Thanks to David Chard for this handy all-in-one-place reference on signing statements.
But other violations of law constitute even stronger impeachable offenses. The admitted thousands of NSA surveillances conducted all violate the FISA laws on the books as stated.
Bush's most visible defense in bypassing these warrants came from a Wall Street Journal piece, citing a passage in a semi-tangentially related court ruling on the Clinton-era "Truong" warrant case, where a mention in a judicial opinion purported to explain the president's authority. But watch how this quote was cleverly manipulated by a Bush-sympathetic author as follows:
“Every court of appeals that has considered the issue has upheld an inherent presidential power to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence searches; and in 2002 the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, created by the FISA statute, accepted that "the president does have that authority" and noted "FISA could not encroach on the president's constitutional power."
But when you read the full text, it gives the opposite impression:
”We reiterate that Truong dealt with a pre-FISA surveillance based on the President’s constitutional responsibility to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States. Although Truong suggested the line it drew was a constitutional minimum that would apply to a FISA surveillance, it had no occasion to consider the application of the statute carefully. The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information [because the laws pre-FISA were ambiguous?]. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power. The question before us [in 2002, with FISA in place but post PATRIOT Act] is the reverse, does FISA amplify the President’s power by providing a mechanism that at least approaches a classic warrant and which therefore supports the government’s contention that FISA searches are constitutionally reasonable.”
This "mention" in a judicial opinion should not trump the FISA statute passed by Congress and signed into law by a President. The WSJ should be called out for editing tricks that obfuscate responsible reporting.
But there's much more. When asked in a televised interview what he felt the legal precedent for the warrantless surveillances is, Bush said "That's for the lawyers to figure out". Not a very confidence-instilling reply, especially paired with the fact that the White House legal team completely reversed it's position on warrantless surveillance as soon as Harriet Miers was replaced by former Reagan chief counsel Fred Fielding. You might say they were against warrants before they were for warrants.
There are other fall-backs neo cons sputter on this issue, such as the vague language in the AUMF authorizing military action in Iraq. But if you've read the full AUMF - which isn't very long - the required conditions (all the "Whereas's") clearly have not been met. If Bush was foolish enough to bring the AUMF into his case for warrantless wiretaps, he'd be opening Pandora's Box. Indeed, Congress has threatened to revisit and rescind the measure anyway as it makes for a lot of apologizing on the campaign trail. (Anybody else tired of hearing "If I'd known then what I know now.."?)
But this becomes shaky when we remember how the president did try to get Congressional permission for unwarranted surveillance and failed. With Gonzales as his chief counsel, Bush tried to slip in language specifically permitting just this type of electronic surveillance into the PATRIOT act in a little publicized 11th-hour power grab. The Democratic led Senate rejected this, and the-majority leader Tom Daschle, personally tried to remind the American people about this in a Washington Post op-ed piece when Bush was touting he didn't need any such authority. So Bush was trying to get the Congressional authority before he said he didn't need the congressional authority.
Then we have Bush's now infamous "Buffalo wing" when Bush went off the script at a campaign appearance in Buffalo, New York in 2004. Unprompted by the moderator, he ad-libbed assurances to the voters that the government always gets warrants for wiretaps because "we value the constitution". So he said he was for warrants while he was acting against them.
Now that we have uncovered proof of politically motivated moves by the White House using the DOJ to carry out it's whims, we see Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is either a stooge or an inept supervisor, and that abuses took place under his watch. The $64,000 question then asks what happened during the 2006 Senate Judicial Committee hearings on the NSA wiretaps, where Gonzales was grilled for two days and the committee was headed for a vote to subpoena NSA records. A rumor began circulated that any senator who voted for the subpoenas would have their 2006 RNC campaign funding pulled by Karl Rove. The public hearings abruptly ended the next day, after a back-room deal, the whole thing was dropped.
Now that Gonzales' competency/corruptibility is in serious doubt, why would we trust him on the NSA issue? If he can't remember who hatched the plot to fire the attorneys during meetings he attended, it's critical to see the records before Gonzales misremembers details demonstrating the potential of the White House to corrupt the NSA.
What's at stake? The 1978 FISA act was meant to prevent a rogue executive from listening in on private citizens after Nixon was caught spying on his political enemies, Vietnam war dissenters and others. Even since FISA, the US government has spied on Amnesty International, The Red Cross, and Greenpeace, skirting US law by having the British do the intercepts and relaying the information. One of the worst abuses was listening in on European defense contractor Airbus while competing for billions in international contracts. They eventually won the contracts, crushing US competitors in spite of the spying, or perhaps, in spite of the US after the spying was exposed.
The grand daddy of all has to be the Bush cabinet's Iraq Team listening in on UN officials in early 2003, on the eve of the UN Security Council vote allowing the US to invade Iraq, this in violation of the Vienna treaty specifically prohibiting spying on UN grounds in New York.
After the snoop revealed no vote was forthcoming, they stepped up the timetable for invasion, scrambling to foist their bad pre-war intel on Congress and the American people. That April, NY Times reporter Judith Miller claimed WMD had been found in Iraq. TV appearances by Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney and the newswires all referred to Miller's reports. This was a crucial claim, published on the front page of the Times by a Pulitzer winning author, on which many in Congress based their votes for the AUMF. It turned out to be a lie originating from Dick Cheney's now-convicted chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
As he's never denied the Downing Street memos, Bush's White House has never offered a reason why they would want or need to bypass warrants. As I write this, a subpoena for Karl Rove's missing email files is sitting on Alberto Gonzales desk, so it is simply in connecting the dots that the NSA records should be included. We know that Karl Rove uses smear campaigns to win elections or discredit opponents. Where does he get all the info in his little red files?
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