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Censuring Domestic Surveillance
March 13, 2006 9:22 AM   Subscribe

"Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans." Invoking "high crimes and misdemeanors," Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold introduces a motion to censure [PDF link] President Bush for his controversial, legally dubious NSA wiretapping program. Feingold declares: "The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law." Republican leader Frist retorts: "It's a crazy political move" that sends a "terrible" signal to Iran. Democratic bloggers say: Call your senator. [More legal fallout from the NSA program recently discussed here.]
posted by digaman (259 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
What if you don't have a Senator to call?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2006


It's about time.
posted by jperkins at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2006


Wait, so now we're doing a disservice in regards to Iran? I think I'm beginning to see the strategy against culpability and freedom here.
posted by NationalKato at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2006


Personally, I didn't realize that the opinions of Iran's leaders determined the scope of Constitutional protections in America. I must have missed that memo.
posted by digaman at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2006


Oh boy. A Censure. *yawn* If I ever do anything illegal, can I get a censure?

(It is an attempted start at, well, something)
posted by rough ashlar at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2006


It sends the terrible message to Iran that dictatorial flaunting of the rule of law is somehow "bad" or "not allowed". Those damned democracy-hating democrats and their moral inflexibility!
posted by Drexen at 9:34 AM on March 13, 2006


The can't tap me, I got my special hat on cuz "Democratic bloggers" told me to put it on!
posted by mrblondemang at 9:37 AM on March 13, 2006


Since the GOP leaders are inevitable branding this a purely political move, a question comes to mind: If there was, someday, a US President who sought to extend executive powers beyond the bounds of law, and if that President's party seemed determined to avoid accountability for doing it at all costs, how could someone in the opposition party talk about the President's behavior without being immediately dismissed as partisan? Hey, just askin'.
posted by digaman at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2006


I would have thought that NOT doing something would have sent a much, much worse message.
posted by darkstar at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2006


It's a good thing W is infallabile, since according to Frist we shouldn't be able to question anything he does. If W was anything less than perfect, this would be a real problem!
posted by sriracha at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2006


What the fuck does Iran have to do with any of this? If this does send a "terrible" sign to any individual or group you'd think it would be Osama or terrorist organizations, maybe even Syria or Libya, not Iran.
posted by SirOmega at 9:40 AM on March 13, 2006


Good for Russ. Given that he was the only senator to have the guts to vote against the PATRIOT act, he's got cred on this.

And yeah, it's politics--but also entirely within his rights as an elected politician to put this forward. My guess? Hillary won't back him up on this one. She's too busy ferreting out those anti-Americans at Rockstar.
posted by bardic at 9:40 AM on March 13, 2006


Oh, a call to arms! Let's kill two birds with one stone. While you have your senator on the phone, make sure to tell your senator to vote no on S.RES.397.
posted by dios at 9:41 AM on March 13, 2006


Didn't you get that memo, SirOmega? Iran is the next "central front on the global war on terror." Onward Christian soldiers!
posted by digaman at 9:42 AM on March 13, 2006


I've printed out a copy of the censure for my scrapbook.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:43 AM on March 13, 2006


ITMFA. But this is as good as we're gonna get with a GOP-held Congress.
posted by foldedfish at 9:44 AM on March 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


While you have your senator on the phone, make sure to tell your senator to vote no on S.RES.397.

You are soooo going to get a curling stone tossed through your windshield.
posted by COBRA! at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2006


The last time the Senate censured a president was 1834.
posted by digaman at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2006


Dios, I had no idea you thought curling was as important as a breach of Constitutional law. What teams do you follow?
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2006


NOTE: DIOS IS NOT THE TOPIC OF THIS THREAD. PLEASE RE-READ THE FPP IF YOU'RE UNCLEAR ON THIS.

Thankyouverynice.
posted by digaman at 9:48 AM on March 13, 2006


Won't waste my time calling Bond or Talent, however, my Republican rep, Jo Ann Emerson does not wear the brown shirt and I have just now received a letter from her thanking me for my support of House res 635 which calls for an investigation into the war in Iraq.
posted by wrapper at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2006


digaman has it, nice call.
posted by banished at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2006


People speak of censure, but the Constitution provides no basis for Congress to censure the President. Any such action would likely violate the provision in Article I, Section 9 forbidding bills of attainder. Even if censure is constitutionally permissible, it would set a bad precedent for future relations between Congress and the President. We are likely faced with a situation, therefore, of impeachment or nothing.

We said it back when MoveOn.org arrived on the scene calling for the censure of Bill Clinton and we'll say it again: There is no provision in the Constitution of the United States that allows for the censure of a president or vice president. The Constitution is clear: Article II, Section 4 states, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Ours is not a parliamentary system in which the prime minister can be called to account by the members or receive a vote of no confidence that causes his or her government to fall.


posted by dios at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2006


So... is this ever gonna come up for a vote?
posted by rxrfrx at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2006


I just contacted my two senators & expressed support for this move, hopefully enough others will do the same that this gains some traction. All this fucking money has done and we won't even censure him for it? 2500 American kids dead for an unnecessary war, hundreds of billions spent that we didn't have available plunging us further into debt, imprisoning Americans without due process or right to trial, and wiretapping without a warrant and we're still afraid to even censure him???
posted by jonson at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2006


OMG I HOPE OUR ENEMIES WERENT THE LISTEN
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2006


So do I call Sen. Santorum or Sen. Spector? It's so hard to choose, I'm sure that they'll both want to hear my opinion on this issue. I love living in Pennysvania.
posted by octothorpe at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2006


By the way,

If you're not Republican, you're not Christian.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:53 AM on March 13, 2006


“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your towns darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!” he said.
“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!

posted by EarBucket at 9:53 AM on March 13, 2006


"It's a crazy political move"

What sort of moves would one expect from politicians? It's like complaining that Michael Jordan had some "crazy basketball moves".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:53 AM on March 13, 2006


If there was actual lawbreaking going on, shouldn't they be using words like "charge" and "prosecute" rather than "censure" and "condemn"?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 9:54 AM on March 13, 2006


GOD ≠ USA ≠ GOP ≠ GWB
posted by EarBucket at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2006


One thing this thing might actually do, the Repubs have been pulling away a bit from Bush becasue of mid terms, this would put their feet to the fire (ok, more like the tepid baseboard heater), and either force them to realign themselves with Bush again (at least for the moment) which may be bad for elections, or force them to vote for the censure, bad for the R. party.
I don't know... it is a minor thing in the grand scheme of events, but as with the Dubai deal, minor things seem to be what cause the most problems. Incidently Frist says the whole Dubai thing still could happen, heh.
posted by edgeways at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2006


The CRS has issued a report on the constitutional basis for censure, or lack thereof, and the report is available here in pdf form. Conclusion: no constitutional basis for censure, and further, censure probably upsets the balance of powers between the branches, and may even violate the prohibition on Bills of Attainder.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2006


If my point got missed above, let me make it clear: the power to censure is not constitutionally granted to Congress. Thus, this whole thing is a vanity piece of legislation that cannot accomplish anything. Having a "call to arms" as if this was some activist site that exists for no other purpose than push grassroots agendas struck as ludicrous here on Metafilter, especially in light of the fact that is a vanity piece of legislation.... or, to make the point further, it is about as sensible as calling your senator and telling them how to vote on a curling resolution.

The proper action of Congress is impeachment. Short of that, the only you can do is just wait until Bush is gone.
posted by dios at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2006


If there was actual lawbreaking going on, shouldn't they be using words like "charge" and "prosecute" rather than "censure" and "condemn"?

A very good question, hoverboards -- but considering the fact that the Attorney General has been clearly compromised and turned into a GOP-talking-point puppet who is willing to retrofit the law to accommodate Bush's high crimes, and considering the fact impeachment is highly unlikely given a Republican Congress, Feingold's strategy seems like useful one, given the gravity of the crimes.
posted by digaman at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2006


John Conyers (failed and little noticed) motion to censure from December 2005.
posted by youarenothere at 10:00 AM on March 13, 2006


We understood your point, dios. We've understood it for some time.
posted by NationalKato at 10:02 AM on March 13, 2006


If there was actual lawbreaking going on, shouldn't they be using words like "charge" and "prosecute" rather than "censure" and "condemn"?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water

Yes, but at this point it would be a victory to get the Republican leadership to admit this is wrong, much less punish it.
posted by Happy Monkey at 10:02 AM on March 13, 2006


If you don't eat your vegetables, Iran will come here and bomb you.

If you don't make your bed, Bin Laden will come here and bomb you.

I hereby propose that everytime we refer to Iran, we call it "the bogeyman". Saddam shall be the "cookie monster", and Osama Bin Laden shall be "the old hag". The term "Baba Yaga" is reserved for the USSR, in case it comes back.

We may in no way use the term "Great Satan", or the terrorists have already won.
posted by qvantamon at 10:03 AM on March 13, 2006


All the censure bill says is that the congress "hereby censures the president and condemns his actions" and so forth. Can someone explain how this is different from any other resolution expressing the sentiment of the House? The censure resolution doesn't pretend to be a bill of attainder or otherwise usurp power from the judicial branch.

In other words, if GWB wanted to work at McDonald's after this bill was passed, he wouldn't have to check the "I am a felon" box.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2006


What if my Senators [1 and 2] think the president is the greatest thing since sliced bread?
posted by birdherder at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2006



...as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad. Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.

“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.

posted by digaman at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2006


If my point got missed above, let me make it clear: the power to censure is not constitutionally granted to Congress.
posted by dios

Um, "censure" is legalese for "scold". Congress can scold anyone they want. Now, if they wanted to actually do something, then impeachment is the only route.
posted by Happy Monkey at 10:07 AM on March 13, 2006


balance of power upset between the branches? Too late. One could also argue that suspension of habeas corpus would be unconstitutional, but as people argue back it has been used in the past successfully, so since censure of a president HAS ALREADY HAPPENED without legal challenge (I think), saying the constructing does not specifically allow for it may be immaterial. The constitution doesn't specifically allow for many things that happen.

dios, how could we have missed a two paragraph link? No need to worry about not being heard
posted by edgeways at 10:09 AM on March 13, 2006


You may be right digaman. It just staggers me that for all the garbage we put up with from Bush, not one prosecutor has stepped up to formally charge him with a crime. In fact it staggers me so much that it makes me wonder if these alleged crimes are not perhaps a wee exaggeration. We talk a lot about illegal wars, camps and orders but I'm far from clear on exactly which law makes these things illegal, and exactly whose job it is to enforce that law.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:09 AM on March 13, 2006


We talk a lot about illegal wars, camps and orders but I'm far from clear on exactly which law makes these things illegal, and exactly whose job it is to enforce that law.

It's the job of the executive branch of the government. Specifically, the Justice Department, which is overseen by the Attorney General, who is appointed by the President.
posted by EarBucket at 10:11 AM on March 13, 2006


Bill Frist:
I will have no part in the creation of a constitutional double-standard to benefit the President. He is not above the law. If an ordinary citizen committed these crimes, he would go to jail. [...] Those who by their votes today confer immunity on the President for the same crimes do violence to the core principle that we are all entitled to equal justice under law. [...]

Moreover, I agree with the view of Judge Griffin Bell, President Jimmy Carter's Attorney General and a former Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Judge Bell has stated: `A President cannot faithfully execute the laws if he himself is breaking them.' [...]
posted by edverb at 10:13 AM on March 13, 2006


"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

-- President Bush, April 2004

I'm not sure if it's a crime for the President to blatantly lie about things like gross violations of the Constitution. But Feingold's motion will encourage discussion of such matters.
posted by digaman at 10:22 AM on March 13, 2006


-waits patiently for compilation of calls for 'accountability' from Bush during his election trails.

I see nothing wrong with this at all, except the backpedalling people are doing on the whole "nation of laws, not men" notion.
posted by Busithoth at 10:22 AM on March 13, 2006


What if my Senators [1 and 2] think the president is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

Move.
posted by crunchland at 10:23 AM on March 13, 2006


It was funny to watch Frist lose his shit on This Week when Feingold brought this up.

Look, Feingold is hardly a slouch in the legal department--this is a gesture, but I'd argue a worthwhile one, even if it gets shot down. The Republicans are running hard away from Bush, and to have to circle the wagons and spend even a few hours sticking up for Bush on this is a win for Democrats. Sound-bites work both ways. From the perspective of his 2008 bid, why shouldn't Russ force his fellow Democrats to show their cards with relation to Bush? Feingold is one of the few Democrats who hasn't caved at all to Bush--it behooves him to make this as clear as possible to potential voters.

And please spare me any rhetoric as to senators needing to avoid distractions--stunts like this mean they aren't fucking up the economy any further with financial giveaways.

(History of Jackson's censure by the Senate in 1834. As mentioned, censure carries no weight beyond PR. It doesn't require a Constitutional basis a la impeachment.)
posted by bardic at 10:25 AM on March 13, 2006


Sorry, this is the correct link for my post above.
posted by digaman at 10:26 AM on March 13, 2006


If you feel your opinion will fall on deaf ears with your senator (call them anyway and then) call Harry Reid. We need Democrats to ask their leadership to support the censure.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 10:27 AM on March 13, 2006


After reading in detail the CRS report I linked above, I don't think there is any constitutional problem with the current censure as drafted. Because it doesn't purport to restrict the President's exercise of any of his Article II powers, it seems within the Senate's traditional powers to issue such a resolution.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:28 AM on March 13, 2006


Pointless.
posted by delmoi at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2006


There are only two possibilities here:

1. The "censure" means something. If that is the case, then it is clearly an unconstitutional act of congress.

2. The "censure" means nothing. If that is the case, then it is merely a vanity piece of legislation (on par with celebrating curling). If it is just a vanity political move, then I think it is as disgusting as it was when the Republicans went after Clinton. Matters of grave Constitutional import--and the ability of Congress to punish the president cannot be divorced from the Constitution--should not be left to politicians trying to play partisan games.
posted by dios at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2006


3. Someone actually believes in the principles they espouse and attempts to present these deeply held beliefs in a public way.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2006


Matters of grave Constitutional import--and the ability of Congress to punish the president cannot be divorced from the Constitution--should not be left to politicians trying to play partisan games.

That's precisely why Republicans must not retain control of Congress. Accountability is at best a political stunt to them, and at worst treasonous. Facts are mere "Democrat talking points".
posted by edverb at 10:34 AM on March 13, 2006


dios, I'm not sure what you mean by "means something" or "means nothing," but if you mean has some effect on the exercise of the President's constitutional powers, I think I agree. The Senate cannot impose restrictions on the President in a unicameral resolution. That doesn't mean it's purely a vanity piece of legislation; the Senate is entitled to express its perception of Bush's acts. To compare this to Clinton is a little extreme. The Clinton thing was pure politics, but in this case I think just about every reputable legal scholar seems to think that Bush pretty clearly violated FISA and potentially the Constitution. Moreover, you confuse the issue again by referring to punishment. There is no punishment attached to this censure, only the expression of the Senate's sentiment. In that sense, this resolution is no more closely governed by the Constitution than any other resolution, including those involving curling.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:35 AM on March 13, 2006


Accountability

Accountability? So this is suppose to call the president to account? Then it is unconstitutional.
posted by dios at 10:35 AM on March 13, 2006


They just don't have the guts to do something (it could backfire), but want to posit themselves against Bush. So they make a useless bill calling Bush poopface, not solving anything at all but making it clear for their voters that they're "fighting" for them.
posted by qvantamon at 10:36 AM on March 13, 2006


It's going to be hilarious in 2008 watching the Republicans climbing over each other to explain how Bush betrayed the legacy of the great Ronald Reagan and how none of them ever really supported him. If nothing else, this would put them on record as being on one side or another.
posted by EarBucket at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2006


In this case, dios, I'm less upset about the possibility that Feingold's censure motion violates the law than I am about the President's unapologetic violations of the Fourth Amendment, propped up with the usual GOP rhetoric about how public discussion of the President's behavior somehow aids terrorism. Even if you're absolutely correct, your approach is like fuming about firemen jaywalking as they rush toward a burning building that happens to house the Constitution.
posted by digaman at 10:41 AM on March 13, 2006


There is no punishment attached to this censure, only the expression of the Senate's sentiment. In that sense, this resolution is no more closely governed by the Constitution than any other resolution, including those involving curling.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:35 PM CST on March 13


I didn't disagree. I think you do know what I mean by "means something" or "means nothing."

Either this piece of legislation is suppose to have some impact upon the president, or it does not. But the very issue at stake here is to what extent Congress can try to impact the executive's actions. That is unquestionably an issue of constitutional importance. It is arguably so that the ability to merely issue a resolution doesn't run afoul of the Constitution, but is a question which has to pass through a Constitutional analysis. However, if this is supposed to have any real impact...if this is supposed to punish the president in any manner, then it runs afoul of the Constitution. I don't think you disagree.
posted by dios at 10:41 AM on March 13, 2006


"He is flat wrong, he is dead wrong," said the Tennessee Republican -- also a potential presidential candidate in 2008 -- adding that "attacking our commander in chief ... doesn't make sense."

Frist is a fucking dumb ass. For the last goddamned time, Bush is only OUR commander-in-chief if WE are in the military. He is not the commander-in-chief of the the citizenry, just the US armed forces.. He is President of the United States, and accountable to that citizenry.
posted by psmealey at 10:44 AM on March 13, 2006


earbucket, it's not going to be hilarious at all.
it's going to be jaw-droppingly, maddeningly brazen.
the GOP's learned that you don't lose elections underestimating the gullability of the american public.
posted by Busithoth at 10:45 AM on March 13, 2006


But the very issue at stake here is to what extent Congress can try to impact the executive's actions.

We used to think that Congress could pass laws that would limit what the president could do, but apparently nowadays he can grab any thin veil of a tangential excuse (AUMF) and do whatever the fuck he wants.

I grew up in a nation with separation of powers and checks and balances. I seem to have misplaced it. Has anyone seen it lately?
posted by beth at 10:45 AM on March 13, 2006


I live in Massachusetts. Should I bother calling my officials?
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2006


He is President of the United States, and accountable to that citizenry.
posted by psmealey at 12:44 PM CST on March 13


...through those regularly held elections or through impeachment by representatives.
posted by dios at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2006


What is "Censure"?"
Although ill-defined, censure is a process of Congressional reprimand--the political equivalent of a strongly-worded letter. In 1834, a Whig Senate "censured" Democratic President Andrew Jackson in retaliation for his withholding documents. Three years later, a Democratic Senate "expunged" the censure from the record. However, that act of censure had no basis in either the Constitution or the Rules of the House and Senate. This remains true today. Ordinarily, Congressional disapproval of the President is relayed either through its legislative power including the veto override power or through impeachment.

Presumably, censure of the President would take the form of a resolution adopted by both the House and Senate and then publicly announced. Legally, the resolution would have no effect. Censure derives from the formal condemnation by either the House or the Senate in rebuke of a Member of their own body. After a majority vote, the Member is publicly denounced, but still retains the position of Representative or Senator. However, the House removes the offending Member from any leadership positions in committees or sub-committees.
posted by jperkins at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2006


However, if this is supposed to have any real impact...if this is supposed to punish the president in any manner, then it runs afoul of the Constitution.

Well, of course, but it's easy enough to read the resolution to see that there is no purported punishment of any kind attached to the censure. Maybe there is a constitutional question lurking there, but it's not implicated by this particular censure. In other words, you are incorrect that there is no constitutional basis for censure. It seems to me that it is within the power of the Senate to censure the president, but not to actually punish the president.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:48 AM on March 13, 2006


Yes, Mayor Curley, you should.
posted by digaman at 10:48 AM on March 13, 2006


those regularly held elections

posted by matteo at 10:48 AM on March 13, 2006


through those regularly held elections

Of course there were a lot irregularities in those elections...
posted by doctor_negative at 10:49 AM on March 13, 2006


I think it is more along the lines they don't have the votes to do "something", very few to any Republicans would consider voting for impeachment, some might consider a censure vote, precisely because it carries no punishment. It is a token, but what is the alternative?

I think your trying too hard dios.
posted by edgeways at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2006


Yes, but what if Senator Feingold were to introduce a censure motion wearing a purple shirt?
posted by EarBucket at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2006


The CRS has issued a report on the constitutional basis for censure, or lack thereof, and the report is available here in pdf form. Conclusion: no constitutional basis for censure, and further, censure probably upsets the balance of powers between the branches, and may even violate the prohibition on Bills of Attainder.

Reading the "historical" test for what constitutes legislative punishment was good for a laugh -- "the death sentence; imprisonment; banishment; confiscation of property; and barring individuals and groups from participating in specified employment or vocations." Poor George.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2006


I grew up in a nation with separation of powers and checks and balances. I seem to have misplaced it. Has anyone seen it lately?

It's in a Constitutional gray area, along with torture, rendition, inciting war on false pretext, outright lying about gross violations of the 4th, magically appearing inherent powers, plotting to preemptively nuke foreign populations, plotting to impersonate the UN to instigate war, paying journalists to propagandize the American citizens, retaliatorily outing undercover agents, and blocking all inquiries into wrongdoing on facile "security" grounds.

What's not in the gray area? Censures. Free speech zones. Voting machines designed with backdoors. Things like that.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2006


This is an interesting time to live in Madison, WI. Not only do we have Fiengold on the news almost every day (opposing Patriot Act, Censuring the Pres., etc), but Kohl is running advertisements for his reelection in November, and MadPeace.org just ran their entry in the St. Patrick's Day Parade yesterday. It included a bunch of folks with signs referencing the April 4th referendum to bring the troops home. Joining them in the parade was a large skeleton dressed up like Uncle Sam.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:54 AM on March 13, 2006


I'm a little flabbergasted that people are willing to use the constitution to defend the man who's spearheading the efford to shred the constitution. Unprecedented? So is pre-emptive war. I guess I'm saying the Democrats should, in response, take a tactic from the Bush camp:

You say I'm running afoul of the constitution? Well, 1) What are you going to do about it?; 2) Go fuck yourself.
posted by Busithoth at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2006


So do I call Sen. Santorum or Sen. Spector? It's so hard to choose, I'm sure that they'll both want to hear my opinion on this issue. I love living in Pennysvania.

Well, snark aside, Specter (not Spector) has been a fairly vocal critic of the administration on the wiretapping issue.

Not to mention, isn't the point of calling your senator to try to persuade him or her? It doesn't do much good to only call those who already agree.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2006


It doesn't do much good to only call those who already agree.

This is very wrong.
posted by digaman at 10:58 AM on March 13, 2006


Two emails sent. One to Johnny. One to Saxby. We'll see.

(But I'm not holding my breath.)
posted by grabbingsand at 11:00 AM on March 13, 2006


I guess I'm saying the Democrats should, in response, take a tactic from the Bush camp:

You say I'm running afoul of the constitution? Well, 1) What are you going to do about it?; 2) Go fuck yourself.


That's a very enlightened argument.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2006


So this is suppose to call the president to account? Then it is unconstitutional.

Now there's a partisan game. Spying on Americans without a warrant -- grey area. Censuring the President for ordering it? Unconstitutional.

Dios -- my new, personal nickname for you is "Squealer". It is for our sake that Bush eats those apples, and drinks that milk, as he watches over our welfare safety day and night. If he isn't vigilant and strong, Mr. Jones will come back. And surely, no one among us of us wants to see Mr. Jones come back, do we?

posted by edverb at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2006


This is very wrong.

In what way? You're saying people should only call the senators that are already inclined to censure Bush? Excuse me for saying so, but that would add another layer of pointlessness to an already pointless exercise.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:02 AM on March 13, 2006


Dios is wrong. Since the censure has no constitutional effect, it is rather like a sense of the Senate resolution. The body can say what its opinion is. How is it going to get challenged any way? No cognizable harm, no standing. Just one lawyer's take.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:03 AM on March 13, 2006


Hi Dios!
posted by Balisong at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2006


Not to mention, isn't the point of calling your senator to try to persuade him or her? - pardonyou?

Yes, AND to tell them that they're on the right track ifyou think they are.

It doesn't do much good to only call those who already agree. - pardonyou?

It isn't wise to assume that their mind can't be changed. If all they get is a lot of calls and letter telling them they're doing the wrong thing and their constiuents disagree with them, it's possible an elected representative might be persuaded to change their mind. (It's happened before) So it's useful still to contact representatives that agree with your position in order to reassure them that you're behind them and think they're doing the right thing.
posted by raedyn at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2006


I live in Massachusetts. Should I bother calling my officials?

Yes. You should especially call John Kerry and try to reinforce the spine he's pretending to have recently. Maybe he'll be motivated to keep pretending long enough to be somehow useful.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2006


I hope this goes somewhere. I think it's unlikely to make it past the Republican lapdogs on the commitee and get to the floor, but stranger things have happened.

I can't count the number of people (here in North Carolina, of all places) who have said to me something along the lines of "I've never voted a straight ticket in my life, but getting these people out of power is so important to me that I'm voting straight Democrat this year."
posted by EarBucket at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2006


pardon you, the enlightenment and those who brought it are ridiculed today. people respect conviction above morals. and note the reference.
posted by Busithoth at 11:08 AM on March 13, 2006


This is just like when President Clinton was impeached: nothing changed, and he didn't care. It was just a meaningless ploy designed to galvanize the opposition.

"…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. "
posted by Jatayu das at 11:14 AM on March 13, 2006


Brief Feingold interview on CNN... the liberal media in action
posted by rxrfrx at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2006


What would you suggest as a positive step, Jatayu?
posted by digaman at 11:17 AM on March 13, 2006


So the Constitution doesn't give Congress the power to pass a Censure resolution. So what? If W's lawyers can find all kinds of heretofore unknown powers in the text of the constitution, why can't Congress?

I mean, the concept of America as a Republic is pretty much over with at this point anyway.
posted by empath at 11:19 AM on March 13, 2006


Here in MA, it's bringing coals to Newcastle, but I called anyway.
"Do not go gentle into that good night - rage, rage, against the dying of the light."
posted by madamjujujive at 11:19 AM on March 13, 2006


This is just like when President Clinton was impeached: nothing changed...

I couldn't disagree more. I think Clinton's impeachment was the difference in 2000 election. Based on how the economy was doing, and our general stature in the world, Gore should have won the election in a walk if he had run a campaign similar to what George HW Bush ran in 1988. Because of the impeachment, Gore ran away from Clinton and had a makeshift disaster of a campaign the never really found any direction or focus.

These types of things are 100% symbolic, but they do matter.
posted by psmealey at 11:20 AM on March 13, 2006


Let's not waste precious time and energy debating the constitutionality and/or efficacy of censure.

Let's just get right to it: impeach, convict, imprison.

I'm under no illusion that Bush (the man) is some kind of mastermind who is personally responsible for the atrocities (both literal and figurative) of the past five years. Indeed, he is more likely a useful idiot to the real architects of the nascent Pox Americana.

Nevertheless, it is essential to the very survival of our republic that we impeach, convict and imprison. However the symbolic the act vis-a-vis going after the "real" offenders, anything less allows Bushco (the oligarchy) to stand as precedent for acceptable, if not quite legal, exercise of executive power.

Once we cut the head off the beast, we can turn our attention to restoring the balance of powers, guaranteeing the integrity of elections and their results, creating sane congressional districts, dismantling anything "faith-based" in the government, ending the war on some drugs, etc., etc., etc.

Roll up yr sleeves.
posted by oncogenesis at 11:21 AM on March 13, 2006


Precisely, psmealey.
posted by digaman at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2006


Jatayu, I'd argue it actually did more than that. It really hurt sitting Congressional Republicans, given that Clinton's poll numbers were fairly good, especially compared to Bush's current numbers (IIRC, Clinton's personal approval dropped in the wake of Monicagate, but his job approval, thanks mostly to the economy, stayed strong throughout). Given Bush's numbers, this is a different situation (and as much as I admire Feingold, no, he wouldn't be doing this if over half the country didn't despise Bush both as a person and for his policies. Charm offensive, where are you? That's right--Cheney blew it away, literally and figuratively.).

Which is to say, yes, this is political theater, but I think it's tactically a good move by Feingold in order to shore up his credentials an an independent. What have Bush defenders been saying about many Democratic Senators? Oh, he or she voted for the war, and voted for PATRIOT. So they should shut up. Well, Feingold did neither, and he wants to remind people of this. And he has no reason to shut up.
posted by bardic at 11:24 AM on March 13, 2006


(Well put psmealey, but it cut the other way as well, IMHO.)
posted by bardic at 11:25 AM on March 13, 2006


That this censure motion somehow scares dios enough to get him pissing and moaning and exclaiming "unconstitutional" and "vanity legislation" -- when dios wasn't at all perturbed by clearly unconstitutional wiretaps or torture -- suggests to me that it does in fact have real meaning.
posted by orthogonality at 11:31 AM on March 13, 2006


Feingold is the man. If he ran he would be one of a very few I would vote for without holding my nose.
posted by edgeways at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2006


The can't tap me, I got my special hat on cuz "Democratic bloggers" told me to put it on!

You better loosen it a couple notches - I think you got it on too tight.

Too little. Too late. Censure is unlikely to happen. It's going to be seen as payback for Clinton and as purely political.

They should do it anyway just to show Betty and Bob Sixpack there are still some Democrats with balls and honor. But it won't have teeth. All it will do it show the GOP that the next round of Dems may not lay down anymore.

The current class of democrats have rolled over and taken it up the ass by this administration on the only issue that mattered - The War. When they had chances to make a principled stand, they sat on their hands and towed the bullshit patriotic line. So the Republicans have learned they have nothing to fear from the Democrats - no matter how much they bark. All they got to do is wave the flag.

What the Republicans fear is what their OWN people - what Bush - is doing. They have nothing to hide behind anymore. They can't call the democrats and liberals obstructionist because the GOP runs the show now. What ever has gone wrong goes wrong on their watch.

And these people are not stupid and completely blind. They can see that it's their policies that have fucked up. Three is only one person to blame and that is Bush. But they can't censure him becuase it will be a censure of policies they ALL signed on too. Deals were made.

If anything Washington runs on deals. It's like a pirate ship. You can rob, you can steal - you cut a deal - you stick with it. It's the only bond that works. You violate that you walk the plank. But you never get turned over to the authorities or the other side. Never.

It's a parliament of whores and scoundrels, but they stick to their deals (what got Clinton into trouble - not his politics but his duplicitous deal making). Bush, because of failed policy and the neo-cons bailing out, is reneging on deals now (the Dubai deal).

These junior GOP senators are going to turn on him because he can't keep his word and hi polls are too low for him to a force of personality with anyone but the real idiot wingnuts - who not only have little principle but also don't even act in thier own self interests (they vot in politicians who's policies put them out of work etc).

You will see a resurgence of the original conservative soon. Protectionist, self interested, isolationist but hawkish. the guys that really didn't care if dudes fucked other dudes as long as somebody was making money.

Thank god.
posted by tkchrist at 11:38 AM on March 13, 2006


any one think the congress should not formally condemn the president's attempts to subvert the law?

dios? i know you think no law was broken here, but it would seem many of the law makers (congress) think the law was broken , is being broken, and will continue to be broken , by the president.
posted by nola at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2006


Bill Frist is not only a shitty fucking doctor, he's also a Nazi.

Fuck what he says. His opinion is worthless.
posted by wakko at 11:40 AM on March 13, 2006


Also, who's gonna start the next dios MeTa thread?
posted by wakko at 11:41 AM on March 13, 2006


The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value.
[...]
Every medium by which people communicate can be exploited by those with illegal or immoral intentions. Nevertheless, this is no reason to hand Big Brother the keys to unlock our e-mail diaries, open our ATM records or translate our international communications.


-John Ashcroft in 1997
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:42 AM on March 13, 2006


Holy crap, a real live honest to gosh deaths head and creaky leather gloves Nazi? Someone should dime that dude out to the OSS post haste.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2006


People speak of censure, but the Constitution provides no basis for Congress to censure the President.

My irony meter is broken, but I want to understand this:

There seems to be no legal support for wiretapping, so now we have a censuring motion - for which there is no legal support for.

If this is a giant circle jerk, then how the hell do *I* get off here?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:45 AM on March 13, 2006


it seems to be real simple rough ashlar.
it is unconstitutional for congress to officially condemn the president. the do however have the constitutional right to rename french fries "freedom fries" god bless america.
posted by nola at 11:48 AM on March 13, 2006


Ze var iss ofer for you now Herr Bush... don't make sings more diffikult for you zen zey already are...
posted by stenseng at 11:48 AM on March 13, 2006


If this is a giant circle jerk, then how the hell do *I* get off here?

Stop jerking, and start reading news stories more closely.

tkchrist said:
When they had chances to make a principled stand, they sat on their hands and towed the bullshit patriotic line.

Get real, as in realpolitik. They were supposed to take this "principled stand" before the ashes of the World Trade Center towers cooled?

If I had been in Congress, I would have voted against the war. But it's easy to see why people voted for it back then. They were misled by the President and the GOP about the facts, and they were discouraged from dissenting by the enormous shadow of 9/11.

Does that let them off the historical hook for being taken in by Bush's bullshit so easily? No. But still.
posted by digaman at 11:53 AM on March 13, 2006


Censure is the very least that should happen. I mean, my God: the President has essentially confessed to breaking a Federal law. Most legal scholars in the country don't even question the illegality of his actions.

A censure vote is a slap on the wrist, with no Constitutional force behind it, sure. But if the Senate is not even prepared to say "hey, we're not going to impeach you or anything, but we think what you did was wrong", then we have lost the credibility to say that we live in a country where the Rule of Law counts for at least LIP SERVICE.

It's a weak gesture, but at this point, I'd really like to see SOME kind of gesture to restore my faith that I'm not living in Animal Farm II.

Finally, yes, there is a big political reason to do this. And by political, I mean in the positive sense, positive for the whole political process:

As psmealey says, the Republicans shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. They shouldn't be able to run away from Bush and his plummeting ratings in their populist Reaganolatrist speechifying, yet continue to aid and abet our Dear Leader when it comes to his disastrous and illegal policies and behavior. And the Dems can't have their cake and eat it, too. If they're going to preach about their affronted consciences with regard to Bush, they darn well better be prepared to vote those same consciences in support of this resolution.

In this regard, the censure resolution is not so much to hold Bush accountable as it is to hold members of the Senate accountable. Accountable to their own rhetoric. Time to put your votes where your mouths are, boys and girls. Don't expect to get a free ride on this.
posted by darkstar at 11:59 AM on March 13, 2006


(Apparently Feingold is giving a speech at 4 pm est on the Senate floor. Should be interesting.)
posted by bardic at 12:03 PM on March 13, 2006


Get real, as in realpolitik. They were supposed to take this "principled stand" before the ashes of the World Trade Center towers cooled?

Yes. They were. If they HAD principles. Are you all just talk? Or do actually live what you believe? You cannot ask any less of your representatives.

They were misled by the President and the GOP about the facts, and they were discouraged from dissenting by the enormous shadow of 9/11.

The ashes of 9/11? Oh please. Lay off the melodrama.

9/11 was two years before. You need to make up your mind. You knew the invasion of Iraq was bullshit in 2001. You have said so repeatedly. So did I. So did they.

Bush clearly stated he was gunning for Iraq in 2000. Hell. Clinton was gunning for Iraq, ok. Were already in the middle of a "regime Change" policy in 1998.

And the reason we didn't invade THEN was because we had no evidence to bring to the UN. Clinton had that much principled. And nothing changed between then and 2003. Nothing. They had the same goddamn data.

What changed was Bush installed his appointee puppets in the intelligence mechanism to feed him skewed and old data. what changed was charlatans like Chalabi were given more air time before intelligence committees than the hundreds of analysts that told Clinton Iraq was NOT a threat.

There was no "we were fooled by the intelligence data." This is a lie. The democrats jumped on the Jingoistic band wagon for purely political gain and did everything they could to avoid even listening to anti-war constituents until events in Iraq turned so ugly they HAD to.

Fuck the democrats.
posted by tkchrist at 12:08 PM on March 13, 2006


The constitution also doesn't give the president power to make endless war in the absence of a formal declaration thereof, approved by congress. We've been living in a state of suspended constitutional animation for years now.

Go Russ, go. Kick the bastards while they're down. Again. Harder. If they get back up off the mat we're screwed.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:09 PM on March 13, 2006


In this regard, the censure resolution is not so much to hold Bush accountable as it is to hold members of the Senate accountable. Accountable to their own rhetoric. Time to put your votes where your mouths are, boys and girls. Don't expect to get a free ride on this.

Thanks for stating this so well. I was thinking the same thing but couldn't think of how to word it.
posted by beth at 12:11 PM on March 13, 2006


Either this piece of legislation is suppose to have some impact upon the president, or it does not.

It is intended to shame the President into better behavior through public ridicule or, well, censure.

So it is not intended to have any legal effect, and so there is no reasonable constitutional bar to its passage or taking non-effect. It imposes no punishment except the expression of a considered opinion.

But it is intended, at least nominally, to have a real political effect. So it is not merely a piece of vanity fluff.

Is this really so bloody hard to figure out?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2006


(Apparently Feingold is giving a speech at 4 pm est on the Senate floor. Should be interesting.)

Live Senate video coverage on CSPAN-2.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:16 PM on March 13, 2006


If it's a meaningless theatrical gesture, why are republicans so upset about it?
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:18 PM on March 13, 2006


Because they have limited the scope of their intellectual life to meaningless theatrical gesture.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:20 PM on March 13, 2006


I couldn't disagree more. I think Clinton's impeachment was the difference in 2000 election. Based on how the economy was doing, and our general stature in the world, Gore should have won the election in a walk if he had run a campaign similar to what George HW Bush ran in 1988. Because of the impeachment, Gore ran away from Clinton and had a makeshift disaster of a campaign the never really found any direction or focus.

Well, that was gore's own fault. He was an idiot.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 PM on March 13, 2006


as it is to hold members of the Senate accountable

Ah. Now THIS I 100% agree with.
posted by tkchrist at 12:26 PM on March 13, 2006


we should impeach and throw them all into that luxury resort called Guantanamo. The criminal in the White House (the head criminal, that is) admitted to breaking the law live on television!

We're not above the law--neither is he. The sooner he learns that the better.
posted by amberglow at 12:37 PM on March 13, 2006


Unless "censure" means "punch in the face," I'm not calling my senator.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2006


punch in the face with zombie muscles or human muscles?
posted by edgeways at 12:40 PM on March 13, 2006


I'm in good comapny.
posted by tkchrist at 12:51 PM on March 13, 2006


With the awsomeness of zombie muscles, of course. They just keep punching forever!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:02 PM on March 13, 2006


Bill Frist is speaking on the Senate floor now.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:12 PM on March 13, 2006


Frist has just objected to Feingold's speech. Live now.
posted by NationalKato at 1:13 PM on March 13, 2006


Anyone watching C-Span? Frist actually came to the floor to pre-empt Feingold, which is already a victory for the Senator from Wisconsin. As mentioned, if this stunt is so meaningless, why are the Republicans going apeshit over it? Good times.
posted by bardic at 1:13 PM on March 13, 2006


Awesome. Objections left and right. C-Span's rockin'.
posted by NationalKato at 1:15 PM on March 13, 2006


Bill Frist: About as good a senator as he is a medical doctor. He is also just about as good at being an astronaut and a black woman.
posted by wakko at 1:19 PM on March 13, 2006


Minority Leader Reid has come to the floor to speak on the benefits of 'more debate on the Senate floor, not less debate' in response to Frist's objections.
posted by NationalKato at 1:20 PM on March 13, 2006


(And now Reid's involved--meaning this will make front page in a few national papers. Way to bury this, Fristie.)
posted by bardic at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2006


If I understand it correctly, an argument has arisen whether Feingold's speech should come at the expense of budget debate time.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2006


My God. Frist is the best friend the Democrats have had in a long while--he's just standing over this thing and blowing air onto the fire.
posted by bardic at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2006


As if any of them gave a damn about the budget.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2006


The original issue was Frist trying to get a vote on the censure this afternoon at 5:30 or tomorrow afternoon - he's trying to rush it through because he knows the longer it's discussed, the more people will be aware of it.
posted by NationalKato at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2006


Feingold is being interrupted by Specter?
posted by eddydamascene at 1:28 PM on March 13, 2006


Feingold just dropped 'impeachment.' The speech is strong thus far...hopefully, it will continue to be.
posted by NationalKato at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2006


Damn those treasonous Democrats!
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on March 13, 2006


I hear Frist wants the vote fast so that he can use it as a club to beat Democratic Senators with for November, as homunculus' link sort of says--they'll be unAmerican traitors, betraying our President and our troops. It's that "with us or against us" shit.

Meanwhile CNN has Bush at 36% approval only...the vast majority of the country is not at all happy with Bush.
posted by amberglow at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2006


If nothing else, hopefully this will make it much more difficult (read, politically painful) for the Repubs to pass Dubyah a retroactive "get out of jail free" card... which is likely why Frist is going apeshit.
posted by deCadmus at 1:43 PM on March 13, 2006


The more I watch of this (very good) speech and maneuver, the more I realize that its audience is other Democrats moreso than Bush, Frist, or the usual suspects. This is all about calling on Congressional Dems to decide whether they're for the rule of law and standing up to incompetence and fear-mongering, or whether Dems are going to offer yet another "stay the course" candidate in 2008.

This is going to hurt Clinton, Biden, and Kerry more than anyone else. Because it illustrates how spineless they've been since 9/11. Good.

(I mean, what's not to like? Most of what Feingold is doing is quoting Bush himself, along with Gonzales. Well done.)
posted by bardic at 1:48 PM on March 13, 2006


Text of the speech he's just finishing now. Pardon me if this has been linked above, I didn't spot it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2006


Edgar Hoover would have loved this. The ______ administration wants government to be able to read international computer communications - financial transactions, personal e-mail and proprietary information sent abroad - all in the name of national security.
In a proposal that raises obvious concerns about Americans' privacy, President _______ wants to give agencies the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications. Such a policy also would tamper with the competitive advantage that our U.S. software companies currently enjoy in the field of encryption technology.
Not only would Big Brother be looming over the shoulders of international cybersurfers, he also threatens to render our state-of-the-art computer software engineers obsolete and unemployed.
Granted, the Internet could be used to commit crimes, and advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?
The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. ...
(Ashcroft!, 97)
posted by amberglow at 1:52 PM on March 13, 2006


Oooo, Feingold left after the speech, and Arlen Specter is asking his (Feingold's) staffers to bring him back to debate.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:55 PM on March 13, 2006


Specter tries to make Feingold stick around and take his piss. Bullshit, Arlen. You wanted 25 minutes, you get 'em. Other senators are not required to hear you bloviate.
posted by bardic at 1:55 PM on March 13, 2006


(in person or otherwise.)
posted by bardic at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2006


Spector is saying that the President's Constitutional authority supercedes the FISA Act???

Then why did they have Watergate hearings? Why force Nixon out? Why create FISA? This is insane.
posted by amberglow at 1:58 PM on March 13, 2006


Ugh. Apparently, I was wrong about it being the Attorney General's job to enforce the law. According to Spector, it's to "take the side of the President."
posted by EarBucket at 2:01 PM on March 13, 2006


meanwhile, what's CNN talking about? Mad cow.
posted by amberglow at 2:04 PM on March 13, 2006


reads like a pretty good speech
posted by edgeways at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2006


Specter is a smart guy, but he's like kryptonite to charisma.

Good on Feingold. He's left the Republicans looking like Keystone Kops. Can't wait to see Frist muster his "outrage" after this.
posted by bardic at 2:08 PM on March 13, 2006


Specter has admitted that FISA ia controlling and that the AUMF doesn't supercede it. That's a big admission.
posted by darkstar at 2:09 PM on March 13, 2006


That's important because part of the Admin's early justification for the legality of the warrantless wiretaps was because the AUMF granted an exception to the FISA. It looks like that argument is completely debunked now, and the Article II argument is the final fallback position.
posted by darkstar at 2:35 PM on March 13, 2006


Durbin asking Specter whether he thinks the wiretaps are legal, Specter says he doesn't know because they are is "flying blind". So why are he and DeWine then proposing new legislation?

Surely, you shouldn't propose new legislation to handle a surveillance program if you're not sure whether the current one is legal or not, due to lack of information!
posted by darkstar at 2:37 PM on March 13, 2006


Senator Inoue's wife's passing crashed MeFi for a few minutes, there, I think.
posted by darkstar at 2:40 PM on March 13, 2006


ROVE!

;-)
posted by digaman at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2006


...Here's the essential problem (apologies to those who've heard this 1,422 times before): A number of Republicans claiming that the sky is pink, and that it's laughable and partisan to claim different, is not debate. Debate is when you've checked the facts and found that something is true. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:46 PM on March 13, 2006


Did anyone stick around for Jeff Sessions? You can't make this shit up. After invoking Senator Inouye's dead wife, he spits this out:

The Supreme Court recently had to deal with the situation in which an American citizen was captured abroad, Hamdi, and they caught him, and he went before the Sureme Court of the United States, and the issue was whether or not he was entitled to a trial. And the question was whether he was entitled to a trial, and the Supreme Court held otherwise. The Supreme Court said that he was a prisoner of war, and that the Authorization of Military Force authorized the military to attack and kill enemies of the United States. It also them to capture them. That was incident to the use of military force. And I would submit, Mr. President, that it is quite plain that our history of military affairs supports the concept that surveiling the enemy at a time of war is an incident to the carrying on war. [sic] Just in the same way that we have a right to take an American citizen and lock him up in jail without trial if they are identified to be with the enemy, we can surveil the enemy's communications.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2006


So, basically, when in doubt, lie like nobody's ever lied before.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2006


rxrfrx:
Senate needs the sarcasm tag.
posted by qvantamon at 2:57 PM on March 13, 2006


Yeah, it loks like Sessions and Specter don't agree on whether AUMF implicitly authorized the wiretaps.
posted by darkstar at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2006


I still can't decide if Sessions really doesn't even know what the outcome of Hamdi was, or if he was saying the exact opposite of what he knew to be the truth.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:11 PM on March 13, 2006


Hamdi ruling was that Hamdi could be held without a trial, per se, but he had the right to petition for habeas corpus, that is, a hearing to review whether he was being accurately categorized and appropriately held AND that he could have counsel.

So, in one sense, Sessions is right. SCOTUS ruled that US citizens captured as enemy combatants aren't entitles to "trial".

But he's dissembling because that ignores the other civil rights that such prisoners nevertheless retain (habeas and counsel).

/ianal
posted by darkstar at 3:17 PM on March 13, 2006


Look, this is a legal issue which the Supreme Court explained in Hamdi. Sessions recitation of the case is fairly accurate.

The Court in Hamdi said that the AUMF authorized the President to engage in the natural incidents of war. Reasoning further, they suggested that detaining perceived enemies was a natural incident of war, and is therefore authorized by the AUMF. The argument is that surveillance of enemy communications is also a natural incident of war and would be authorized under the same analysis.

The issue that Hamdi was guaranteed due process rights incident to this detainment is not really an issue in the wiretapping case. What is relevant is the analysis that the AUMF authorized that which was a natural incident of war.

An argument can easily be made under Hamdi that wiretapping is permitted as a natural incident of war.
posted by dios at 3:20 PM on March 13, 2006


I still can't decide if Sessions really doesn't even know what the outcome of Hamdi was, or if he was saying the exact opposite of what he knew to be the truth.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:11 PM CST on March 13


How about a third option: you don't understand what he is saying and what Hamdi said? Because it isn't hard for anyone familiar with the case to understand what Sessions was saying.
posted by dios at 3:22 PM on March 13, 2006


A better argument can be made that surveilling US citizens on US soil is already considered specifically under the FISA law.

And, as Specter and Durbin both agreed in front of God and everybody, FISA is controlling and AUMF does not supercede it.

Of course, Article II would supercede FISA, if it were applicable. That's what's under debate. That's where most of the rest of the legal community is, having rejected the argument you propose long ago. Do try to keep up.
posted by darkstar at 3:26 PM on March 13, 2006


I would also point out that Hamdi is a pretty bad angle to be taking for anyone arguing the "incidents of war" theme, anyway.

Hamdi explicitly noted that US citizens who are captured and classified as prisoners of war STILL RETAIN certain civil rights (habeas petitions and right to counsel), notwithstanding their capture as an incident of war.

If Hamdi is an analogy, that would suggest that certain civil rights still rest with US citizens in re. wiretaps, even when the Admin decides they may be conspiring with the enemy in wartime.

Indeed, that's the whole point of the FISC. But some people keep forgetting that...
posted by darkstar at 3:31 PM on March 13, 2006


surveilling US citizens on US soil is already considered specifically under the FISA law.

Surveillance for domestic law enforcement purposes, that is. That is separate and distinct from surveillance done on enemies, and the agents of enemies, from a foreign state engaged in hostility with this country, pursuant to the Executive branch's duty as commander-in-chief of the military and responsible for national secuirty from foreign threats. FISA covers domestic surveillance, but it is not clear that it covers (or even that it could constitutionally regulate) the Presidents Article II powers.

That, coupled with the authorization under the AUMF, it is is arguable that FISA is pre-empted.

As I (and other legal scholars) have said it is not clear what this issue is one way or another. One thing is clear: that this is a grey area. The President didn't "clearly" violate FISA. It isn't clear that Congress could even pass a piece of legislation covering this. Add to that the AUMF and the analysis under Hamdi, and it becomes even more tenuous that the actions were "illegal."
posted by dios at 3:35 PM on March 13, 2006


All the more reason for an independent investigation, not another rubber-stamp from a Republican-majority committee. Specter himself answered Durbin's question re: the legality of FISA being ignored by giving an honest answer--he (Specter) doesn't know, since the White House hasn't been forthcoming with what it was doing to whom.

More light, please.
posted by bardic at 3:41 PM on March 13, 2006


Surveillance for domestic law enforcement purposes, that is. That is separate and distinct from surveillance done on enemies, and the agents of enemies, from a foreign state engaged in hostility with this country

Funny then that they chose to call it the Foriegn Intelligence Surveillance Act. Or maybe, just maybe...your just making a convoluted and unsupported argument.
posted by edverb at 3:44 PM on March 13, 2006


*foreign / you're
posted by edverb at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2006


To restate the issue: this question is so multifarious that no one can say for certain what the answer is because there is no legal precedent and it involves unresolved separation of powers issues.

- Can Congress constitutionally occupy the area and pass legislation controlling the method of surveillance done in national security matters? It isn't clear.

- If they can, did FISI (the statute which is more important than FISA in this regard) occupy the area and purport to limit this kind of surveillance done on agents of foreign powers engaged in hostility with the United States? It isn't clear.

- If Congress can and did intend to regulate surveillance done on agents of foreign powers engaged in hostility with the United Sates, did they supersede that regulation with the passage of the AUMF? It isn't clear.

- In analyzing the AUMF under Hamdi, does the court foreclose the possibility or allow the possibility that a natural incident of war might include surveillance? It isn't clear.

- Does the President have the inherent power under Article II, unreviewable or limit-able by Congress or the Courts, to engage in surveillance for national security purposes? It isn't clear.

And so on. At each level, more unclear questions are at play which are necessary to resolve to even get to the next level of inquiry. Quite simply, the issues aren't clear. And anyone who tells you they are, is being wholly disingenuous. Anyone who says this is clearly legal is making an argument unsupported by guiding precedent. Anyone who says this is clearly illegal is doing the same thing.
posted by dios at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2006


Back in the grey muddle again, where nothing is clear, eh Dios? So in cases where there are legal disputes about the legality of an action like, say, widespread surveillance of Americans by their own government, the most prudent thing to do is to keep doing it?

It doesn't seem very... well, American, to me.
posted by digaman at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2006


Bardic, isn't that what Goethe asked for -- on his deathbed, with his last words?
posted by orthogonality at 3:46 PM on March 13, 2006


Check, Dios. Then shouldn't the program be suspended right away, until its legality is openly debated and decided? Or do you have the sense that, in other cases where a basic freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is threatened by an executive action unchecked by Congress that may or may not be legal, Congress should allow the action to continue until these questions are settled?
posted by digaman at 3:50 PM on March 13, 2006


sorry for those two similar posts -- MeFi got really weird.
posted by digaman at 3:51 PM on March 13, 2006


dios, is nothing clear because the President -- as Senator Specter noted -- failed to follow the law by fully informing Congress of the nature and extent of the surveillance?

If nothing clear, isn't that an argumnet for more Cogressional oversight, in order to safegaurd the checks -and-balances our Founding Fathers wisely insisted on?

And as wise as our Founders were, do you really think they thought, in 1787, that they were making electronic surveillance an implicit Article II power of the presidency?
posted by orthogonality at 3:51 PM on March 13, 2006


Your position is exceedingly weak, dios.

But as I've spent literally dozens of hours debating this with people on the internet (including yourself) and IRL, often to see the argument wrap back on itself when the points I've demonstrated are pretty much ignored, I confess that I can't muster the will to debate it with you (again).

If you seriously want to know what I think, and why your position is the tenuous one, this letter pretty much lays it all out. I've yet to hear anyone, including you or the DOJ white paper, effectively refute the legal points in it.

Cheers.
posted by darkstar at 3:52 PM on March 13, 2006


Surveillance for domestic law enforcement purposes, that is. That is separate and distinct from surveillance done on enemies, and the agents of enemies, from a foreign state engaged in hostility with this country,posted by dios

How do we know that that is who is being targetted? All we have is the word of the President. Leaks from the intelligence community indicate that random peace groups and other political enemies of the administration are also being tapped. Keeping this stuff honest is supposed to be the purpose of warrants. The only reason to remove warrants from the process is to allow activities that judges wouldn't approve. There is no other reason.
posted by Happy Monkey at 3:52 PM on March 13, 2006


edverb: FISA relates to domestic surveillance on foreign governments not engaged in hostility with the United States. Those that are engaged in active hostility with the United States are not covered.
posted by dios at 3:55 PM on March 13, 2006


edverb: FISA relates to domestic surveillance on foreign governments not engaged in hostility with the United States. Those that are engaged in active hostility with the United States are not covered.

Who decides which is which? Not the President, that's for damn sure.
posted by edverb at 3:58 PM on March 13, 2006


And certainly not some mid-level functionary at NSA.
posted by edverb at 3:58 PM on March 13, 2006


An argument can easily be made under Hamdi that wiretapping is permitted as a natural incident of war.

We're not at war. If the president wants to invoke wartime privileges, he could at least do us the favor of actually going through the process of declaring war.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:02 PM on March 13, 2006


You know Dios...not being aware of the exemption for actively hostile powers in FISA...I went and looked it up. And lo and behold...
§ 1801. Definitions
Release date: 2005-03-17

As used in this subchapter:
(a) “Foreign power” means—

(1) a foreign government or any component thereof, whether or not recognized by the United States;
(2) a faction of a foreign nation or nations, not substantially composed of United States persons;
(3) an entity that is openly acknowledged by a foreign government or governments to be directed and controlled by such foreign government or governments;
(4) a group engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor;
(5) a foreign-based political organization, not substantially composed of United States persons; or
(6) an entity that is directed and controlled by a foreign government or governments.
Whaddaya know.
posted by edverb at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2006


Some seem to be saying that this isn't beyond the President's powers - that is, he is permitted by AUMF, for example, not to seek a warrant or judicial oversght.

So why did Bush himself say that he did need to comply with FISA?

Was he mistaken? Or was he lying? Or are Bush's defenders mistaken? Or lying?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2006


Meanwhile, Bush's ratings are down to 36% on the CNN poll. That's tied with the lowest they've been on other polls and is the lowest they've been on the CNN poll, down from 38% last month. That's Nixionian, folks.

Result? Watch Republicans try to finesse their umbrage at the censure resolution. Whereas a couple of months ago, they would have outright said the NSA program was legal, they will now, at least, admit that it's questionable.

Amazing what falling ratings will do to help bolster the conscience. I predict that if Bush's ratings ever fell below 20%, even Sessions would mothball his rhetoric.
posted by darkstar at 4:04 PM on March 13, 2006


[See the quotes in Feingold's motion for reference to Bush's own purported compliance with FISA.]
posted by dash_slot- at 4:05 PM on March 13, 2006


FISA relates to domestic surveillance on foreign governments not engaged in hostility with the United States. Those that are engaged in active hostility with the United States are not covered.
posted by dios


Did you just make that up?
posted by Happy Monkey at 4:10 PM on March 13, 2006


HM, at some point you have to recognize that you're dealing with a Sisyphean feat, here, and just let it go. :)
posted by darkstar at 4:12 PM on March 13, 2006


“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Dunno, seems that the Pres. would be stepping on a number of rights if he can listen in on citizens.

Either way, I don’t want it. I sure as hell don’t want anyone in office to go forward with an action when it’s not clear whether it’s legal or not. Particularly someone who is supposed to uphold the law.

That said - is there some reason we should think these people care about not exploiting us* just because we elected them?

*nifty trib op-ed.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:18 PM on March 13, 2006


I just finished reading "V for Vendetta" yesterday.
posted by signal at 4:27 PM on March 13, 2006


not being aware of the exemption for actively hostile powers in FISA...I went and looked it up. And lo and behold...

edverd, what I am referring to is § 1802(A)(1)(a) coupled with this:

According to the report of the Senate Judiciary Committee on FISA, “this provision [referencing what became the first part of section 2511(2)(f)] is designed to make clear that the legislation does not deal with international signals intelligence activities as currently engaged in by the National Security Agency and electronic surveillance conducted outside the United States.” S. Rep. No. 95-604, at 64 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3904, 3965. The legislative history also makes clear that the definition of “electronic surveillance” was crafted for the same reason. See id. at 33-34, 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 3934-36. FISA thereby “adopts the view expressed by the Attorney General during the hearings that enacting statutory controls to regulate the National Security Agency and the surveillance of Americans abroad raises problems best left to separate legislation.Id. at 64, 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 3965. Such legislation placing limitations on traditional NSA activities was drafted, but never passed. See National Intelligence Reorganization and Reform Act of 1978: Hearings Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 999-1007 (1978) (text of unenacted legislation). And Congress understood that the NSA surveillance that it intended categorically to exclude from FISA could include the monitoring of international communications into or out of the United States of U.S. citizens. The report specifically referred to the Church Committee report for its description of the NSA’s activities, S. Rep. No. 95-604, at 64 n.63, 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 3965-66 n.63, which stated that “the NSA intercepts messages passing over international lines of communication, some of which have one terminal within the United States. Traveling over these lines of communication, especially those with one terminal in the United States, are messages of Americans . . . .” S. Rep. 94-755, at Book II, 308 (1976).

But again, this is just the issue on the first step in the analysis: whether FISA covers this kind of surveillance. That is, surveillance of foreigners engaged in hostility with the US. It is perhaps the strongest argument. But it gets weaker from there. FISA contemplates that other surveillance can be authorized by statute. The issue then is whether AUMF is a statute that authorizes other surveillance. That question turns on an analysis of Hamdi and whether surveillance is a natural incident of war. And in disentangling these issues, the doctrine of constitutional avoidance comes into play. As well as the issue of inherent powers under Article II.

Quite simply, as you progress through these issues, an argument can be made either way and there is no controlling precedent. None. Neither side claims to have any either. There is persuasive caselaw cited; there are arguments by extension. But there is no caselaw on this topic and there may never be because the whole issue may be inherently unreviewable by Courts.

If you think this makes perfect sense to you, then you don't even know enough about the issue to understand the complexity of it. Advocates.... with an emphasis on the word advocate... make arguments but neither side has presented one over-riding argument. The DOJ's brief isn't convincing, and neither is the law professor's letters. Both of them avoid acknowledging that their position is nothing more than an argument and is not supported by controlling caselaw.

This is a legal grey area due to separation of powers issues. If you are not legally trained, and have not read all of the relevant caselaw and statutes on this issue, and you think you know for sure one way or another, then you are engaged in an act of sheer hubris. And it isn't just conservatives or whatever you want to portray people who take my positions saying this. Read Cass Sunstein for one. This topic isn't clear. The issues are multifarious and require resolution a lot of unresolved issues.

It is a grey area. Usually in the law we have clear Constitutional guidance, so the matter is not grey. There isn't any here.

(darkstar, if you are interested in a discussion, then feel free to leave... you are providing no light and only heat with your attitude)
posted by dios at 4:41 PM on March 13, 2006


(Sorry, time to go home for me anyhow)
posted by dios at 4:43 PM on March 13, 2006


dios: "The argument is that surveillance of enemy communications is also a natural incident of war and would be authorized under the same analysis."

But of course we're talking about surveillance of suspected potential enemy communications originating in America and sent by Americans, using an electronic technique that is specifically illegal to apply to Americans unless approved by the special FISA court.

To give the benefit of the doubt to your position, dios, I suggested a possible test of whether this wiretapping could indeed be considered a "natural incident" of war, in this thread last week:
(dios quote) "The argument goes that wiretapping is also a natural incident of war. Which is why it is a relatively gray area."

That's an interesting thought, dios. I would suppose that there is a way of looking at it which might help: from the point of view of the writers of the Constitution, taking into consideration the communications technology of their times.

Was opening and examining written personal mail a "natural incident of war" in terms of foreign intelligence gathering, around the turn of the 19th Century? Would Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton have considered as proper and appropriate during wartime the interception and reading of letters posted between suspected supporters of the Crown and recipients in England?

If there is precedent for this, for instance during the War of 1812, or perhaps even more to point the matter of piracy committed by ships from Tripoli (against whom Commodore Preble and the USS Constitution figured so prominently), then the gray area could be eliminated.

Intercepting enemy communications can certainly be considered a natural incident of war. It's one of the primary activities of foreign intelligence. If this has been a long-term practice of the US Government during times of foreign threat, then wiretapping may indeed be permissible, and dios has a valid point.

However, I think we need to specifically consider written letters posted by mail, as that method of communication most closely resembles telephone communication in that it is a "sealed," private conversation between two parties. Of course our intelligence services have intercepted lots of radio and radio-like transmissions, but these are broadcast through the air and can often be received by anyone listening on the proper frequency. That's not similar to a phone conversation where (it used to be that) a single wire conduit directly connects the two parties. Posted letters represent a similar system, just much much slower.

I really hate to advance this argument since it goes against my personal feelings on the matter, which are based on the Nixon affair. In that, Nixon was demonstrably spying on people with no foreign intelligence interest involved, and FISA was passed to take care of that. Now the matter isn't so clear, but I still believe that given any gray area, the decision should fall toward individual rights.

And after all, there is a court specifically designed to handle such intel requests, which was not availed of - and that speaks volumes to me about the intent of the Administration. Something smells bad there.
So I re-introduce it here, where it seems relevant (to me, anyway...). It seems important to find some basis for declaring otherwise illegal wiretapping a "natural incident of war," other than "because we say it is."

I think the burden falls on those claiming the extraordinary circumstance over the clearly established law. Show us a precedent to support your position, if possible, and you're more likely to sway our opinion.

On preview: DANG IT why do I always post right when he's going home... *sigh*
posted by zoogleplex at 4:52 PM on March 13, 2006


Woops, here is the permalink to my original posting.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:56 PM on March 13, 2006




Let go of the dios stone, folks.
posted by darkstar at 4:58 PM on March 13, 2006


Of course, darkstar, my post is not just directed at dios. I think my suggestion could be a useful way of thinking about the wiretapping, and would like to hear what others think.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:01 PM on March 13, 2006


FISA relates to domestic surveillance on foreign governments not engaged in hostility with the United States. Those that are engaged in active hostility with the United States are not covered.
posted by dios


Heh, yes, he just made it up.

The worst part of all this is that a little known act called the PATRIOT ACT expanded FISA to ridiculously broad levels, allowing the government to surveil terrorists even when it couldn't be proved that the terrorist was affiliated with an actual "supporting organization." It was basically a blank check to surveil anybody, terrorist or not. And still this wasn't enough. It really seems the Bush administration broke the law here out of sheer arrogance. This was very much a political gesture. This was a power grab. Luckily, it doesn't seem to be a "test run" and, of course, at least they had the decency to try and keep it secret. And, no, there is no longer any debate about the legality of the administrations acts, dios' idoicy and dishonesty aside. The administration willfully broke the law and everything else is after-the-fact rationalization.
posted by nixerman at 5:08 PM on March 13, 2006


dios commands: "(darkstar, if you are interested in a discussion, then feel free to leave... you are providing no light and only heat with your attitude)"

Yeah, darkstar, if you disagree with dios, there's a free-speech zone for you. It's about four miles that-a-way, in a backalley surrounded with razor-wire, and the press is excluded from it. Feel free to say whatever you want there (and you might even be able to get an abortion there too). Just remember, by questioning dios, you're helping the terrorists kill American soldiers, and that's why we're losing the war.
posted by orthogonality at 5:08 PM on March 13, 2006


What's the term for someone who's painfully pedantic and yet often quite wrong?
posted by bardic at 5:10 PM on March 13, 2006


dios?
posted by orthogonality at 5:13 PM on March 13, 2006


For folks wondering if the issue is as grey as some would have it, I would note that:

1. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the clear and explicit power
"To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."
That's specific Constitutional authority given to the Congress to make laws which determine how the President will execute his inherent authority under the Constitution.

2. SCOTUS case Youngstown is pretty clear in communicating this understanding, that Congress has the authority to define the time and manner of how the President will exercise his inherent Article II powers.

3. FISA is a federal law specifically designed to craft controlling legislation for how the President will exercise surveillance.

That's the trifecta, folks: Constitutional authority, SCOTUS precedent and statutory law.

And THAT's why Feingold is doing his job to point out that the President is bound to follow the FISA law.
posted by darkstar at 5:21 PM on March 13, 2006


And, frankly, the Republicans realize this, which is why their emphasis right now is on changing FISA law, rather than simply arguing that it's not controlling. They KNOW it controls and the President is bound by the Constitution to follow such laws.
posted by darkstar at 5:34 PM on March 13, 2006


Sounds convincing to me.

Of course, I come from the position that whenever there's a gray area, the rights of the People given in the Constitution trump all, rather than any claimed powers of any branch delineated in the Constitution.

So I don't really need to be convinced in this instance.

On topic, GO RUSS. That's a great speech. Too bad he can't actually say, "The President is LYING. He has lied to the press, the people of America, and to the Congress. He is lying and we have to take him to task for it." That's what a lot of this speech says, in so many words, but it would have so much more power if he could just say it flat out like any other citizen can.

On preview: They can try to change the law, but they can't make that change retroactive to make the President's transgressions legal.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:37 PM on March 13, 2006


If certain members continue to state that only specific credentials allow one to take part in a mefi discussion, it's worth mentioning that Feingold has a JD from Harvard (and he was a Rhodes Scholar--I didn't know that). I'd be curious to know how his critics--Congressional, mefite, and otherwise, compare.

That said, here's Feingold on why he did what he did with regards to putting censure up for a vote. Yes, there are gray areas involved in the issue as a whole, but here he's being quite specific (as is the POTUS):

The facts and the case for censure are clear. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, makes it a crime to wiretap American citizens without a court warrant - which is what the President has admitted doing. Before the program was revealed, he also misled Congress and the American people about the wiretapping that was being done. For example, at a 2004 speech in Buffalo, he said, "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires, a wiretap requires a court order." And at a 2004 speech in my home state of Wisconsin, he said that "the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."

When the domestic spying story first broke, the President went from saying he wouldn't be able to talk about it, to suggesting there was no other way to wiretap terrorists, to implying that the FISA law is out of date. He went on to claim that sweeping inherent powers of the presidency or the authorization of force back in 2001 gave him such authority -- neither of which is legally or factually correct. While the President has cherry-picked information before, he cannot do the same with the laws of our land.
[via]

It's refreshing that Feingold wants to bring this debate to the American public, despite the virtual Pharisees who claim that a person can only discuss their Constitutional rights if they have a law degree. There's a reason why these people are looking more and more desperate, and sounding more and more shrill these days as their false emperor and his court(s) collapse under the weight of lies and incompetence. (I guess some law schools outside of Harvard still advocate the time honored legal method of "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!")
posted by bardic at 5:44 PM on March 13, 2006


zoog, I think you're right on a couple of key issues.

The first is that, in our Republic, if you have a grey area, there's something about the whole point of our Constitution that argues that you should err on the side of civil liberties. Not that I think that this is a grey area, but even if it were, there's a burden on the government to prove that it's clearly in favor of their position.

Yet some Admin apologists come to the table with a rather cancerous attitude. First, their cognitive bias prevents them from seeing the Executive's arrogation of power, here, and instead to interpret it as a grey area. Then they reason that. if it's a grey area, you just defer to the Executive! I can understand people who really, really want Bush to be able to do what he's doing finding clever ways to craft an argument in support of it. But it's hard to imagine our Founding Fathers tolerating this kind of nonsense during the Constitutional Congress.

The other point you made was that even if they change the law, there will be no retroactivity to legalize the President's actions. That's true. But as long as there are no committee chairs in the Senate or House that have any interest in holding the President accountable on this, the fact that the law was broken will simply never be addressed. For a country that values the Rule of Law, I find that very disturbing and quite sad.
posted by darkstar at 5:53 PM on March 13, 2006


Indeed, it's disturbing. The various Republican congresspeople who are letting this slide must then be in support of giving the Executive supreme power over the land, eh? Hrmph.

Well, is there a statute of limitations on breaking FISA?
posted by zoogleplex at 5:58 PM on March 13, 2006


Some people have been taking Mr. Bush's side for so long that they are too emotionally invested in his being right about everything to even consider the possibility that he's not. It would mean that they'd been wrong, too, and that's simply inconceivable.
posted by EarBucket at 5:58 PM on March 13, 2006


The more research I do into politics, law and public policy, the more I am forced to acknowledge that cognitive bias is responsible for probably 90% of legal interpretation and policy development.

If universities were really on the ball, they'd offer mandatory courses in critical evaluation of one's own cognitive biases. I guess some do, but sadly, it's an untaught skill, for the most part.
posted by darkstar at 6:06 PM on March 13, 2006


zoog, there's actually no specific penalty set forth for breaking FISA. It's a law that defines the manner in which the President will exercise his Article II authority. If a President violates it, Congress' Constitutional responsibility is to impeach the President for "high crimes and misdemeanors".

Don't hold your breath.
posted by darkstar at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2006


Ah, so the "statute of limitations" is as long as he's in office.

All the more reason for us to try to vote in a Dem majority this year.

Like Diebold will allow that...
posted by zoogleplex at 6:42 PM on March 13, 2006


Some people have been taking Mr. Bush's side for so long that they are too emotionally invested in his being right about everything to even consider the possibility that he's not. It would mean that they'd been wrong, too, and that's simply inconceivable.

Yep, EarBucket. I think there's also a considerable chilling effect being exerted on examining any particular lie by the sheer magnitude of the enormous, interlocking, mutually dependent lies minted daily by this administration. As in, "Well, if they lied about the WMDs, then they lied about the intelligence, then they lied about the war in general -- which means all those people on both sides died or were maimed for some purpose that is either still unknown, or was a lie they told themselves -- but that means they also might have lied about the election..."

In other words, we live in the United States of Enron, where if one dishonest scheme is exposed, then the whole house of cards could come tumbling down -- so they're working overtime to shore up, deny, misrepresent, outright bullshit, punish, spin... No small lie is too small to be worth saying ten times over, just in case. Meanwhile, assisted by apologists who are all too willing to get lost in "gray areas" and "muddles" and notions that "the jury's still out," they do everything they can to make changes in the system and crucial appointments (an Attorney General here, a Supreme Court justice there) so that if any of this comes to light, they'll have insurance.
posted by digaman at 6:48 PM on March 13, 2006


We're in the United States of Bush Does Whatever the Fuck He Wants And If You Disagree You Don't Understand Just How Much Grey Zone There is in Presidential Power.

I suspect he could hack a man's head of with a garden shears, claim he was a suspected terrorist, and his lawyers (and supporters) would insist that at wartime, the legality of the President hacking the heads off suspected terrorists has not yet been determined.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:06 PM on March 13, 2006


Hmm. It would depend...

Were they zombie terrorists?
posted by darkstar at 7:09 PM on March 13, 2006


MSNBC: Move to Censure Bush Will Have Political Fallout.
posted by ericb at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2006


It's the Murtha resolution redux.
posted by darkstar at 7:25 PM on March 13, 2006


Meanwhile, the government can't even conduct the trial of the one goddamned 9/11-connected terrorist they were able to get their hands on without trying to cheat the system and fucking up.
posted by digaman at 7:39 PM on March 13, 2006


Leonie ain't happy, yo.




"In all the years I've been on the bench, I have never seen such an egregious violation of a rule on witnesses...This is the second significant error of the government affecting the constitutional rights of this defendant, and more importantly, it affects the integrity of the criminal justice system in the United States."


Bench slap!
posted by darkstar at 7:46 PM on March 13, 2006


I heard Sen. Russ Feingold is so mean he once censured a man simply for snoring too loud.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:06 PM on March 13, 2006


Yeah, Bush.
posted by digaman at 8:18 PM on March 13, 2006


Not the New York Times' finest hour. Jeez.


Democrats Beat Quick Retreat on Call to Censure President

By CARL HULSE
Published: March 14, 2006

WASHINGTON, March 13 -- Senate Democrats on Monday blocked an immediate vote on a call by one of their own to censure President Bush for his eavesdropping program.

They acted after Republicans said they were eager to pass judgment on a proposal that they portrayed as baseless and disruptive to the antiterror effort.

Minutes before Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, formally introduced his resolution reprimanding Mr. Bush, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said Republicans were ready to vote by day's end or Tuesday.

"When we're talking about censure of the president of the United States at a time of war, when this president is out defending the American people with a very good, lawful, constitutional program, it is serious business," Mr. Frist said. "If they want to make an issue out of it, we're willing to do just that."

Democrats, while distancing themselves from Mr. Feingold's assertion that the president "plainly broke the law" in approving surveillance without warrants, said his proposal merited more consideration than a hasty vote.

"To try to limit debate on this most important matter that Senator Feingold is going to put before the Senate is not appropriate," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader.

Democrats' hesitancy was a sign they remained reluctant to challenge Mr. Bush on some national security questions even as he was struggling in public opinion polls and set back on the transfer of some American port operations to an Arab company. Though polls on surveillance are mixed, Republicans say the public generally backs the idea of eavesdropping on people suspected of being in contact with terror suspects.

"The American people already made their decision," Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday in an appearance in Mr. Feingold's home state, The Associated Press reported. "They agree with the president."

[...]

posted by digaman at 9:55 PM on March 13, 2006


Based on the horseshit above, there's no doubt the dios of centuries past reached with shaking hand for the ethical bedrock of Article 4, Section 2, at the first protest against slavery.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:26 PM on March 13, 2006


What is that old saying about the govornment a country deserves? Oh yeah, it's what they fucking get.
posted by squirrel at 12:18 AM on March 14, 2006


Government, that is. My fault for typing with hands shaking from shame and rage.
posted by squirrel at 12:19 AM on March 14, 2006


Well, this immense thread sure died in a hurry. What was the point? We have a party in power with, evidently, no brains and a party out of power with, obviously, no 'nads. All here knew both before the thread started, and yet...all that verbiage to no purpose. In the end it's the same as if no one had spoken.
posted by jfuller at 4:02 AM on March 14, 2006


Considering Feingold, this came to mind:

"The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits, and starts of generosity. But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world.

The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the sympathy of people in those actions whose excellence is that they outrun sympathy, and appeal to a tardy justice. If you would serve your brother, because it is fit for you to serve him, do not take back your words when you find that prudent people do not commend you. Adhere to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
posted by darkstar at 4:13 AM on March 14, 2006


Oh spare me, jfuller. Did you expect Bush to be ridden out on a rail yesterday afternoon?

Thank goodness for Feingold's bravery, and I learned a lot from reading this thread alone. Every move in the right direction helps, and will eventually put us in a better place.
posted by digaman at 4:15 AM on March 14, 2006


Lovely, darkstar.
posted by digaman at 4:16 AM on March 14, 2006


The MSNBC and NYTimes analysis is crap, I'd say. Frist popped up there before Feingold to sneak in an immediate vote with no additional discussion right after Feingold's presentation. This was clearly an attempt to give the measure as little exposure as possible, and make the whole thing disappear after Feingold had his 25 minutes. As Dick Durbin elaborated later on, the point of the legislation is to encourage additional investigation of the illegal program. Frist was trying to quiet the opposition, plain and simple. We'll see who's opposed to a roll call vote when it comes down to it, but this wasn't the issue yesterday.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:31 AM on March 14, 2006


> As Dick Durbin elaborated later on, the point of the legislation is to
> encourage additional investigation of the illegal program.

Oh. My. Ghod. The surveillance thing has had more exposure than Brokeback Mountain. The only possible reason for "studying the issue" some more is to avoid doing anything about it. Tell me...if you or digaman or 99% of the people who posted to this thread were senators, would you have needed more time to think about how you really felt about a motion to censure? Of course you wouldn't, and I point to the vehemence of this very thread as proof. The only possible reason for actual office-holders to want more time is to look down their panties with a microscope to see if there's anything there but nuance.

posted by jfuller at 5:00 AM on March 14, 2006


thanks for adding to the silence, jfuller.
posted by crunchland at 5:05 AM on March 14, 2006


Senators with a majority or senators without a majority? 'Cause that's an important difference.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:45 AM on March 14, 2006


rxrfrx, I naturally imagine you (and the many other well-known mefi warriors) as senators who would stand tall and walk the plank for what's right, majority be damned. Cheers.
posted by jfuller at 7:44 AM on March 14, 2006


Arrr!
posted by darkstar at 7:54 AM on March 14, 2006


Well, you sound angry enough, jfuller. When you figure out what it's all about, let us know.
posted by digaman at 8:02 AM on March 14, 2006


"walk the plank" by immediately voting on the resolution, and losing, so it can never be discussed? You aren't making sense.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2006


a reminder, from June: The bitter debate about John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations may have called unwelcome attention to the spying practices of the National Security Agency. Bolton told Congress last month that he asked the NSA for the names of Americans in raw intel reports. NSA rules prohibit the agency from spying on Americans; if electronic eavesdroppers inadvertently pick up American names, the NSA is supposed to black them out before forwarding reports to other agencies. But analysts and policymakers can make written requests to the NSA for U.S. names, which the State Department says Bolton did 10 times since 2001. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2006


Indeed, amberglow.
posted by digaman at 10:21 AM on March 14, 2006


Sheesh, Leiberman is such a putz. He should just change parties, already. Has there been any word from the other "presidential hopefuls," Hillary, Kerry, etc.?

I'm looking forward to seeing the roll call vote, so I can know which Dems to utterly condemn for near-treasonous collusion! *starts the popcorn*
posted by zoogleplex at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2006


Feingold today, speaking truth: I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues. … [Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists. ...
posted by amberglow at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2006


I'm looking forward to seeing the roll call vote

Me too. Anyone have a link to a list of which Dems opposed having this come to a vote? Those are the ones who need a boot in the ass.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2006


"So many Democrats seem to view Republicans like some drunken, abusive stepfather. They hate the bastard, despise how he's abused and duped their poor mother, obsess on seeing him fail, are petrified of his anger -- and yet deep down crave nothing more than a pat on the back from him after they hit a homer in Little League."

-- Trey Ellis
posted by digaman at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2006


Worth reading the whole thing.

A Peculiar Politician

William Greider

Tue Mar 14, 4:12 PM ET

The Nation -- Senator Russ Feingold is an embarrassment to the US Senate, which makes him an authentic hero of the Republic. The Wisconsin senator gets up and says out loud what half of the country is thinking and talks about every day. This President broke the law and lied about it; he trashed the Constitution and hides himself in the flag. Feingold asks: Shouldn't the Senate say something about this, at least express our disapproval? He introduces a resolution of censure and calls for debate.

Well, that tore it in the august chamber of lawmakers. Democrats scurried away like scared rats. And Republicans chortled at the thought. You want to censure our warrior President, the guy who defends us every day against
terrorist attacks? Let's have a vote right now, the Republican leader demanded. Yuk, yuk.

The joke is obvious to everyone in the Washington club--politics trumps principle, especially when it is about something as esoteric as the Constitution. It's a nonstory, the club agrees, not a constitutional crisis.

The Washington Post runs an obligatory account on page 8, quoting Mr. Anonymous Democrat Strategist on the unwisdom of Feingold's gesture. The New York Times story on page 24 quotes the esteemed constitutional authority Dick Cheney. The House Republican leader (who replaced the corrupt House leader who resigned) denounces Feingold's resolution as "political grandstanding of the very worst kind." Like the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton for fellatio in the White House? Go away, Feingold, let us get back to the people's business.


[...]
posted by digaman at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2006


Democrats Fuming Over Feingold
posted by homunculus at 9:34 PM on March 14, 2006


I wrote my senators, Feingold and Kohl. Told Kohl to stand up with Sen. Feingold.

I can't help but think that a lot of "Democrats" are really undercover Republicans, there to keep everyone off their balance. Sounds paranoid, huh? Sadly, the times are such that paranoid chains of thought seem perfectly reasonable.
posted by Goofyy at 11:11 PM on March 14, 2006


The following Democratic senators have come out for censuring the president:

Daniel Akaka
Max Baucus
Byron Dorgan
Dick Durbin
Dianne Feinstein
Daniel Inouye
Jim Jeffords
Ted Kennedy
John Kerry
Herb Kohl
Mary Landrieu
Carl Levin
Joe Lieberman
Blanche Lincoln
Barbara Mikulski
Patty Murray
Jack Reed
Harry Reid
Jay Rockefeller
Chuck Schumer
Ron Wyden

Unfortunately, the president being censured was Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush. Because, you know, these senators had their priorities straight. kos
posted by madamjujujive at 10:36 AM on March 15, 2006


I read a comment the other day that suggested that the Democrats do not want to press the issue because they themselves would like these powers as well. So their strategy would then be to try and win in the upcoming elections, but let the Republicans take the heat for setting these wildly unpopular precedents.

If that is indeed the kind of thinking going on in Blue HQ, we're all boned.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:00 AM on March 15, 2006


the spineless way they're acting, they won't be winning any elections ever...just because people are unhappy with Bush doesn't at all mean they'll come running out in Nov to vote Democratic--that's something they haven't learned yet--midterms are for the base--and they're ensuring a low turnout from the base.
posted by amberglow at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2006


rudepundit has it exactly right, as usual: Message To Democrats: Supporting Feingold Is the Path To Enlightenment: ...What the rest of the Democratic Party ain't gettin' is that the nation is fuckin' begging for the party to stand up and say, "Enough." Bush's poll numbers are in the tank despite non-stop coverage of every flea fart of a speech he gives, despite the political talk shows being filled to swelling with Republicans and Joe Lieberman saying how goddamned wonderful the President is, except for a minor thing here or there, like, you know, the war; with the bloviators of the air and of the Congress saying that it's unpatriotic to question the President; and without any serious news organization or investigative body exposing the rotten worm and maggot-filled underbelly of all the scandal that's eating away the nation. ...
They are being played by the Republicans, who are scared shitless that they'll be forced to go on record, with a vote, that they support the illegal activities of the White House. So they are lashing out, calling Feingold a "traitor" and double dog daring Democrats to support him. Looking at how loudly the Republicans are screaming. As the Democratic Leadership Council's Marshall Wittman said, "The Republicans couldn't contain their glee over an attempt to censure the president for being overly zealous in defending the country against al-Qaeda." The DLC are a bunch of tools, idiots for whom triangulation is resistance. And they're wrong about the Republican huffing and puffing. It's a Rovean bluff. Call that fucker. Back Feingold and the public will follow you to 2006 and 2008 because you actually said enough is, indeed, enough.
...

posted by amberglow at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2006


The Censure Resolution -- which is a great political boon to Republicans, massive self-destruction by Democrats, the greatest political blunder in 100 years, and the life raft that will single-handedly save George Bush's drowning presidency -- is already supported by a plurality of Americans, 46% to 44%. According to the first poll on censure, from the American Research Group ...
posted by amberglow at 7:16 PM on March 16, 2006


Here is a story with partial dishonor roll of Dems who won't back censure. My favorite part:
Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2006


it's disgusting, Kirth.

Feingold writes to the NYT in response to an editorial of theirs: ... You are right that the nation deserves to know more details about the National Security Agency's spying program, but there's nothing we could learn that would change the fact that by authorizing the program, the president broke the law.

Member of both parties who have concerns about the legality of the N.S.A.'s program, and there are quite a few, should not try to avoid that central issue while offering proposals to legalize the president's conduct.

I strongly support wiretapping terrorists to protect our national security, which current law allows.

The president needs to follow that law, or inform Congress of any reasons he thinks that law should be changed. He has a responsibility to obey the laws that Congress passes.

There must be no equivocation on that central tenet of our system of government. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:57 PM on March 18, 2006


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