Thursday, June 28, 2007

illegal wiretaps and subpoenas, part deux

So yesterday I praised Sen. Hatch for voting with the overwhelming majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee to subpoena the White House for information about its warrantless wiretapping program. Unfortunately, Rep. Cannon seems to disagree with Sen. Hatch (via TPMmuckracker):
It is unfortunate that the Majority has seen fit to turn down reasonable offers of cooperation in favor of court battles that will do nothing except draw headlines and further distract the Judiciary Committee from work that needs to be done. After close to 10,000 pages of documents, dozens of interviews and testimony under oath, this investigation has not led, as the majority has speculated, to the White House. This investigation has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work to discover politics play a part in political appointments. If the Majority had accommodated the White House in the early part of the year, we could have already interviewed these people and moved forward with the investigation.

Cannon continued, "Instead, the Majority has stonewalled and denied the Committee the ability to interview the White House staff with the intent to promulgate a myth about wrongdoing. The Majority's stonewalling has led the American people down a path of 'constitutional crisis'. We take an oath to defend the Constitution, not shred it." (emphasis added)

Where to about the fact that a violation of the law, even if the president does it, is illegal. And when the president says he can violate the law, and that no body can hold him accountable, that creates a constitutional crisis of his own making. This is because the president clearly has no executive privilege to deliberations regarding whether and how to violate FISA by not seeking a warrant from the FISA court.

Don't believe me? Check out United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974):
The impediment that an absolute, unqualified [executive] privilege would place in the way of primary constitutional duty of the Judicial Branch to do justice in criminal prosecutions would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under Art. III. In designing the structure of our Government and dividing and allocating the sovereign power among three co-equal branches, the [Framers] sought to provide a comprehensive system, but the separate powers were not intended to operate with absolute independence. To read the Art. II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of "a workable government" and gravely impair the role of the courts under Art. III.
...But this presumptive privilege must be considered in light of our historic commitment to the rule of law. This is nowhere more profoundly manifest than in our view that "the twofold aim [of criminal justice] is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer."

But wait you say, this involves wiretapping terrorists, therefore it involves the military and foreign relations, which the court said was included in executive privilege.

Let me point out that we don't know who or what the targets of the warrantless wiretapping were, let alone why. How come we don't know for sure? Because the White House won't let anyone see even the legal memos they drafted in support of this program, let alone internal memos discussing the scope or targets of the warrantless wiretapping. Since this administration has a terrible track record with being open, up front, and honest about things, forgive me if I doubt the official line that this was only targeted at terrorists. To me, there seems a very real possibility that these warrantless wiretaps were listening in on political enemies. After all, the Rumsfeld Defense Department was listening in on peace groups.

I am sure there must have been some great things about the 1970s (I was born in 1979), but the government spying on its political enemies sure wasn't one of them.

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