Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 19 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

The Constitution: Checking a Would-Be King

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
Message Ray McGovern
Become a Fan
  (176 fans)

This piece was reprinted by OpEd News with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Who can forget the chutzpah of President George W. Bush as he bragged to Bob Woodward, "I'm commander in chief.... That's the interesting thing about being president...I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

* * *

Wrong, Mr. President. You and Vice President Cheney seem to have missed "Constitution 101." And you seem to have laughed off admonitions against hiring lawyers eager to give an obsequious nihil obstat to whatever you want to do. You have allowed the likes of David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo to do what Sen. Chuck Hagel (R, Nebraska) has accused you and your advisers of doing regarding Iraq-""making it up as they go along." It's enough to make one conclude that Shakespeare may have been right about lawyers.

Mr. President, you just can't keep making things up-"things like "unitary executive," and "unlawful combatant," and "military tribunals" and "enhanced interrogation techniques." You cannot make-believe them into law. These faux-legal constructs are now coming home to roost.

Contrary to what you have been quoted as saying, the U.S. Constitution is not just another piece of paper. Indeed, it seems to be getting a new lease on life these days. This week you and your lawyers ran into a tough judge who takes the Constitution very seriously indeed and shows no sign of bending with the prevailing winds.

* * *

Thursday's ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the U.S. District Court in Detroit against warrantless eavesdropping did not beat around the bush, so to speak. Her strong words would, I imagine, have brought broad smiles to the faces of those who crafted the Constitution-"despite the irony that, in that sad time of racial exclusion, they would not have thought to include Judge Taylor in "We, the people."

The power and simplicity of her words brought immediately to mind another distinguished African American woman and jurist who rose to the occasion a generation ago during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon. A member of the House Judiciary Committee that approved articles of impeachment against a president she described as "swollen with power and grown tyrannical," Rep. Barbara Jordan (D, Texas) addressed her colleagues:

"My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.... The Constitution charges the president with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed."

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's unminced words on Thursday resonated with those sentiments-"and some righteous anger. She ruled that Bush's eavesdropping program is "obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment" as well as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which expressly forbids eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She gave short shrift to the White House argument that the president's powers as commander in chief of the armed services in time of war enable him to disregard this and other laws. The administration's painfully stretched contention that the post 9/11 congressional authorization of force somehow gave the president the authority to disregard FISA was also summarily rejected.

Political Posturing

Eight months have gone by since James Risen's expose' of the eavesdropping program appeared in the New York Times, so we would do well to call up some key facts-"especially since demagoguery and posturing is again in full swing. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R, Michigan) immediately castigated Judge Taylor for "taking it upon herself to disarm America during a time of war." Hoekstra is chair of the House intelligence committee charged with overseeing (overlooking?) NSA and other programs. Also on Thursday, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R, Illinois) spiced things up, claiming that the eavesdropping program "saved the day by foiling the London terror plot." (If that is true-"admittedly a big IF, given the administration's credibility record on such matters-"the Justice Department should go after Hastert immediately for gross violation of important laws against divulging sources and methods.)

On Friday, President Bush reverted to the administration's scripted response: "If al-Qaeda is calling in to the United States, we want to know why they're calling." Bush asserted that opponents of the warrantless eavesdropping program "do not understand the nature of the world in which we live." Striking the podium for emphasis, Bush added, "I strongly disagree with that decision."

Spare the podium, Mr. President. Like the Constitution, it will stand up to your blows.

Lost in the underbrush is the reality that the architecture of FISA was shaped not only to protect the privacy of Americans but also to give the White House considerable latitude in pursuing time-urgent opportunities. For example, the executive branch is permitted to eavesdrop on conversations for three days without having to seek a warrant from the FISA court. And, when sought, warrants have been virtually automatic.


Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Ray McGovern Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

What's Hayden Hidin'?

Asylum for Julian Assange -- Former Awardee for Integrity

Petraeus Cons Obama on Afghan War

Obama Stands Up to Israel, Tamps Down Iran War Threats

Note to Nancy Pelosi: Colin Powell Got Snookered at CIA, too

Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend