NYT, it is clear that, almost invariably, the report is that Bush and Co. used the power of this wiretapping "program" to hunt suspected terrorists and those who assist the terrorists. Why is this accepted as fact, especially when this administration so obviously doesn't care enough about national security to, for example, secure ports?
How do those who are reporting the president's claim as a fact know this to be true? They can't. The NSA is commonly known as the most secret agency in the executive branch. Besides the nickname of "The Big Ear," it is jokingly referred to as "No Such Agency." Since there is no way for these reporters to know how this "program" was used, the report should be that Bush and Co. CLAIM to have only used it on suspected terrorists and their helpers. How could anyone outside the NSA and Bush's closest circle know how Bush and Co. are using this illegal "program"? Again, it is impossible for them to know this. It will be impossible for everyone else to have a good idea of what has gone on with this felony, not without a THOROUGH AUDIT of NSA activity involving US citizens.
But lets return to the wiretapping itself. Bush and Co. claim the program has been directed toward terrorists and their abettors. So who would qualify as a terrorist or, more to the point, an abettor? When Bush was asked about the initial wiretapping story that ran in the New York Times, he had this to say: "It was a shameful act, for someone to disclose this very important program in time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy." Is the NYT on the list of what Bush, Gonzales and crew would consider fair game for their wiretapping since they are, according to Bush, abetting terrorists?
Of course, given the rhetoric of the white house since 9/11, particularly from Cheney, anyone who challenges the power of the white house on its approach to what they call the Global War on Terror (GWOT), or Iraq, or recently the legality of wiretapping US citizens, is helping the terrorists. This could mean that in their absolute-power-corrupted minds, they are justified wiretapping anyone who thinks Bush and Co. are on the wrong course, anyone obstructs or who disapproves of the president—which would mean at least 56% of the US population according to a mid-December CNN poll.
What is key here is that, according to Bush and Co., they get to decide which laws to follow. Why would there be any limits to whom they would apply their programs? In their eyes, who would have the right to question their authority on anything during a time of crisis? When are we not in a time a crisis? The Jihadist types aren't going away any time soon.
Bush might have used the NSA instead of the FBI because the FBI was too busy wiretapping liberal political groups—in the interest of national security, of course.
Anyone who remembers Bush's general reception pre-9/11 knows that he was headed for a fall without the sea changes of the breaches in national security that occurred that horrible day. 9/11 allowed Bush to do two things he really wanted to do: invade Iraq and win in 2004 (or sort of win). Thanks to the cooperation of the former journalistic home of Judith Miller, Bush and Co. cheerleader during the build up to the invasion, the story of this Bush felony wasn't published until well after the election. It seems we need a THOROUGH AUDIT of the NYT too!
A lap-dog press, an imperial presidency, The Big Ear turned on US citizens—how more obvious can the Orwellian characteristics of our situation be?
If it is discovered that Bush and Co. did not break the law in the interest of national security, if they used the NSA for the security of their powerbase, then the conditions of Nixon's impeachment article number 2, paragraph 2, will be met. This would, it seems to me, give clear grounds for impeaching Bush. Of course, I heard the sentence for breaking the FISA law is five years. Does he need to be impeached if he is already in jail? I don't think so.
Let's do ourselves a favor and lock up Bush and his arrogant cronies. Let's get real America. Bush is not good on national security. Read the 9/11 Commission's report. He sucks at national security. Remember: he was warned about OBL in 8/01. We all know he's a moron surrounded by seriously demented, power-crazed ass holes. My god: we can do much better.