The key issue behind everything I have previously stated is 9/11. What comes next might seem unpatriotic, but I can not help to think that there is a possibility that the U.S. and the Bush Administration has used 9/11 as a tool to consolidate its power and place in the world. It has been noted that the 9/11 attacks were a shock, but definitely they should not have come as a surprise. The list of Al Qaeda victories against the United States do not start with the catastrophic events of 9/11. As the attacks against the U.S. by bin Laden and Al Qaeda grew increasingly violent, knowing bin Laden and Al Qaeda had been based in Afghanistan since May 1996; the U.S. government should have had its military ready to respond immediately to the next Al Qaeda attack. Especially when one considers the severity of the 1998 East African attacks and the 2000 Aden strike against the USS Cole.
It was the 1998 East African attacks that established Al Qaeda as a lethal adversary of the United States. On December 4, 1998 President Clinton in his Presidential Daily Briefing, received word that bin Laden and his network were going to attack within the U.S., possibly through the use of an aircraft. President Clinton is later informed by the CIA that they have an opportunity at bin Laden, yet Clinton is hesitant to act after suffering a political blow from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The transition to the new Bush administration in late 2000 and early 2001 took place and bin Laden was still determined to strike in the United States; as President Clinton had been told and President Bush was reminded in a Presidential Daily Brief article briefed to him in August 2001. As the events of September 11, 2001 were beginning to unfold, President Bush was arriving at an elementary school in Florida when American 11 was about to collide with tower one of the World Trade Center. As President Bush sat in a classroom in that Florida elementary school, American 11 collided with tower one and it was Karl Rove who informed the president that a small plane had just hit the tower. It was also Karl Rove, a top White House advisor, who in 2005 accused the liberal democrats as traitors after 9/11. After 9/11 the world and particularly the United States was to become a different place.
One major item that was going to change was the U.S. government intelligence community. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), the permission of foreign surveillance is permitted on any "foreign power," without the prerequisite of unlawful doing. Yet in the U.S., due to the IV Amendment, law strictly prohibits domestic surveillance of U.S. civilians and civilian organizations, outside criminal investigations. FISA had to be changed, altered and amended after 9/11 in order for legal domestic surveillance to take place. Major amendments to FISA took place just weeks after 9/11 through the Patriot Act.
Yet with surveillance now covering both foreign and domestic spectrums, how can the U.S. government tell the bad guys from the good? Through an NSA program called "Echelon," the NSA is able to conduct surveillance in which the "Echelon" program along with a global network of computers, automatically search through millions of intercepted messages for pre-programmed keywords or fax, telex and e-mail addresses. Unfortunately not only is this program making it hard and confusing to identify who the bad and good guys really are, the process alone is one of extreme difficulty producing results that are unsatisfactory. Yet Vice President Dick Cheney makes the claim that surveillance, possibly like that of the "Echelon" program, saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. According to Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, when asked about the Vice President's comment, "I cannot personally estimate such a figure but the program supplied information that would not otherwise have been available." If the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence cannot back up the Vice Presidents claim, then who and what can? Also it seems that the FBI would disagree with the Vice President's statement due to the fact that a bulk of surveillance done by the NSA and reported to the FBI has led to dead ends and innocent Americans.
With all of this surveillance and spying going on, is one's home his/her private "castle?" In order for the "Echelon" program to be justified in the U.S., the executive branch has asserted that it has the inherent authority, through Article II of the U.S. Constitution, to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance in order to protect national security. Yet no matter what the President's actions have been so far, he still has to keep in mind the IV Amendment.
Just how much power should the President have when it comes to surveillance and or spying on the American people and or the world? In the aftermath of 9/11 President George W. Bush has used some broader powers that Congress and the public appeared to have sanctioned. President Bush is justifying the use of broader powers in regards to protecting the nation through the use of national security surveillance. Furthermore, the President claims his right to spying lies within two sources of legal authority, first is Congress' post September 11, 2001 resolution, in which he is authorized to use force to repel terrorist threats, second is his inherent constitutional power over military and foreign policy matters.
Yet within the midst of Presidential spying, is the concern that "probable cause" has secretly been altered to "reasonable belief" without a court's "judicial review." With this in mind I would like to refer to, United States vs. United States District Court (1972). Without going into much detail, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that, even in national security investigations, the President has no constitutional authority to conduct electronic surveillance of American citizens in the United States, without a judicially issued search warrant based on a finding of probable cause.
Already being as suspicious as I am about the President's actions concerning spying, with my faith being tested, I wonder constitutionally do I need to accept the President's actions based on faith? Under Article II Section I of the U.S. Constitution, the President before he enters his office, he is to take the following Oath, ""I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Faith in an oath was considered fundamental in the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
While on the topic of the U.S. Constitution, other issues associated with spying and the President come to mind. What does the U.S. Constitution say about the treatment of terrorists? Also what does the U.S. Constitution say about violations of privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process? With the rising controversy of the U.S. treatment of terrorist suspects, Congress has approved additional guidelines concerning the treatment of detainees. Supported heavily by Senator John McCain, it defines treatment of detainees as according to the fifth, eighth and fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. From the first, fourth, fifth and fourteenth Amendments, the right of privacy has evolved to protect an individual's freedom, yet there have been ups and downs to this issue. Simply enough, the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is the key to civil liberties in America. Entailed in the Bill of Rights, is the understanding of how our civil liberties can be violated. Then for judicial due process, we simply need to look at the Fifth Amendment, and from there an understanding of how it can be violated is apparent.
Coming back to FISA, the notion has been brought forth about the 2002 opposition to changing the FISA standard. Democrats and national security experts who oppose the NSA program believe the Justice Department's opposition to the DeWine legislation undermined arguments by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, who have said the NSA spying program is constitutional and that surveillance warrants are often too inconvenient to obtain. Is there the possibility that change to the NSA program was opposed because it could be shady and unconstitutional? According to James A. Baker, the Justice Department's counsel for intelligence policy, the Bush administration did not support the proposal "because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues."
If the President was going to make a change to the NSA program, would he and could he change an Act of Congress secretly? Under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, section one and three, through an executive order Congressional approval is not needed and can have the same legal weight as laws passed through Congress Through an executive order, the President can make major decisions, even law, without the consent of Congress. It appears unfortunately the means are there for a President to change an Act of Congress.
Returning to the fourth Amendment, the question I am faced with is, should the fourth Amendments "probable cause" standard be changed? Unfortunately it seems it already has. The FISA procedures to secure surveillance orders do not meet the probable cause standards of the Fourth Amendment. According to a document the ACLU obtained, through a Freedom of Information Act request, an FBI document entitled, "What do I have to do to get a FISA?" The document states, "[p]robable cause in the FISA context is similar to, but not the same as, probable cause in criminal cases...As a result, there is no showing or finding that a crime has been or is being committed, as in the case of a search or seizure for law enforcement purposes."
"War changes everything." Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, questions justifying this war have consumed U.S. citizens and their government. According to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the President's authority to take military action not only comes from inherent constitutional powers, it comes from Congress as well (Article I, Section 8). On September 14, 2001, Congress enacted a joint resolution to support and authorize a military response. Through this resolution, Congress achieved two important things; first it recognized the President's authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the U.S. Second, it complemented that authority by authorizing the President to, "Use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks in order to prevent further attacks on the United States." The resolution emphasizes that the President's authority to use military force against those terrorist groups/states, is at its full potential because he is acting with the express authorization of Congress. As eloquent and resolvable it sounds, a war on terrorism can possibly go on forever. What makes religious terrorism so difficult to combat is, the rewards for those who fight for the cause are transtemporal, and the time lines of their struggle are vast. Terrorists consider their holy war to be waged in divine time and with heaven's rewards, there is no need to compromise goals or time.
With everything done and said, does President Bush deserve to be impeached? Impeachment is a very powerful word when associated with the executive leader of a nation. Historically Congress has been reluctant to use impeachment, and over time impeachment has evolved more through historical practice rather than as a formal constitutional amendment. I believe Alexander Hamilton defined impeachment best when he stated, "Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law." Upon considering the severity of impeachment I do not believe President Bush should be impeached. President Bush to the best of his ability and belief has acted within U.S. law but has unfortunately followed an ideology blindly, an ideology which is centered on fear. An ideology that has pushed him and a nation to a point of irrationality due to the notion that, "War changes everything."