Friday, August 18, 2006

Now Can We Mention Impeachment?

John at Liberal Hyperbole makes a great catch on the court ruling yesterday that held Bush's unwarranted surveillance program Unconstitutional. In her ruling, U.S. District judge Anna Diggs Taylor delivers some stunning information (bolded below):

Liberal Hyperbole: Say what?!?

OK, today's big news, the judge in Michigan ruled that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping is illegal. But one particular line jumped out at me here (emphasis added):

All of the above Congressional concessions to Executive need and to the exegencies of our present situation as a people, however, have been futile. The wiretapping program here in litigation has undisputedly been continued for at least five years, it has undisputedly been implemented without regard to FISA and of course the more stringent standards of Title III, and obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Has this administration been using warrantless wiretaps before 9/11 even happened? If so, then two questions come immediately to mind: What was the justification for it at the time, and how useful do they seem to be if they couldn't stop any hypothetical people "determined to strike U.S." with the warrantless wiretaps?

Sadly, this isn't even really all that surprising. After all, the real power behind the throne during the Bush administration has been Dick Cheney, whose advocacy of the unitary executive theory has been widely discussed. The lesson learned from the Nixon Watergate debacle was simple: justify your lawbreaking to the American people as essential to national security. Of course, as John points out, how effective can it really be given that Al-Qaida succeeded on 9/11?

In my opinion, the warrantless spying program doesn't necessarily have a policy justification. I believe it's being justified purely on ideological grounds. Cheney and Gonzalez, among others in the GOP, simply believe that the President should have the power to act as he sees fit, particularly in an extremely broadly defined "time of war". They believe the 4th Amendment is too restrictive, a notion that other "lawn order" conservatives certainly embrace even if they don't couch it in those terms. The actual targets of the spying program, be they terrorists or just political opponents, are purely academic. Terrorism has merely offered a convenient, public-friendly justification for something that the Bush administration believes is within the President's purview naturally. The fact that the terrorism justification virtually guarantees success in obtaining a warrant from the FISA court, which has only denied four in its existence, simply bears out that belief. It's not a matter of paperwork or inconvenience; it's a matter of (egregious) principle. Being able to spy on Americans, the thinking goes, is something the President ought to be able to do with impunity and, thus, any obstacles to that enacted by the other two branches are to be ignored.

Monarchy, anyone?

According to Judge Diggs Taylor's ruling, the Bush administration has been deliberately and repeatedly violating a criminal statute. They've attempted to subvert the separation of powers in our Constitution and have willfully ignored the 4th Amendment. Given this, plus the ABA's report that Bush's signing statements are a similar violation of the separation of powers, do we dare continue running from the idea of impeachment? What else can the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" mean in the context of Presidential power than a President who willingly subverts our Constitution? Unlike Al-Qaida or (laughably) Hezbollah, the Bush-Cheney-Gonzalez theory of Presidential authority really is a threat to our way of life. This must not be allowed to stand, by either the Democrats or the GOP. We're all Americans and the Bush administration has become a very great threat to our nation.

If committing perjury about an extra-marital affair is worthy of impeachment, then by any reasonable measure the actions of the Bush administration certainly must be deemed so. A President who ignores our laws, disdains our Bill of Rights and subverts the separation of powers in our government is many magnitudes a greater threat to our way of life than a President who lies about a personal indiscretion.

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