President Bush and his inner circle have defended his authorization of wiretapping since 2001 by saying it had been reviewed by the Justice Department and found to be legal and constitutional. That’s not much comfort when you read that the Texas redistricting case was reviewed by Justice Department lawyers, who unanimously found that it violated the Voting Rights Act, only to have political appointees above them in the Justice Department overrule the decision so that Tom Delay could manipulate his way to a Republican majority among the Texas delegation.
And you have to wonder why the Administration was so bothered by John McCain’s amendment banning torture, when the wiretapping case indicates that Bush simply ignores existing laws when he feels it’s justified. While I’m no expert on Federal law, is does appear that the wiretapping at least comes very close to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which says in part “Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that…there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party”. Nobody is arguing that the surveillance might not have been warranted, but we have a system of laws governing how these things are done so that we as citizens are protected from the potential abuse of Federal power. It would be interesting to see the justification given for ignoring FISA.
Looking back at the past four years, you start to think that Bush has a story in his mind of how the Iraq invasion should have gone, and should be going, and until he rationalizes actual events to the story in his head, until he manages to reconcile what’s happening with what he thinks is happening, there won’t be any changes in policy or execution. He doesn’t understand why increasing numbers of Americans don’t see the story his way, but his attempts to explain that story keep using the same arguments. Maybe he believes changing the argument would be a sign of weakness, or maybe the ever-changing justifications for the initial invasion have brought a stubborn refusal to change anything else. And while this stubbornness may be good news for Democratic prospects in the 2006 elections, that doesn’t necessarily equate to good news for the country. An early withdrawal forced by domestic political events would leave an Iraqi political situation that could hardly have a good outcome as far as American interests are concerned. But that’s a post for another time.