05/16/2006 03:10 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

They Knew It Was Illegal

A small but very important part of the USA Today story on NSA domestic spying is being over looked. Toward the end of the article, the paper mentions that Qwest asked the administration to come up with someone else in the government to sign off on this secret spying program - and they couldn't do it.

Here's the relevant part of the USA Today article:

"Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events."

They couldn't even get John Ashcroft to sign off on this program! And they couldn't bring it to the courts - because they knew it was illegal.

There is no other logical reason to refuse to ask the FISA court for its approval. And they even admitted it - they thought the FISA court would probably not agree with them. Remember how hard they leaned on Qwest to get them to cooperate, including questioning their patriotism and threatening to take away their other federal contracts. Even under these conditions, they didn't want to risk exposing the program to anyone else in the government. If they were so sure it was legal, what did they have to hide?

Let's get real. They realized they were going outside the law. That's why they wouldn't ask the courts for permission under any circumstances. Now they create straw man arguments about Al Qaeda killing millions of Americans with a nuclear bomb if we don't use this program (Newt Gingrich actually said this on Meet the Press this weekend), though Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor can"t point to a single instance where this program helped to capture one terrorist.

If you know, or even suspect, that someone is linked to Al Qaeda, there isn't court in the country that would deny you a warrant. It's your job to investigate these people and protect us. When you run off to investigate innocent Americans instead - that's when you have to get around the law and work without a warrant.

And finally, if the administration thought warrants, federal laws and the United States Constitution were so burdensome, then they should have asked to change the laws they didn't like. The president doesn't just get to ignore laws he finds inconvenient. That's not a democracy. In our constitutional democracy, laws have to be passed by Congress.

Our democracy might prove inconvenient to the Bush administration, but that doesn't give them the right to ignore it. It really is astounding how little they care about our system of government. Then, they have the nerve to turn around and call people America haters.

Asking our government to follow our laws, our constitution and our way of life doesn't mean we hate America, it means we love it. No man is above the law here. I can't believe we've come to a day where we have to explain that to our president.

The Young Turks