Friday, January 06, 2006

When is a crisis really a crisis?

If the courts ever adopt the position of the Congressional Resarch Service on this issue, will Bush maintain his position on this issue?

President Bush's rationale for authorizing eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground and "may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb," according to a formal Congressional analysis released today.

The analysis, conducted by the Congressional Research Service, an independent research arm of Congress, is the first formal assessment of a question that has gripped Washington for the last three weeks: Did President Bush act within the law when he ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans?

While the Congressional report reached no bottom-line conclusions on whether the program is legal or not, it concluded that the legal rationale appears somewhat dubious. The legal rationale "does not seem to be as well-grounded" as the Bush administration's lawyers have suggested, and Congress did not appear to have intended to authorize warrantless wiretaps when it gave President Bush the authority to wage war against Al Qaeda in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report concluded.

Bush administration lawyers quickly took issue with the report's conclusions, arguing that President Bush acted within his constitutional and statutory powers in approving the N.S.A. program.

"The president has made clear that he will use his constitutional and statutory authorities to protect the American people from further terrorist attacks," said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Justice Department.

Because that is essentially an extra-legal argument that national security (always a vaguey defined concept) trumps even the legal system.

Which is how the Roman Empire justified the power of the dictator. And why Brutus felt it necessary to kill Julius.

Inquiring minds are worried.

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