Saturday, February 11, 2006

Warrantless Wiretapping, Media-Style

The news has been full for weeks with the focus of Democrats and the media on warrantless wiretapping and "illegal" electronic surveillance by President Bush and the NSA. However, the tables were turned on Friday as capitol bureau reporters caught a chance to listen in on the private words of the president as he addressed Republican lawmakers.
...[S]omeone forgot to turn off the audio feed to the White House press room several miles away.

"I want to share some thoughts with you before I answer your questions," Bush told the lawmakers, unaware that microphones feeding into the press room were on. "First of all, I expect this conversation we're about to have to stay in the room. I know that's impossible in Washington."

With reporters eavesdropping at the White House, Bush launched into a defense of his National Security Agency eavesdropping program. His talking points were much the same as his public ones.
Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters shares the following reflections:
Wow ... what a shock! The press had a golden opportunity to nail Bush -- but they discovered that he tells the same story behind closed doors that he tells the American public. They discovered that the GOP has no great conspiracy ... just a President trying his best to defend his country from terrorist attacks.
As for the details the president shared with the House Republicans in attendance, Houston Comical correspondent Julie Mason reports the following:
"I wake up every morning thinking about a future attack, and therefore, a lot of my thinking, and a lot of the decisions I make are based upon the attack that hurt us," Bush said.

NSA devised the program at the president's behest after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Bush said. Without court warrants, the agency wiretaps calls and reviews e-mail ending or originating in the United States involving terror suspects.

"I talked to the people whose job it is to protect the American people, and I said, 'Are we doing everything we can to protect the people?' " Bush said.

Bush said the White House counsel and the Justice Department agreed that the NSA program was legal.

"We had the program analyzed legally, but I recognized that wasn't going to be enough. And so we put constant checks on the program," he said.
Interestingly enough, former President Jimmy Carter, who recently publicly castigated Pres. Bush over the wiretapping issue, did the same thing during his administration for use in the conviction of two suspected spies.
The men, Truong Dinh Hung and Ronald Louis Humphrey, challenged their espionage convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which unanimously ruled that the warrantless searches did not violate the men's rights.

In its opinion, the court said the executive branch has the "inherent authority" to wiretap enemies such as terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when surveillance is "conducted 'primarily' for foreign intelligence reasons.
Administration officials say the president has constitutional authority to conduct surveillance without warrants in the name of national security. The only way Congress could legitimately curtail that authority, they argue, is through an amendment to the Constitution.

The administration's view has been shared by previous Democrat administrations, including Mr. Carter's.

When Mr. Bell testified in favor of FISA, he told Congress that while the measure doesn't explicitly acknowledge the "inherent power of the president to conduct electronic surveillance," it "does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution."


Anonymous squawkbox said...

Great find. I had forgotten that Jimmy C had said basically the same thing. I would point out one basic difference between JC and GWB though.

GWB takes effective measures and actions to protect us.

JC....well he gets on TV and poor mouths followed by crashing helicopters in the desert and embarrassing the United States in front of the world.

2/12/2006 11:41 AM  

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