Originally Posted: January 5, 2006
- Update: NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls (USA Today, 05-11-2006)
- Domestic spying prompts talk of impeachment (FCN, 01-05-2006)
- Does Dissent Equal Terrorism? (FCN, 12-09-2003)
- New Patriot Act II law would take away more liberties (FCN, 03-13-2003)
- Anti terror laws produce new crisis for Black leadership (FCN, 12-25-2001)
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The U.S. Constitution, itself, is in crisis because the Bush administration has been illegally spying on U.S. citizens in this country, including a wholesale violation of the privacy of U.S. Muslims and the sanctity of their places of worship, and because of a pattern of “deception, manipulation, torture, retribution and cover-ups in the Iraq War.”
So says Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. Conyers has been joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and John Dean, Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel, along with a number of legal scholars, who have all suggested that President George Bush should be impeached for illegally ordering the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy inside this country without court warrants.
Pres. Bush personally gave the NSA permission for wiretaps more than three dozen times after October 2001. In each case, the White House counsel and the Attorney General certified the lawfulness of the program.
After withholding the story from print for more than a year, The New York Times reported on Dec. 16: “Months after the September 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” The story opened a floodgate of concerns.
“This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American,” Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), said the next day, according to published reports.
“I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed,” admitted Norm Ornstein, a conservative legal scholar from the American Enterprise Institute.
The news even prompted a protest resignation from the secret spy court that was set up specifically to legally authorize the use of espionage inside this country. U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, submitted his resignation Dec. 19, The Washington Post reported. The court is regarded as the only authority to authorize wiretaps for domestic spying.
And even as Pres. Bush tried to excuse the behavior by pointing out that he had regularly briefed senior Congressional leaders of both parties, Democrats–now free to discuss some of the secrets–disputed White House accounts.
Former Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle disclosed details that challenge the administration’s claim of legal authority. The White House says the authority was implicitly granted in the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force passed shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. However, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post Dec. 23, Sen. Daschle claims the Bush administration requested, but was denied, the authority.
“Literally, minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words ‘in the United States and’ after ‘appropriate force’ in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers, not just overseas–where we all understood he wanted authority to act–but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused,” he wrote.
In addition to illegally spying on phone conversations and emails among U.S. citizens and permanent residents inside the U.S., clandestine FBI and Energy Department teams have also monitored private property–also without warrants, and owned or occupied mostly by Muslims in this country–for signs of radiation, according to a Dec. 23 report by U.S. News & World Report.
Government teams were sent to more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C. area, including mosques, homes, businesses and warehouses, as well as to similar sites in Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Seattle. Officials said that monitoring did not require court approval because it took place from publicly accessible parking lots or driveways. The magazine cited unnamed sources who said investigators even went onto private property under surveillance without warrants, and that some participants were threatened with firing after questioning the legality of the spying.
“This is a war without limits, and they’re spying without limits in the name of the war without limits,” Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, told The Final Call. “Muslims, particularly, should be worried because mosques are a particular target–but we should all be worried, because clearly there are no limits.”
Back in 1973, more than a year before then-president Richard Nixon eventually resigned from office in disgrace, Rep. Conyers was the first member of Congress to introduce a resolution calling for his impeachment and removal from office. In 2005, Rep. Conyers is proceeding cautiously. He has introduced three resolutions (H. Res. 635, 636, and 637) calling, first, for the censure of Pres. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, and then for the establishment of a Select Committee, comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, to investigate the administration’s possible crimes, as well as make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.
This case is far more serious than the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, because of charges of Mr. Clinton’s personal moral lapses, Rep. Conyers told the “Democracy Now!” radio program Dec. 21. “That president had not tried to start a war secretly, was not trying to undo conventions against torture, was not misstating or manipulating intelligence or information to justify a war. He wasn’t taking retaliatory measures against critics of his administration, including people who were in the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff released an extensive report ordered by Rep. Conyers on Pres. Bush’s purported misdeeds, entitled: “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War.” The report is available at http://www.censurebush.org.