Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » OT: HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
  • OT: HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

    Filed at 1:20 pm under by dcobranchi

    Authorizing illegal wiretaps (30 times, no less) surely qualifies.

    ARTICLE II

    Section 4. The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

    Yeah, that’s where we’re headed.

    17 Responses to “OT: HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS”


    Comment by
    Amy K.
    December 18th, 2005
    at 12:19 am

    They weren’t illegal.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 18th, 2005
    at 5:02 am

    Everything I read about FISA this weekend indicates they were. Even Republicans in Congress are aghast. This is a serious constitutional crisis. Bush is asserting that as President, he can choose which laws to obey. Want to torture? Go ahead. It’s not illegal if the president orders it.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 18th, 2005
    at 6:37 am

    And there’s this other little bit of law that Bush seems to have ordered the NSA to violate:

    Amendment IV:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    Electronic communications are the modern-day equivalent of “papers.”


    Comment by
    Mary
    December 18th, 2005
    at 12:51 pm

    wow…it’s like…wow…like the 60’s all over again…like wow, man….


    Comment by
    Amy K.
    December 18th, 2005
    at 4:35 pm

    Everything I read about FISA this weekend indicates they were.

    Keep reading.

    Even Republicans in Congress are aghast.

    Republican or Democrat emotionalism is not the issue here.

    This is a serious constitutional crisis. Bush is asserting that as President, he can choose which laws to obey. Want to torture? Go ahead. It’s not illegal if the president orders it.

    This vastly overstates the case. Firstly, this has absolutely nothing to do with torture. Secondly, even if what Bush okayed was illegal, it’s still not a serious constitutional crisis. It would be breaking the law, and he would be sanctioned in some way. Impeachment, perhaps. Thirdly, it appears this program has had significant legal oversight with repeated reviews of the process by several government agencies, not to mention a number of Senators of both persuasions.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 18th, 2005
    at 4:50 pm

    Keep reading.

    I’ve read the plain text of the law. Have you?

    This vastly overstates the case.

    No, it doesn’t. Bush asserts that he is not accountable to Congress. If impeached (by that same Congress), what makes you think he’d go willingly?

    Firstly, this has absolutely nothing to do with torture.

    Of course not. The connection is that Bush claims that he is exempt from laws passed by Congress. That would include the McCain torture amendment, no?

    Thirdly, it appears this program has had significant legal oversight with repeated reviews of the process by several government agencies, not to mention a number of Senators of both persuasions.

    Oversight by lawyers reporting to the president. Not exactly independent are they? And that does not mitigate the fact that he broke the law and violated 1000s of American’s 4th Amendment rights. Geez! Is there NOTHING that he could do, no crime that he could commit, that would make the Kool-Aid drinkers say “Enough is Enough!”?


    Comment by
    COD
    December 18th, 2005
    at 6:54 pm

    //Is there NOTHING that he could do, no crime that he could commit, that would make the Kool-Aid drinkers say “Enough is Enough!”?//

    The answer to that question would be no. The kool-aid crowd will happily throw out our Constitutional protections if that is what it takes to keep Hillary out of the oval office in 2008.

    For the record, I think Clinton would be a disaster as President. Our choices are down to the party of big government, and the party of almost as big government.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 19th, 2005
    at 8:42 am

    The big question here is: were the wiretaps made against U.S. citizens or U.S. persons? Executive Order 12333 defines U.S. persons in an extremely broad manner, such that any Tom, Dick or Ahmed who happens to be standing on U.S. soil qualifies – regardless of citizenship. If the wiretaps were made against U.S. citizens, then Constitutional law comes into play. I don’t believe that U.S. persons are protected under Constitutional law, and neither are their ‘papers,’ electronic or otherwise. When I see ‘Impeach Bush’ all I can think of is ‘Cheney for President.’ Is that *really* what we want?


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 19th, 2005
    at 9:20 am

    The wiretaps were evidently made against US persons calling overseas. These types of wiretaps (sans warrants) are explicitly forbidden under FISA.

    No, I don’t want Pres. Cheney, either. But I do want the president to follow the law. And, more importantly, I want the president to understand that he has to follow the law. Feingold is right– Bush is acting as if he thinks he’s the king.

    Remember– this is the president who said that it’d be much easier if this were a dictatorship (as long as he was the dictator.) Bush’s dedication to democracy and the rule of law is tenuous at best.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 19th, 2005
    at 10:54 am

    I think the whole point of having the President sign all of those authorizations individually was to meet the same legal standard that would be met by a legal review (and resultant warrant). ‘US Persons’ in this case were probably non-citizens who were calling overseas phone numbers. Either the callers or the numbers were on a list of high-interest numbers, hence the NSA interest. I’m just not convinced that Bush or his Administration broke any laws by authorizing these wiretaps. And if you want to look at Presidents who have behaved like dictators in wartime, consider FDR. Better yet, consider Abraham Lincoln, whose suspension of habeus corpus remains one of the most troubling moments of his time in office. I’m no fan of our current Administration, but I’m not sure they’re the arch war-criminals that Feingold & Co. are making them out to be, either.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 19th, 2005
    at 12:19 pm

    Great article on this issue in USA Today, of all places. Link here:

    usatod..._x.htm

    Same old story when it comes to intel oversight; vague laws + bad political decisions = trouble. What kills me is that Bush (or whoever) could’ve gone to a FISA court and gotten the approval they needed with little trouble and almost no risk. WTF?


    Comment by
    Amy K.
    December 19th, 2005
    at 8:52 pm

    Daryl, I’m not a Republican, so you can skip the ad hominem kool-aid references.

    I’ve read the plain text of the law. Have you?

    It is possible that his actions were not compatible with FISA; however, we do not know that for sure until we have the details. We do not have those. However, it appears his constitutional powers may conflict with FISA. We shall have to wait until more details come out.

    This vastly overstates the case.

    No, it doesn’t. Bush asserts that he is not accountable to Congress. If impeached (by that same Congress), what makes you think he’d go willingly?

    The constitution gives the President executive powers. Juat as it gives Congress legislative powers. That doesn’t turn them into bogeymen. He was exercising his constutionally-given executive powers.

    What makes you think he wouldn’t go willingly if he were impeached?

    Firstly, this has absolutely nothing to do with torture.

    Of course not. The connection is that Bush claims that he is exempt from laws passed by Congress. That would include the McCain torture amendment, no?

    No.

    Thirdly, it appears this program has had significant legal oversight with repeated reviews of the process by several government agencies, not to mention a number of Senators of both persuasions.

    Oversight by lawyers reporting to the president. Not exactly independent are they? And that does not mitigate the fact that he broke the law and violated 1000s of American’s 4th Amendment rights. Geez! Is there NOTHING that he could do, no crime that he could commit, that would make the Kool-Aid drinkers say “Enough is Enough!”?

    Circular reasoning. We have yet to determine whether he broke the law or violated anyone’s rights. It could be both. Even if he violated FISA, there may not be a consitutional protection of electronic messages to an enemy foreign power.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 20th, 2005
    at 4:13 pm

    There is definitely -no- constitutional protection of electronic messages from a non-U.S. citizen to a foreign power, hostile or otherwise: nor, in my opinion, should there be. People seem to be confused over the difference between U.S. persons and U.S. citizens here. I have seen nothing to demonstrate that NSA collected intelligence (or SPIED, if you prefer the P.T. Barnum / Oliver Stone word choices) from U.S. citizens. Let’s briefly consider a hypothetical situation in which a Saudi national named ‘Muhammad’ makes a phone call to a mobile phone number that is associated with a known terrorist. NSA may already be targeting the phone number associated with the terrorist, but have no knowledge of the number ‘Muhammad’ is using to contact him. ‘Muhammad’ may be using a pay-as-you-go phone, and changing phones frequently. The standard FISA process was not designed with this scenario in mind, and so the NSA has what some folks might call an operational dilemna. What to do?

    A. Say “oh well,’ and resume routine collection operations against Chinese naval exercises, or maybe the Paris Air Show

    B. Seek authorization that is speedy and appropriate to the mission at hand

    I choose ‘B.’ I believe that’s what the President did, too. If I’m missing something here, please clue me in.

    Jason


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 20th, 2005
    at 4:42 pm

    Yeah- you’re missing some things.

    1) FISA covers US persons. That includes legal residents.

    2) Yes, they spied on US citizens. “The former director of the National Security Agency said yesterday that the government’s system for approving eavesdropping on U.S. citizens was too slow and unwieldy, and that paperwork requirements stood in the way of more efficient intelligence gathering.”

    3) Bush didn’t bother to seek authorization. He just went ahead and did whatever the hell he pleased.

    Strike three. Yer out! Really– not too shabby an effort. Only three major errors in a single ‘graf.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 21st, 2005
    at 9:46 am

    Hmm.

    1) FISA covers U.S. persons, and that covers legal residents. But what about illegal residents? What about tourists? What about foreign residents who are here on a student visa, but not attending classes? Regardless, FISA needs to be updated so that screwups like this don’t happen again.

    2) Nothing in the article you linked states that NSA eavesdropped on U.S. citizens. If you read the text carefully, they are referring to the 1978 FISA law and some of its structural inadequacies, particularly where domestic collection operations are concerned. I admit that the choice of language in that paragraph is troubling, but I think that has more to do with the journalist who wrote it than any statements made by NSA.

    3) You’re right, Bush didn’t seek authorization. As our Commander in Chief, he GRANTED that authorization to NSA. There is legal precedent for the nation’s Chief Executive to authorize all kinds of collection.

    What remains troubling about all of this, again, is not that domestic collection operations are occurring – that is a necessity – but that those operations are being authorized by a chief executive who failed to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. Very sloppy, that.

    For the complete rundown on what is and isn’t legal, check 50 U.S.C. ss 1801-1811.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    December 21st, 2005
    at 9:57 am

    Jason,

    Re-read the first two grafs of the linked article. He acknowledged that the program was surveilling US citizens.

    And, AFAIK, the president does not have the power (i.e., authority) to order another part of the Executive branch to break the law. FISA is quite explicit when the government needs to obtain warrants. Bush chose to ignore the law. That’s what impeachment proceedings are all about.


    Comment by
    Jason
    December 23rd, 2005
    at 9:19 am

    No, he acknowledged that the program as it currently stands would make it difficult to do so. But I know for a fact that the media is consistently mixing up ‘U.S. persons’ with ‘U.S. citizens,’ which is crucial in this debate.