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What the Democrats Should Say About the Court's Declaring the President's Wiretapping Unconstitutional

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Bard Schmookler     Permalink
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The issue here is not whether the president should conduct surveillance on the terorrists' communications. Everyone agrees that such surveillance is necessary.

The issue is whether it's OK for the President to run roughshod over the law and the Constitution to do such surveillance.

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Don't let the Republicans change the subject. The law provides for such surveillance. There's a Court specially set up to issue warrants for such surveillance. In an emergency, the president's people can even do the surveillance first and get the warrant second.

But the Bush administration has never shown any reason why they could not protect this country AND follow the law. And it does make you wonder: why didn't they do it legally?

The British authorities got the legally-required warrants for all the surveillance they did to break up the alleged terror plot in their country. Why has the Bush administration been unwilling to do likewise in America?

Since no court issued a warrant, we don't even really know who they were spying on. Was it only terrorists, or was it political opponents, too? We just don't know.

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In America, we're not supposed to wonder about things like that. Our Founding Fathers gave us a Constitution that requires warrants so that we can be sure that the invasion of people's privacy serves a legitimate national purpose.

As for Bush's surveillance, maybe it served a legitimate purpose and maybe it didn't. Only the president and his men know for sure. They say "Trust us." But "Trust us" is precisely what our Founding Fathers said was NOT the way to maintain our liberties and our security.

Now a judge has declared that no one --not even the president, indeed, with all his power, ESPECIALLY not the president-- is above the law.

Don't believe the Republicans when they say that this decision is a decision against protecting our country. It is precisely the opposite: it is about protecting this country against both terrorists from outside and against unchecked presidential power inside.

We don't have to choose between being protected from the terrorists and being a nation ruled by law. Shame on the Bush administration for pretending that the two cannot readily go together. Shame on the Bush administration for trampling on the law.
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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