Just as Democrats are leading the effort to extinguish lawsuits against telecommunication companies for unlawful surveillance of citizens, a federal judge has ruled that President Bush and his aides violated federal law in conducting the surveillance program. Not addressed in the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker is that a violation of the FISA law (which he found trumps the military and state secrets privilege) is a felony. Meaning? President Bush knowingly committed felonies over thirty times and Congress has remained completely passive. In the meantime, Walker has ruled that the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation must still supply evidence that it was the subject of the illegal program despite the fact that the courts will not let it use evidence accidentally disclosed by the government (that seems to establish that fact).
When the surveillance program was first revealed, I testified in Congress that the program was manifestly unlawful and constituted an impeachable offense. Click here. Many Bush supporters insisted that it was perfectly legal despite the clear language in the statute making it a crime. People like Gen. Hayden insisted the NSA lawyers reviewed the program and said that there was no doubt that it was legal.
Walker saw no ambiguity or good–faith excuse:
Congress included in the FISA bill a declaration that the FISA regime, together with the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 … were to be the “exclusive means” by which domestic electronic surveillance for national security purposes could be conducted. … This provision and its legislative history left no doubt that Congress intended to displace entirely the various warrantless wiretapping and surveillance programs undertaken by the executive branch and to leave no room for the president to undertake warrantless surveillance in the domestic sphere in the future.
The question is whether any of this will motivate some Democrats to take action and stop protecting the President from being held accountable for these crimes.
The decision on the charity is unfortunate. The government is still allowed to demand that the charity prove that it was a target while refusing to disclose any information needed to establish that fact. It is an obvious area for congressional intervention, but thus far Congress has only intervened to kill such lawsuits and deter courts from rendering such judgments.
For the full story, click here.