Holder: Warrantless Surveillance was “Unwise” Rather than “Illegal”

holderericAttorney General Eric Holder left little question in anyone’s mind this week that the Obama Administration will not allow a prosecution of unlawful surveillance during the Bush Administration. As with the torture program, the Administration has been avoiding questions about its failure to prosecute the illegal surveillance program. Now, Holder has refused to call the program “illegal” and would only refer to it as “unwise.” I intent to use this as my main defense in my next criminal case: my client’s robbery of a bank was merely “unwise” and a lack of wisdom does not justify prosecution.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) pushed Holder on the violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

Feingold: Is there any doubt in your mind that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal?

Holder: As it was put together at the time it was certainly unwise … It now exists with congressional approval, so the concerns I addressed in that speech [referring to a speech at the American Constitution Society before he became Attorney General] no longer exist.

Feingold: I asked if it was illegal, not unwise.

Holder: I thought actions the administration had taken were inconsistent with the dictates of FISA. And as a result I thought the policy was an unwise one. The concerns I addressed then have been remedied by Congress.

Feingold: Was it illegal?

Holder: I said it was inconsistent with the dictates of FISA.

Feingold: That sounds awfully mild compared to a very clear statement and very clear principle here … Many people like me believe that if the statute is that explicit then it is unconstitutional for the president and illegal for the president to override the express will of the Congress.

Holder: I think what I’m saying now is consistent with what I’m saying in the speech.

The Administration’s use of such doublespeak obviously raises recent memories of Bush Attorneys General Gonzales and Mukasey. It also confirms statements from Bush officials and Senators that, while Obama was running on cracking down on the surveillance and torture programs, he had assured them privately that he would not allowed any prosecutions.

If Gonzales had given Holder’s statement, the blogs would be on fire. Yet, many liberals appear to be treating Obama as conservatives treated Bush — with blind loyalty.

32 thoughts on “Holder: Warrantless Surveillance was “Unwise” Rather than “Illegal””

  1. http://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/senate-and-house-bills-would-require-police-obtain-warrant-location-tracking

    Senate and House Bills Would Require Police to Obtain Warrant for Location Tracking

    March 21, 2013

    CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

    WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced in the Senate and the House today the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which would require a warrant from a judge based on probable cause before police can track someone using a GPS device or cell phone location data. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed support for the legislation, which was also introduced by Rep. Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) last Congress.

    “Cell phones are also portable tracking devices, and the law needs to catch up with technology to protect Americans from the indiscriminant use of this type of invasive surveillance,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Police routinely get people’s location information with little judicial oversight because Congress has never defined the appropriate checks and balances. Under the GPS Act, all that would change. Police would need to convince a judge that a person is likely engaging in criminal activity before accessing and monitoring someone’s location data. Innocent people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their privacy in order to have a cell phone.”

    More information on government location tracking is at: aclu.org/tracked

  2. Thanks for the link, Buddha.

    There are things going on right now that would make good, decent Americans shudder. When will they be exposed and stopped? Judge Walker’s ruling is a light in the darkness. (Refer to the following editorial.)

    NY Time Editorial: We Can’t Tell You
    Published: April 3, 2010


    (begin quote): The chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, ruled last week that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was the law of the land for Mr. Bush and that when the government failed to get a warrant to wiretap, it broke the law. He also said that the government could not evade accountability with absurdly broad claims of state secrets.

    This ruling does not end warrantless wiretapping. The particular program The Times uncovered has been suspended; there are still others, however, and the 2008 FISA amendments permit warrantless spying. (end quote)

    I will restate a portion of the last statement because it is critically important:

    “The particular program The Times uncovered has been suspended; there are still others…”

    “There are still others.”

    There are.

  3. Will we ever know what our most secretive agencies are really doing, if they are able to hide behind the “state secrets privilege”? If anything goes, because government agencies are hiding whatever activities they want to hide, the following question must be asked: Who is running this country?

    Are we not, in theory, supposed to be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”?

    Refer to “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”

    Outlaw nonconsensual human experiments now
    By Cheryl Welsh | 16 June 2009


    If nonconsensual human experiments are, in fact, taking place, should they not be exposed and stopped? Or are we going to let them continue and pretend that we really believe in the rule of law and the Constitution.

  4. My laymans take on all of this is,The demonstrations that have been going on in IRAN,may be coming to a state near one of ours,one day.And then something will change.

    Until then these politicians could care less about what we feel,or think.

  5. Hi rafflaw,

    I don’t think the Constitution is the problem either. I agree that it’s the people in power who ignore, abuse and refuse to abide by it who are the problem. I think Ithuedk is talking about one way of trying to enforce our Constitution through action by the people. I’m not certain, because I haven’t heard his plan, but I believe that is the goal.

    One thing I do know is that we should not give our support to the people who wish to destroy our Constitution. I would like to figure out a non-violent way of insuring they obey the rule of law.

    My best wishes to your family and little grandson.

  6. The idea of the Constitutional Convention is clear:

    It’s a clean-out and a new beginning. Once it gets momentum there’s nothing any government entity can do except make martyrs.

    Dare make a single martyr and we’re off to the races. The NSA’s computers will be overwhelmed. They will miss most of our communications and if their invasion of our privacy with their 4th Amendment violations, we as law-abiding American citizens will have no other choice.

    We are losing control of our government.

    Obama should just stop the grift and talk to us in real, honest terms. We see directly through the routine and it’s baking time expired long ago.

    Holder should be charged with negligence and removed from office for shielding treasonous Neo Cons. And the Neo Cons still pulling the strings must be reigned in. This land is my land.

    This land is your land. And it’s time to take it back the only way left to us.

    The Constitutional Convention is a complete Republic rebuild from the bottom up.


    Rafflaw: I agree it’s the rotten people that are the problem, but the only sure fire method for a clean-out is the C.C. Use only once every 234 years. Popular support won’t be the challenge: Getting military commanders and solid, dedicated delegates will.

    Clearly, our leaders don’t hear us. It’s time to change that. It’s time to begin selecting delegates and recognizing real leaders. No more complacency and no more tolerance of the Big Scam.

    A side note of possible interest:

    When the Treasury’s Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture paid my site several visits during the dictatorship’s occupation, they made a big mistake. I use a statistical site analyzer that doesn’t miss much.

    I don’t take intimidation at all. Those that know me from the early days, from the Democratic Underground, and Smirking Chimp days, know I am permanently locked in their face for the duration.

    I sent hard copy to both House and Senate and would be glad to turn my docs over to anyone for the purpose of evaluation and investigation. There’s more.

    Every American citizen needs to know how egregious these fascists were and possibly still are.


  7. Jill and Ithuedk,
    I don’t think the Constitution is the problem. The problem are the people in power to abuse it and to enforce it.

  8. Ithuedk,

    “we should seriously consider an online Constitutional Convention for starters and get serious. Sacrifices will be made. But if we stand idly by without a whimper, it’s gone. All of it. I have a rule and will share it with you:

    If the order breaks the law or is immoral, disobey it, so General Pace said.”

    I agree about the orders and would like to hear more of your idea on the Constitutional Convention.

  9. Former Fed,
    Great song by a great band. It took me back a few years just reading the lyrics.
    I have to agree with most here that Holder’s response to the Senator were sophmoric and silly. It reminded me a bit of the logic used by Prof. Yoo in his infamous torture memo. It is time to put the heat on this administration.

  10. JB,

    Thanks for that video link. I would have posted the video here but I am close to exceeding my allowed bandwidth. If I watched a video, that might put me over the limit and I would be further restricted.

    With Canada, UK, and the Obama administration’s meddling, we all may not have a free Internet in the near future…

Comments are closed.