Over on his new space at WordPress, ThatGayConservative quotes a rather silly comment my state’s senior senator, a Democrat whom, until recently, I respected, made yesterday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez in the NSA Surveillance hearing. In her remarks, Dianne Feinstein concluded the Attorney General was offering a “radical legal theory . . . that the president’s power to defend the nation is unchecked by law, that he acts alone and according to his own discretion, and that the Congress’ role, at best, is advisory.”
I just read the Attorney General’s statement and could find nothing which “compelled the conclusion” that the gentlelady from my adopted home state reached. ThatGayConservative contends Mrs. Feinstein’s statement suggests she finds the U.S. Constitution radical. He has a point. Article II vests executive Power in the President.
But, even if, as TGC — and others have suggested — the Constitution itself allows the president to act alone on matters of national security, the fact remains as the Attorney General spelled out yesterday in his remarks, that far from being “unchecked” by any law as Mrs Feinstein contends, the administration vetted this program to make sure it was legal:
The Department of Justice is not alone in concluding that the program is lawful. Career lawyers at NSA and its Inspector General office have been intimately involved in the oversight of the program. The lawyers have found the program to be lawful and reviewed its conduct. The Inspector General’s office has exercised vigorous reviews of the program to provide assurance that it is carried out within the terms of the President’s authorization.
With reference to a variety of judicial opinions, including one which reviewed the program in 2002, Gonzalez shows how it complies with federal law.
Despite the amount of case law the administration — and its defenders — have presented to demonstrate the program’s legality, the president’s critics have, by and large, ignored these arguments and rushed to the conclusion that the president has broken the law. MoveOn has released ads comparing President Bush to Nixon, ignoring the fact that the current president has been eavesdropping on international communications of suspected terrorists while the disgraced former president was spying on domestic communications of his political enemies. In today’s Best of the Web, James Taranto quotes an e-mail message from John Kerry’s campaign where the Massachusetts Senator accuses the administration of “denying the illegality of warrantless domestic spying.”
Denying the illegality? Interesting way to put it, John. I guess it is denying something’s illegality when you, with much evidence, affirm that something’s perfectly legal. Does that mean that when I note that the First Amendment allows me to say what I want on this blog that I’m “denying the illegality” of blogging? It’s not just here where Kerry twists his rhetoric. By calling the NSA program “domestic spying,” Kerry, other Bush critics and media outlets misrepresent its purpose as well as its scope.