Monday, February 27, 2006


The current* TNR has an important article by Jeffery Rosen about wiretapping and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pitful performance on February 6 in front of a Senate committee. (What was pitful about it? For starters the AG, as you've no doubt heard, told the senators that "President Washington, President Lincoln... have all authorized electronic surveillance." )

Money quote:

Gonzales's argument is dangerous as well as unconvincing, since it has no obvious limitations. Would the use-of-force resolution authorize the president to open mail or to conduct "black bag" operations, breaking into the homes of citizens without warrants, and conducting secret searches, asked Senator Patrick Leahy? Gonzales, typically, said he would not discuss these "hypotheticals." (In his confirmation hearing, Gonzales also called domestic wiretapping a hypothetical scenario, even though he knew that it was all too real.) But, in its official defense of the domestic spying program on January 19, the Department of Justice was not so coy. If courts interpreted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (fisa) to prevent the president from doing whatever he thought necessary to protect the nation during a congressionally authorized war, the Justice Department declared, the law itself would be unconstitutional. In short, Justice's answer to the black bag question is "yes."
This is just another variation of Bush's "trust-me" argument, an argument he's made since day one. David Corn says more:

Enacting tax cuts for the wealthy? Oh, don't worry about the fiscal implications (like the long-term, humongous national debt); everything will work out. Our energy plan? We don't have to tell you which energy industry executives we met with because we know we're doing what's best for the country. Can't you take our word? The war in Iraq? Our classified intelligence—which we can't show you because it's, eh, classified—says Saddam Hussein has WMDs and is ready to use them? You'll just have to… well, you know. And now we have wiretapping with Gonzales, arguing in effect, that the president must be allowed to prosecute the war without Congressional oversight or the limitations of law. Why don't we have to worry that this great power will be abused? Well, because we can trust the president, of course.

When oh when will this trust-me routine run out of gas?

Side note: According to Rosen "fair-minded Republicans are recognizing in growing numbers, [that the AG's] arguments are also dangerous in suggesting that the president has the constitutional authority to ignore or distort legal restrictions with which he disagrees." That's a bit dissapointing. I was under the impression that CWY and Ezzie, both loud defenders of presidential perogatives, are "fair-minded."

*By current I mean last week's. It arrives at my house on Friday.

[Updated December 24, 2006]