Sunday, December 18, 2005

WHERE'S THE AUTHORITY? Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is a national disgrace:
MR. RUSSERT: The president yesterday confirmed that this [wiretap] operation was under way for the last several years. What is the legal authority? What is the constitutional authority for the president to eavesdrop on American citizens without getting court approval?

SEC'Y RICE: Tim...The president is acting under his constitutional authority, under statutory authority. I'm not a lawyer, but the president has gone to great lengths to make certain that he is both living under his obligations to protect Americans from another attack but also to protect their civil liberties...the president is drawing on his constitutional authority to protect the country.


SEC'Y RICE: Tim, again, I'm not a lawyer, but the president has constitutional authority and he has statutory authorities.


MR. RUSSERT: What Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, Madame Secretary, is what is the authority that you keep citing? What law, what statute? Where in the Constitution does it say the president can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?

SEC'Y RICE: Tim, the president has authorities under FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] which we are using and using actively. He also has constitutional authorities that derive from his role as commander in chief and his need to protect the country. He has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority.

Now, I am not a lawyer.
No--she's not a lawyer. She's only the secretary of state, representing the Bush administration on national television. (She also happens to have been the President's national security advisor when the wiretapping policy went into effect.)

Now: The only law Rice deigns to mention--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--explicitly bans eavesdropping without court oversight. So that's just nonsense.

And the idea that the President's constitutional, commander-in-chief authority authorizes him to break the law is, frankly, sickening. It's un-American.

So the question remains: Under what law was authority to engage in oversight-free wiretapping granted?

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.