I don't understand. An hour after I saw the Times "scoop" on the Bush illegal wiretapping plan, I wrote that it was clearly illegal and unconstitutional.
But as it now turns out, dozens of politicians, as well as the New York Times knew about the surveillance plan and did nothing.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, and Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, a man known for some sensitivity to civil liberties infringements, and a substantial number of congressmen, plus the New York Times, all knew of Bush's illegal spying. Pelosi, Rockefeller, and several other congressmen "confidentially" expressed concern but did nothing. Nothing.
Not a peep.
Why? It is totally obvious, (1) that the FISA statute specifically prohibits what the President did, and (2) that the congressional permission to use force to fight overseas does not permit illegal surveillance.
You need not be a lawyer to know that it's illegal--anyone who can read or understand English can see the plain language of the statute and the military force authorization. Why didn't Pelosi, Rockefeller and the others take a closer look at the illegal surveillance? Even people in Ashcroft's justice department recognized it was illegal--they refused to sign off. They refused to sign off, showing more courage than our Democratic congressmen. For a while, the Bush administration tried to float that the legal justification for the wiretap program was a 34-year old conservative wunderkind, John Yoo, presently teaching at Stanford University. They claimed that his sophisticated legal analysis determined Bush's policy.
It was apparent that Bush's John Yoo story was totally false. There are layers and layers of bureaucracy in the Department of Justice, and Yoo's memo would have had to go up the ladder. It's now been confirmed that the Yoo story was fake, for his superiors knew that his legal rationale was at best questionable.
We also learned, this Saturday on January 7th, that the congressional research services, a nonpartisan arm of the Congress, said that the "legal rationale... does not seem to be as well-grounded as the Bush team now argues." Why then didn't Pelosi, Rockefeller, or the others, immediately after learning of the programs, get a legal analysis of the program's constitutionality? Instead, they choose to ignore the democratic process and let unchallenged a program that authorized unconstitutional physical break-ins and the surveillance of millions of Americans.
Was it that it was not their ox being gored? We know that most Americans do not believe in or support the Bill of Rights. The benefits of liberty, freedom, and privacy rights are too ephemeral and not concrete. Do our politicians also really believe that those ephemeral rights fall in the face of Bush's claims of national security damage?
In truth, Pelosi, Rockefeller, and the New York Times collaborated with Bush for four years to ignore the Constitution. No one did anything on behalf of the millions of Americans being surveyed. At the end of the day, no one tried to stop it or even examine it. That says a great deal about our politicians' commitment to democracy and the Constitution. In the immortal words of John Mitchell, the head of Nixon's Department of Justice, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Hopefully, the Democrats will compel Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, to tell us why he believes the spy program is not illegal. If the Democrats can't even get that in the nomination process, then the country is in worse shape than I thought.
We, the people of the United States have every reason to be angry and furious, not only at Bush, but also at those supposedly better-intentioned people who permitted this to remain undiscovered and unchecked for so long.