The Bush administration is hiding behind the Constitution in justifying its five- year campaign of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens under the pretense that it's been intercepting phone and email transmissions from individuals with links to terrorist organizations.
"We must be able to quickly detect when someone linked to al-Qaida is communicating with someone inside of America," Bush said last week speaking at the NSA headquarters.
But since 1978, following the corruption of the Nixon administration, this type of eavesdropping has been regulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, to safeguard against abuses of power and violations of the separation of powers doctrine. The purpose of FISA, in the words of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was "to curb the practice by which the executive branch may conduct warrantless electronic surveillance on its own unilateral determination that national security justifies it."
With the Bushies' argument that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless surveillance, the administration is, in effect, claiming that the FISA regulations are unconstitutional. And this debate will go on for while at the Judiciary Committee's hearings which began today.
The real question that begs to be asked is whether Bush & Co's controversial spying is more far-reaching than anyone currently imagines. For example, did the NSA wiretap any Democratic politicians and or staffers? This question must be asked. And it needs to be asked directly, under-oath, to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former AG John Ashcroft, and all other Bush administration officials that have been and/or are currently party to this ongoing wiretapping campaign.
We must fully understand the breath of this operation, and punish to the fullest extent of the law all those who are indirectly and directly involved, including Gonzales, Cheney and perhaps the president himself. Let's remember what got Clinton impeached. I think it's safe to say Bush should face a similar fate if he is found guilty of breaking the law by flagrantly violating FISA restrictions in spying illegally on innocent U.S. citizens, or worse, spying on Democratic politicians for purely political purposes.