Monday, December 19, 2005

An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval

AMY GOODMAN: So, your response when you heard about what the National Security Agency has been authorized to do by the President?

CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Not terribly surprised, but the one piece of it that amazes me is that the President admitted that he personally ordered the National Security Agency to violate a federal statute. Now, he has no Constitutional authority to do that. The Constitution says he must take care that all laws be faithfully executed, not just the ones he likes. The statute says it's, as you said at the beginning of the program, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the exclusive law governing these international intercepts, and he violated it anyway. And the law also says that any person who violates that law is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. By the plain meaning of the law, the President is a criminal.

AMY GOODMAN: Martin Garbus, you say this is an impeachable offense.

MARTIN GARBUS: Yes, I agree that it is a crime, that it is an impeachable offense. The question is: What will happen? The mere fact that it’s impeachable doesn't necessarily mean that the Supreme Court will find that, and it doesn't mean that he will necessarily be impeached. He should be impeached, but he is claiming, for the first time, that he has the authority to do this, even though FISA is there, because he has relied on counsel. He has relied on John Yoo. He has relied previously on Ashcroft, and he’s now relying on Gonzales. And all of these people are telling him that it's legal. All these people are telling him that the President's powers can be expanded, even though FISA is there. And the President has come up with an excuse, which I don’t see how anybody can buy. In FISA, you can get a warrant in five minutes. You just go before the FISA court and you get your warrant, and that's all there is to it. There’s no argument --

AMY GOODMAN: Hasn't the criticism been that FISA gives them too easily?

MARTIN GARBUS: Surely. Your statistics were correct. Namely, that out of some 15,000 warrant applications, there were eight that were denied since 1978, so it's basically a rubber stamp. Now, what Bush said is, ‘I don't have the time,’ he says, ‘to go to FISA.’ Now, everybody has had the time to go to FISA. It doesn't take any time at all. So, that the argument that he has the right to avoid FISA, I think, is a false argument.

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