Bush Backs Down on Violating Law over Warrantless Wiretaps

When news of the warrantless wiretaps first came out, some said that this made George Bush the first President to actually admit to an impeachable offense. Apparently he paid too much attention to the claims that the Republicans were building a permanent majority and didn’t envision that the Democrats would take control of Congress, making this admission far more dangerous. Bush, who hasn’t been quick to back down (except when there is a children’s book to read when the country is under attack, or when he threatens to capture bin Laden dead or alive) has flip flopped on this one. The Washington Post reports:

The Justice Department announced today that the National Security Agency’s controversial warrantless surveillance program has been placed under the authority of a secret surveillance court, marking an abrupt change in approach by the Bush administration after more than a year of heated debate.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said that orders issued on Jan. 10 by an unidentified judge puts the NSA program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel that oversees most intelligence surveillance in the United States.

Gonzales also wrote that the current NSA program will effectively be abandoned after its current authorization expires in favor of the new approach.

The change marks a dramatic turn of events for the Justice Department, which has strenuously argued for more than a year that the NSA spying program was legal and that the foreign intelligence court was poorly suited to oversee the program, as many lawmakers had advocated.

While Bush has apparently agreed to stop breaking the law, not all Democrats are willing to forgive and forget:

“While this may be a step in the right direction, it should not deflect the attention of the American people or the Congress from seeking answers about the current and past operation of this program,” said House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers.

When I, and others, criticized the warrantless wiretaps in the past there were frequently replies from conservative bloggers that we were trying to undermine the gathering of intelligence, that the FISA court was too slow, and that it was absolutely essential that the President have this authority. Captain’s Quarters appears uncertain about how to reconcile this sudden change:

However, for those of us who supported the White House on this contentious point, the speed in which they reached accommodation with FISA will call into question that early support. By my count, we’ve had ten entire weeks since the midterms and they’ve managed to scale a mountain that they claimed was insurmountable for the previous five years.

Perhaps more explanations will be forthcoming. I, for one, will be waiting.

Add this to the growing list of things which should get conservatives to reconsider their devotion to George Bush.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    e proach. says:

    ‘Gonzales also wrote that the current NSA program will effectively be abandoned after its current authorization expires in favor of the new approach.’

    All the CIA analysts have moved to DOD. Now, the NSA(DIA/DOD) is losing it’s charter. DOD is losing the most effect tool it has ever had and, you know, someone might say this was planned.

    I’ve got to go that all the guys doing these moves, including Plame, were x air force and that’s what you can tell the FSB.

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