Bush Abuses 9/11 Resolution as Specter Gets Déjà Vu

01/20/2006 05:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Bush Administration's "new" defense of warrantless domestic spying sounds just like its old defense: the 9/11 resolution supposedly empowers the President to take actions that the resolution doesn't even mention.

You don't need to be a lawyer to know it's hard to authorize something without mentioning it.

But Bush's lawyers have claimed the 9/11 resolution authorized all sorts of actions it never mentioned.

Big things, like going to war with Iraq. And Syria. And now warrantless spying on Americans.

Of course, Congress did pass a specific authorization to attack Iraq. But that was only after it rejected the White House claim that an attack on Iraq was already authorized by the 9/11 resolution. Even Bush's Republicans allies couldn't swallow that trick. In a bizarre CNN interview on August 4, 2002, Sen. Arlen Specter had to announce the obvious: "the resolution which we passed on September 14th to act against al Qaeda does not apply to Iraq." (As for Syria, just this past October, Secretary of State Condi Rice claimed President Bush could attack the country without congressional approval as part of the War on Terror.)

Today the White House is facing a fierce backlash for claiming the 9/11 resolution authorizes spying. Specter, now Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, probably felt some déjà vu last week, when he had to tell George Stephanopoulos that the 9/11 authorization did not allow domestic spying either. We have to wait and see if he acknowledges this Administration pattern in his February oversight hearings on the spy program.

There is clearly a growing chorus of bipartisan and nonpartisan experts debunking the Administration's latest attempt to abuse the 9/11 resolution, (along with the other rationales in the Justice Department's new spy memo). As these experts eviscerate the Administration's legal claims - and challenges to the program move through the courts - we must remember we've seen this deception before. The media should not gloss over the troubling record either; the Administration has a history of failed efforts to distort the 9/11 resolution.