Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What Did the President Know, and When Did He Know It?

A 2003 memo suggests the Bush administration knew then that its warrantless wiretap program was illegal.

The Center for Public Integrity cites the public firestorm that came up after the Bush administration proposed "Partriot II" -- a planned expansion of the Patriot Act.

Patriot II died -- but many of it's elements were passed in some other form.

However, the warrantless wiretap plan never passed. From the CPI website:

"One 'Patriot II' provision, which never passed, would have sought expanded wartime powers for the Attorney General. Under the heading, 'Section 103. Strengthening Wartime Authorities Under FISA,' the memo explains that current law authorizes surveillance for 15 days without court approval, once Congress has declared war.

But as formally declared wars are rare, the most recent being World War II, the Justice Department memo concludes, 'this wartime exception is unnecessarily narrow.' The proposed law sought to broaden powers 'by allowing the wartime exception to be invoked after Congress authorizes the use of military force, or after the United States has suffered an attack creating a national emergency.' "
The Justice Department appears to have determined in the memo that the domestic spying program would require a change in the law. But the law -- FISA -- was never changed. (Center for Public Integrity)

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