What a Scrooge the president was yesterday when he declared he'd continue spying on us:
"This is a different era, a different war," the president said at a year-end news conference in the East Room. "People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this . . . requires quick action."
And in case you were wondering what's behind the Alito nomination:
In the wide-ranging news conference, Bush demanded that the Senate confirm Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court by Jan. 20, even as Democrats vowed to question the nominee on his view of the NSA program.Nothing like packing the judiciary with judges who have strong affection for authoritarian government power over the people.
While generally relaxed and sometimes joking, Bush grew testy when asked if he is presiding over the expansion of "unchecked power" by the executive branch. "To say 'unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject," he responded sharply, waving his finger.Thus is offered the imperial decree. You don't need stand-up comics to make fund of this.
"I just described limits on this particular program," he said. "That's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."
So he's violating your constitutional rights in order to "safeguard" them.
Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA in urgent situations can already eavesdrop on international telephone calls for 72 hours without a warrant, as long as it goes to a secret intelligence court by the end of that period for retroactive permission. Since the law was passed in 1978 after intelligence scandals, the court has rejected just five of 18,743 requests for wiretaps and search warrants, according to the government.
Ah, but it's the mere indignity of having to go to a court to ask permission to pursue authoritarian policies!
In asserting the legality of the program, Bush cited his power under Article II of the Constitution as well as the resolution authorizing force passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. The resolution never mentions such surveillance, but Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said it is implicit and cited last year's Supreme Court decision in Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld , which found that the force resolution effectively authorized Bush to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely as enemy combatants.
Even the Democrats are outraged:
Several senators pressed the matter further. Specter and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent letters to Alito promising to grill the nominee on the issue at confirmation hearings next month. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) raised the prospect of a special prosecutor investigation and said Gonzales would have to recuse himself. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent an inquiry to presidential scholars asking if they agree with John Dean, the White House counsel during Watergate, who she quoted as saying that Bush has admitted to an impeachable offense.
Breaking: Rep. Conyers has introduced a censure motion in the House. More in subsequent post.