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Friday, June 09, 2006

A new low -- the Senate seeks to "pardon" the President for past lawbreaking

by Glenn Greenwald


Observing and commenting on the behavior of Arlen Specter is one of the most
unpleasant obligations a person can have, but for anyone following the
NSA eavesdropping scandal specifically, and the Bush administration's
abuses of executive power generally, it is a necessary evil. The
principal reason that the Bush administration has been able to impose
its radical theories of lawbreaking on the country is because Congress,
with an unseemly eagerness, has permitted itself to be humiliated over
and over by an administration which does not hide its contempt for the
notion that Congress has any role to play in limiting and checking the
executive branch. And few people have more vividly illustrated that
institutional debasement than Arlen Specter, who, along with Pat
Roberts, has done more than anyone else to ensure that Congress
completely relinquishes its constitutional powers to the President.

Congressional
abdication is so uniquely damaging because the Founders assumed that
Congress would naturally and instinctively resist encroachments by the
executive, and the resulting institutional tension -- the inevitable
struggle for power between the branches -- is what would preserve
governmental balance and prevent true abuses of power. But for the last
five years, Congress has done the opposite of what the Founders
envisioned. They have meekly submitted to the almost total elimination
of their role in our Government and have quietly accepted consolidation
of their powers in the President.

If the Congress is unmoved by
their constitutional responsibilities, then at least basic human
dignity ought to compel them to object to the administration's contempt
for the laws they pass. After all, the laws which the administration
claims it can ignore and has been breaking are their laws. The Senate passed FISA by a vote of 95-1, and the McCain torture ban by a vote of 90-9, and it is those laws
which the President is proclaiming he will simply ignore. And yet not
only have they not objected, they have endorsed and even celebrated the
President's claimed power to ignore the laws passed by Congress. And
that failure, more than anything else, is what has brought us to the
real constitutional crisis we face as a result of having a President
who claims the power to operate outside of, and above, the law.

A
bill proposed yesterday by Arlen Specter to resolve the NSA scandal --
literally his fifth or sixth proposed bill on this subject in the last
few months -- would drag the Congress to a new low of debasement. According to The Washington Post, Specter has introduced a bill "that would give President Bush the option
of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic
surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National
Security Agency." This proposal is the very opposite of everything
Specter has saying for the last several months:

Specter's
approach modifies his earlier position that the NSA eavesdropping
program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in
which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

A
law which makes it "an option" -- rather than a requirement -- for the
Government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping is about as
meaningless of a law as can be imagined.

But that complete
change of heart by Specter is not even nearly the most corrupt part of
his proposed bill. For pure corruption and constitutional abdication,
nothing could match this:

Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty
to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential
authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held
criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present
law.

---------------
read the rest......
Pre-Pardon the preznit???

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