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Riddle Me This

January 16, 2006

Okay, I’ve been kind of following this whole NSA spying thing for a little while and here is what I know. Stop me if I’ve got it wrong.

1. President Bush ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants. The law explicitly says you have to have a warrant. He apparently ordered the NSA to do this warrantless spying lots of times over the last few years. He doesn’t deny it.

2. FISA, the law that says you need to get a warrant before spying on Americans, was passed in the shadow Richard Nixon, who notoriously abused his power as president by spying on people. In fact one might say that its whole intent and purpose is to prevent the president from spying on Americans without judicial oversight.

3. Some people, including Bush administration officials, have said that getting a warrant through the special FISA court is too time-consuming and difficult for fighting terrorism in the post-9/11 world. Note that even if this argument were true it wouldn’t make what Bush did legal. And time-consuming? FISA allows law enforcement agents to spy immediately and get the warrant up to 72 hours later. How’s that for fast. And difficult? Of the 10,000 requests for warrants since 1978 almost none were denied.

4. The president has suggested that congress explicitly gave him the authority to do warrantless spying when it authorized him to go after the perpetrators of 9/11 prior to invading Afghanistan. But congress says it did no such thing and points out that their resolution doesn’t mention wiretaps or FISA or anything like that. And if the president thought congress had authorized such things, why did the White House separately request the authority later, only to be turned down?

Someone please correct me if I am wrong in any of the specifics. But If I have it mostly right can someone please explain to me why Mr. Bush isn’t being impeached for violating FISA and the fourth amendment of the Constitution? I hate to sound like a shrieking partisan nutcase, but really: why is this not an impeachment situation?

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