Saturday, December 24, 2005

DNC vs. RNC: President Bush Wiretaps

The Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee web sites both address the controversial approval of wiretaps by President Bush. The contrast is interesting with the DNC saying it is an “extra-legal” move on the administration’s part that “explicitly violates” the law. Howard Dean wrote a letter that is published on the DNC’s site. He makes a comparison with President Nixon. Conversely, the RNC site quotes from a Washington Times article in which President Clinton is used as an example of approving similar measures. Here are some excerpts:

DNC: These actions explicitly violate a law designed to protect US citizens. But the administration says that other laws somehow allow for this unprecedented use of a foreign intelligence agency to spy on Americans right here in the United States.

We have seen this kind of arrogance of power before. Richard Nixon once said in an interview that, "if the president does it, it can't be illegal." He found out that wasn't true. This administration may need a reminder.

RNC: Previous administrations, as well as the court that oversees national security cases, agreed with President Bush's position that a president legally may authorize searches without warrants in pursuit of foreign intelligence.

"The Department of Justice believes -- and the case law supports -- that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general," Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

That same authority, she added, pertains to electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.

One of the most famous examples of warrantless searches in recent years was the investigation of CIA official Aldrich H. Ames, who ultimately pleaded guilty to spying for the former Soviet Union. That case was largely built upon secret searches of Ames' home and office in 1993, conducted without federal warrants.

In 1994, President Clinton expanded the use of warrantless searches to entirely domestic situations with no foreign intelligence value whatsoever. In a radio address promoting a crime-fighting bill, Mr. Clinton discussed a new policy to conduct warrantless searches in highly violent public housing projects.

Links to the articles:

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