Saturday, December 24, 2005
Barron's Calls for Impeachment Hearings on Wiretapping
by Matt Stoller
Barron's calls for impeachment (via Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture)
"AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in
justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse:
Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution
and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers . . .
Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a
72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years . . .
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at
least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and
lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged
the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation.
They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill
that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of
It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it
comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible
Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of
Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the
president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed
Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those
members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the
wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV,
Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was
"unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator
was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it
out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after
the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make
his misgivings public and demand more information.
Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.
Barron's ain't exactly a commie rag, or even a 'Democratic website'. Oh, wait, I forgot, and impeachment talk makes Richard Morin mad. To be clear, it's WAAYYY more legitimate for someone like Rockefeller to decide to obey the law and not disclose what he knows than it is for someone like Bush to break the law. It's not what I would have done, but I get respect for the law. I also wonder why Barron's isn't picking on the Republicans who were informed, and didn't apparently protest even in private. Ah well.