I Blame Claire McCaskill, Or What Happens When Congress Becomes an Advisory Body

Claire McCaskill voted for the recent wiretapping law that gave the Bush administration sweeping new powers to spy on Americans. Just how sweeping, and just how badly the Democrats bungled the bill is now becoming evident. According to a New York Times article linked to by TPM:

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.


Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States.
These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called “trap and trace” operations, analyzing specific calling patterns.

Claire, let’s get something strait. When I voted for you I did so because I was under the impression that you, unlike Talent, would protect the rights, liberties and freedoms of the citizens of the United States. So far, however, I’m not seeing a difference between you and Talent. Consequently, I will not be voting for you next time. Which brings us to the next bit in the NY Times article:

Yet Bush administration officials have already signaled that, in their view, the president retains his constitutional authority to do whatever it takes to protect the country, regardless of any action Congress takes. At a tense meeting last week with lawyers from a range of private groups active in the wiretapping issue, senior Justice Department officials refused to commit the administration to adhering to the limits laid out in the new legislation and left open the possibility that the president could once again use what they have said in other instances is his constitutional authority to act outside the regulations set by Congress.
At the meeting, Bruce Fein, a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration, along with other critics of the legislation, pressed Justice Department officials repeatedly for an assurance that the administration considered itself bound by the restrictions imposed by Congress. The Justice Department, led by Ken Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national security, refused to do so, according to three participants in the meeting. [emphasis mine – afarensis] That stance angered Mr. Fein and others. It sent the message, Mr. Fein said in an interview, that the new legislation, though it is already broadly worded, “is just advisory. The president can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not changed their position that the president’s Article II powers trump any ability by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence.”

So, basically, Congress is just an advisory body, much like in most dictatorships, it exists just to make suggestions and so we can pretend to be a democracy…

5 Responses

  1. I agree with the last paragraph of the TPM post…
    “That’s the important thing to remember: the White House considers the legislation “just advisory,” so it doesn’t much matter whether or not lawmakers gave up too much authority to the president. He’s going to do what he wants to do.”
    It could be argued that White House has been doing pretty much as it pleases these past few years anyway – Iraq is just one example – and I can sympathise with the idea that Americans now effectively live in the age of the ‘benign dictator’, although ‘benign’ probably isn’t an adjective everyone would care to use.

  2. Oh golly, the Democrats fucked us again.
    Imagine that!

  3. I voted for her too! Damn it.

  4. My representative here in Kansas voted against the bill. So did Obama and Clinton.
    But that’s not the worrisome point here.
    What, if anything, can be done about a President who believes that he can do anything he wants? Doesn’t that become high treason or criminal after a certain point? I want to see Bush rot in jail along with the rest of the evil trinity, Rove and Cheney.

  5. I haven’t checked yet, but I’m sure Lacy Clay – my Rep in the House – voted no. I’m also just as sure that Bond voted yes…

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