Pig in the parlor
August 21, 2006 1:14 PM   Subscribe

"If this program is unlawful, federal law expressly makes the ordering of surveillance under the program a federal felony. That would mean that the president could be guilty of no fewer than 30 felonies in office." George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley on what's missing in the latest debate over the NSA program. [Bugmenot, Via Glenn Greenwald.]
posted by homunculus (33 comments total)
"The question of the president's possible criminal acts has long been the pig in the parlor that polite people in Congress refused to acknowledge."

Bush himself, on the other hand, loves to talk about the pig.
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on August 21, 2006

Meanwhile, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe responds to a NYTimes article on the quality of the decision:
My point isn’t that judges who play the role Judge Taylor did should never be held to account for the shoddy quality of their legal analysis; of course they should, especially in the context of sober second thoughts offered in law reviews and other scholarly venues. But it’s those with constitutional blood on their hands who deserve to be chastized most insistently in the public press, and it seems to me something of an indulgence to spend so much time complaining in the media that the judge who called foul used some ill-chosen rhetoric, and that she stuttered and sputtered a bit more than necessary, when the principal effects might well be to underscore one’s own professional credentials and one’s cleverness and even-handedness and fair-mindedness at the expense of distracting the general public from the far more important conclusion that the nation’s chief executive has been guilty of a shamelessly unlawful power grab.
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on August 21, 2006

That piece comparing the Ramsey and wiretapping media coverage is just plain sad. So much for the liberal media.
posted by brain_drain at 1:26 PM on August 21, 2006

Reg req'd on first link.
posted by mkultra at 1:46 PM on August 21, 2006

"If the President does it, it's not illegal."
posted by orthogonality at 1:50 PM on August 21, 2006

"If the President does it, it's not illegal."

Unless it's getting a blowjob, as 1 million t-shirts and protest signs have mirthfully to mirthlessly pointed out over the past six years.
posted by illovich at 1:55 PM on August 21, 2006

I listened to Turley talk about the decision and his view at that time was thatg the argumentgs bpresented were not very well developed or convincing. But he did not take issue one way or other with the decision itself.

Since this will work its way through the courts, why get all worked up at this point? When a decision is reached that is final might be a more appropriate time.
posted by Postroad at 2:00 PM on August 21, 2006

Link to the article that doesn't require registration.

Certainly, nobody wants to mention the "I" word, particularly not the Democrats who believe that the threat of impeachment could scare away independent voters in the November elections.

Court decisions, however, may make it increasingly difficult for members to ignore a squealing constitutional violation in their midst.

Republicans are now struggling to find a way to protect the president from public accountability.

Interesting times.
posted by nickyskye at 2:01 PM on August 21, 2006

Surely this will... oh fuck, it.
posted by keswick at 2:04 PM on August 21, 2006

On one hand, if Dems were to control the house and Impeached the President, it would seem like they're just trying to get back at him and that Dems are just freedom hating, terrorist loving traitors (no doubt thats how it would be spun). And there is a decent chance of squandering what good will the people had for the Democrats to correct the course.

Of course, if the Impeachment went through and he were convictd we'd be stuck with Cheney.


Just censue him in January and get on with fixing this train wreck.
posted by SirOmega at 2:06 PM on August 21, 2006

SirOmega writes "Just censue him in January and get on with fixing this train wreck."

It's going to take decades to fix Bush's multiple trainwrecks -- if we're lucky.
posted by orthogonality at 2:11 PM on August 21, 2006

The Bush Power-Grab Scorecard
posted by eddydamascene at 2:15 PM on August 21, 2006

American politics is becoming amusing. We can all see the wheels falling off the train.

I wonder if the bridge ahead has been washed out? How big a disaster will this be?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

If the President does it, it's not illegal. That's the Bush position, but the problem is, there's a lot of truth in it. The legal opinions from the Attorney General carry a lot of weight. No one will ever be prosecuted for relying on those opinions, even if they are totally misguided.

Example: Tomorrow, Gonzales issues an official opinion saying that laws against rape are unconstitutional and should not be enforced. Relying on that opinion, someone commits a rape. Even if later court decisions expressly address this and set things straight (laws against rape are constitutional and enforceable), that person is not going to be charged with a crime.

After all, if you can't trust the Attorney General to reasonably interpret the law, who can you trust?

The *best* that can be hoped for is that future Presidents, more honest, less power-hungry ones, obey the law as the courts and Congress have laid it out. No one will ever receive any sort of comeuppance.
posted by jellicle at 2:21 PM on August 21, 2006

jellicle, that's mostly right, although the defense isn't necessarily absolute. An advice-of-counsel defense works only if legal advice was relied upon reasonably and in good faith. If Bush and Gonzalez (and whoever else) got together and cooked up a scheme to give themselves artificial legal cover for their actions, then it wasn't reasonable for Bush to rely on an opinion blessing the legality of the program.

But I do agree that the hurdles to overcoming the defense are high in this case. They'll get even higher after a few (and hopefully just a few) Supreme Court justices hold that Gonzalez' advice was correct, or at least reasonable.
posted by brain_drain at 2:41 PM on August 21, 2006

Gonzalezs, whoops!
posted by brain_drain at 2:43 PM on August 21, 2006

So...the lesson is what? It sucks when your leaders are corrupt? Oh well? If crimes were committed, asses should sting. We’re a country of laws, no man is above the law and no man is more important than the rule of law. I’m not an expert on the nuances of the law, while I have my opinions, I can’t debate as well as some as to whether crimes were committed. It may be that justice will not be done because of the political realities, but as a practical matter it is not good if people get away with it in this way.
Still, secular karma is a bitch. F’ed Joe Kennedy up in a big way.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM on August 21, 2006

Surely this[ANVIL]
posted by riotgrrl69 at 4:01 PM on August 21, 2006

We’re a country of laws, no man is above the law and no man is more important than the rule of law.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:15 PM PST

Yea....how's HAS that kind of thinking worked out over the last 100's of years?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:26 PM on August 21, 2006

After all, if you can't trust the Attorney General to reasonably interpret the law, who can you trust?

Thanks for confirming that the US does indeed have a government of men, not laws.
posted by telstar at 4:47 PM on August 21, 2006

Meh. I've given up on the whole subject myself. Anyone wanna bet that "Osama" will deliver another one of his rousing "recorded speeches" to the electorate less than a week away from election day?
posted by clevershark at 5:05 PM on August 21, 2006

clevershark has it. Despite the obvious shameless manipulation of the "terror" climate to win elections, the republican sissies continue to pull it out of their asses every time. And wussed-out Americans afraid of their own shadows fall in line and kiss GOP ass. I wouldn't take your bet, clevershark. Osama always shows up near election day. You'd think they had him in a studio, ready to go, wouldn't you? But that would make me a tinfoil hat type.

Aluminum foil: It's the new red, white, and blue.

And yes, I do believe the Bush administration makes up terrorist threats and probably has "Osama" on a string somewhere. I believe the absolute worst about these motherf*ckers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:11 PM on August 21, 2006

Winston's diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard -- a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party -- an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the revolution had been betrayed -- and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein's specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army -- row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers' boots formed the background to Goldstein's bleating voice.
posted by telstar at 5:35 PM on August 21, 2006

Surely +++NO CARRIER
posted by bashos_frog at 7:41 PM on August 21, 2006

Y'know, folk shouldn't be afraid to locate the pay-off paragraph in their links, to post as a summary of the link. F'rinstance, homunculus' link is actually well worth reading. It says this:
...that does not necessarily make it flawed. ...A basic familiarity with this case and with the rules of civil procedure — both of which many of her critics clearly lacked — would reveal that Judge Taylor's opinion was infinitely more sound than the conventional wisdom (thanks to many of these law professors) now holds that it was.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:25 PM on August 22, 2006

homunculus' link is actually well worth reading.

Well, DUH!
posted by homunculus at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2006

Sorry, I didn't mean it like it sounded! It's just that at the end of threads, several days later, it's kinda crapshoot as to whether the links are worth reading any more. Or so I find.

Whereas this time, it's actually important that anyone still watching this thread read this new information: in my opinion, the author pretty much eviscerates those talking heads that have been making light of the ruling. The "experts" have been wrong, because none of them were actually qualified for the matter.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on August 22, 2006

Tho' mind you, I haven't the foggiest whether the blogger has any more knowledge than anyone else...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:39 PM on August 22, 2006

Man, I hope your legal system eventually wins out on all this.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:18 PM on August 23, 2006

Me too. The alternative isn't pretty to contemplate.
posted by homunculus at 9:42 PM on August 24, 2006

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