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    Upset Russert allowed Rice to deflect eavesdropping questions

    Russert allowed Rice to deflect eavesdropping questions

    Summary: On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert allowed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to repeatedly deflect his questions about the supposed legal basis for the domestic eavesdropping authorized by President Bush.

    On the December 18 broadcast of NBC News' Meet the Press, host Tim Russert allowed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to repeatedly deflect his questions about the supposed legal basis for the domestic eavesdropping program authorized by President Bush shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As Russert noted, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) "is very clear that a person is guilty of an offense unless they get a court order before seeking to wiretap an American citizen."

    During the interview, Rice asserted that in authorizing the National Security Agency to perform domestic electronic eavesdropping without a warrant, "[t]he president is acting under his constitutional authority, under statutory authority." Rice did not elaborate on this constitutional and statutory authority and instead told Russert three times: "I'm not a lawyer." Though Russert pointed out that Rice was then serving as national security adviser, and Rice acknowledged she was aware of the program at the time it was authorized, Russert did not ask why she was apparently unable to explain the administration's purported legal basis for undertaking the domestic surveillance. Nor did Russert ask if she sought assurances of the legality of undertaking the domestic surveillance, whether she sought from lawyers advising the White House specific citations of legal authority to undertake this surveillance, and if she did not, why not.

    The New York Times revealed Bush's authorization of the domestic eavesdropping program in a December 16 article. The Times reported that according to "government officials," Bush directed the National Security Agency to monitor "the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible 'dirty numbers' linked to Al Qaeda." The Times noted that FISA "require[s] search warrants, approved by the secret F.I.S.A. court, for wiretaps in national security cases." In his December 17 radio address, Bush acknowledged authorizing the program.

    On Meet the Press, Russert asked Rice: "You were the national security adviser when the president made this decision. Were you aware of it?" Rice responded, "Yes." Russert never followed up by asking Rice whether, as national security adviser, she had sought to understand the legal justifications for the program.

    Instead, Russert allowed Rice to repeatedly insist that Bush "has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority" while avoiding specific explanations by saying, "I'm not a lawyer."

    For example, Russert asked Rice: "What is the legal authority? What is the constitutional authority for the president to eavesdrop on American citizens without getting court approval?" Rice responded: "The president is acting under his constitutional authority, under statutory authority." She then insisted, "I'm not a lawyer, but the president has gone to great lengths to make certain that he is both living under his obligations to protect Americans from another attack but also to protect their civil liberties." Without elaborating what she meant by "constitutional authority," Rice added that "the president is drawing on his constitutional authorities to protect the country."

    Russert noted that "[t]he law is very clear that a person is guilty of an offense unless they get a court order before seeking to wiretap an American citizen" and asked Rice why the president did not "get a court order." Rice responded: "The FISA is indeed an important source of that authority, and in fact, the administration actively uses FISA," adding that "the president has drawn on additional authorities that he has under the Constitution and under other statutes." When Russert asked Rice, "What are the other authorities?," Rice again responded: "I'm not a lawyer, but the president has constitutional authority and he has statutory authorities."

    Following Rice's acknowledgement that she knew about the program when it was authorized, Russert asked: "And what Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, Madame Secretary, is what is the authority that you keep citing? What law, what statute? Where in the Constitution does it say the president can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?" Rice insisted that Bush "has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority" before once again explaining, "Now, I am not a lawyer."

    From the December 18 broadcast of NBC News' Meet the Press:

    RUSSERT: The president yesterday confirmed that this operation was under way for the last several years. What is the legal authority? What is the constitutional authority for the president to eavesdrop on American citizens without getting court approval?

    RICE: Tim, first of all, the president has authorized -- and it's important to talk about what he's actually authorized. He's authorized the National Security Agency to collect information about the activities of a limited number of people with ties to Al Qaeda so that there is not a seam between the territory of the United States and the territory abroad. One of the most compelling outcomes of the 9-11 Commission was that a seam had developed. Our intelligence agencies looked out, our law enforcement agencies looked in, and people could -- terrorists could exploit the seam between them. So the president is determined that he will have the ability to make certain that that seam is not there, that the communications between people, a limited number of people with Al Qaeda links here, and conversations with terrorist activities outside will be understood so that we can detect and thereby prevent terrorist attacks.

    The president is acting under his constitutional authority, under statutory authority. I'm not a lawyer, but the president has gone to great lengths to make certain that he is both living under his obligations to protect Americans from another attack but also to protect their civil liberties. And that's why this program is very carefully controlled. It has to be re-authorized every 45 days. People are specially trained to participate in it, and it has been briefed to leadership of the Congress and including the leadership of the intelligence committees. So in a time when the war on terrorism is not just one in which people carry on activities outside the country but also activities inside the country, the president is drawing on his constitutional authorities to protect the country.

    RUSSERT: The law is very clear that a person is guilty of an offense unless they get a court order before seeking to wiretap an American citizen. Why did the president not get a court order?

    RICE: The FISA is indeed an important source of that authority, and in fact, the administration actively uses FISA. But FISA, in 1970 --

    RUSSERT: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

    RICE: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, exactly. FISA, which came out of 1978 at a time when the principal concern was, frankly, the activities of people on behalf of foreign governments, rather stable targets, very different from the kind of urgency of detection and thereby protection of a country that is needed today. And so the president has drawn on additional authorities that he has under the Constitution and under other statutes.

    RUSSERT: What are the other authorities?

    RICE: Tim, again, I'm not a lawyer, but the president has constitutional authority and he has statutory authorities.

    RUSSERT: But no one's explained that. No one has said what is -- in fact, in 1972 --

    RICE: Tim --

    RUSSERT: -- President Nixon tried to wiretap American citizens, and the Supreme Court ruled he violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

    RICE: Tim, let's remember that we are talking about the ability to collect information on the geographic territory that is the United States. Some people are American citizens; others are not. What the president wants to prevent is the use of American territory as a safe haven for communications between terrorists operating here or people with terrorist links operating here and people operating outside of the country.

    You know, I sat through the 9-11 Commission, and in the 9-11 Commission, one of the biggest and most compelling concerns was that we had to understand the link between what terrorists were doing abroad and what terrorists were doing here. Prior to September 11, there were people sitting inside the United States -- the president talked about two of them, Mitar and Hamzi, who were operating inside the United States, communicating outside of the United States. That's a scene that you cannot allow to exist in a time when if somebody now commits a crime, where this is not law enforcement of the kind where people commit a crime, you then investigate that crime and bring them to justice. This is a case where if people commit the crime, then thousands die. And that's what we learned on September 11. And so the president under his authorities -- he is commander in chief; he needs to protect this country -- has authorized this program. But he is also very concerned about civil liberties, and it is why there are so many safeguards attached to this program and why, frankly, several members of Congress were briefed.

    [...]

    RUSSERT: You were the national security adviser when the president made this decision. Were you aware of it?

    RICE: Yes.

    RUSSERT: Will you go before Congress to testify if called?

    RICE: Tim, I was aware of it, and I'm not going to talk about my role as national security adviser, which, of course, is not a constitutionally confirmed role, and I'm sure that there will be issues there. But my concerns were the president's concerns at the time, that he'd be able to use his authorities to detect and thereby protect the country from a terrorist attack. We have to remember that the president looks every morning at many, many, many pieces of intelligence about coming attacks -- frankly, almost none of them specific enough to act on. And so it is the president's obligation within the law and within his constitutional authority to get the information that he needs to detect an attack and to act against it before thousands of people die.

    RUSSERT: Senator [Russell] Feingold, the Democrat from Wisconsin said, "I think [President Bush] probably did [break the law], and I think almost every senator of both parties thinks he probably did. ... The president doesn't get to decide to make up the laws, and to start wiretapping people just because he thinks it's a good idea. ...I think he may have broken the law."

    And what Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, Madame Secretary, is what is the authority that you keep citing? What law, what statute? Where in the Constitution does it say the president can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?

    RICE: Tim, the president has authorities under FISA, which we are using and using actively. He also has constitutional authorities that derive from his role as commander in chief and his need to protect the country. He has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority.

    Now, I am not a lawyer, and I am certain that the attorney general will address a lot of these questions, but the fact is that the president has an obligation. He took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    — J.S.

    Posted to the web on Monday December 19, 2005 at 5:12 PM EST

  2. #2
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    No link, no credibility.
    .
    Raspberries, nature's poison ivy bait. (Formerly, 'Stops to eat the raspberries.')

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbmojo
    No link, no credibility.
    because you don't have the ability to type "Meet the Press" into Google?

    you are so pathetic in your defense of King George

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    According to this President, "war" powers give him TOTAL powers.

    Because it is "vital" to rebuild Iraq as part of the "war", he can sign as many no-bid Halliburton contracts as Halliburton wants.

    Because he deems it "vital" to have tax cuts in a time of war, he can can his super rich buddies as many as he want. Why screw tax "cuts", he can just GIVE US taxpayer money to his rich friends.

    Because it is "vital" for the "war", he can pollute any part of the earth as much as he wants. Because if he did not let pollution occur, we might lose the "war". We can kill the earth, in order to (not) live on it.


    This President is an extremist lunatic. He make Tim McVeigh look like a middle of the roader.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbmojo
    No link, no credibility.
    You nitwit. The first portion of the passage is obviously an opinion piece - whether or not it's credible is, similarly, a matter of (say it slowly now) o-pin-ion.

    The second part of the passage is transcript. You can take what you like from it (again, that whole funny "opinion" thing), but it is what was said.

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    Good job! A reply to the Russert piece

    I'm no big fan of WFB, though I noticed that when he was criticizing GWB a while ago, our resident foamer-at-the-mouth (kitb) did quote him. Therefore I post his opinion of the Russert/Rice thing as well as his opinion of the NSA eavesdropping. I think he makes good sense, presents good arguments and at the end of the piece comes to intelligent conclusions.
    It also debunks most, if not all of the 'liberal, civil rights destroying' arguments that have been posed/posted as a result of the leaking of a highly classified operation. Personally, I think the leaking of this operation should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It makes the 'plame affair' seem a non-starter in comparison.
    -----------------------------------

    December 20, 2005, 11:39 a.m.
    On the Whole, Well Done

    If a high government official pleaded the authority of the Bible as reverentially as is now routine in citing the authority of the Constitution, he'd be had up for idolatry. One way to vest mystique into the Constitution is to plead its inscrutability, or else suggest that only the high priests of the legal profession are equipped to interpret it. The secretary of state informed Tim Russert no fewer than four times on Meet the Press that she was not a lawyer. The clear purpose of making that point, in that way, was to suggest that the non-anointed can't responsibly interpret the Constitution's provision describing executive duties and prerogatives. That's nonsense, and since Condoleezza Rice is a very smart lady, one had to acknowledge that she simply did not want to argue the meaning of Article Two of the Constitution. She didn't want to be the first secretary of state to pass down word that it's okay for a president to bug your phone because that's what the Constitution says!


    Well. All that the Article (II) does say is that the president is to be the commander in chief of the armed forces, that he can order subordinates to account for themselves, and that he can pardon them if they trespass on the law. Conjugate that as you like, but we all know (Tim Russert certainly knows) that you will find lawyers arguing that what the president had most recently done is unconstitutional, and lawyers who will say the opposite. Derivative questions immediately came up. Why didn't Mr. Bush, in exercising the authority he claims inheres in the office, go through the procedurally reassuring step of asking officials of other branches of government for their compliant approval of what he was doing?

    The president handled those questions at his press conference on Monday. On the matter of consulting somebody in the court system, he said the reason he hadn't done so was the need for total secrecy. The slightest hint of what he was up to, he said, could have had the effect of undermining the entire enterprise. He gave an example. Evidently, up until a certain point, we were intercepting telephone calls being made by Osama bin Laden. But our success in doing this was brought to Osama’s attention, whereupon he altered his routine, and we never got on to the new means by which, for instance, he was instructing his agents which buildings in New York and Washington to run their airplanes into.

    Could the president give an example of how the new interceptions had worked in just such a way, to abort terrorist attacks?

    No, the president said. To do any such thing would be immediately to compromise an operation, tipping off an incumbent Osama bin Laden to what we were doing.


    But what about a constitutional responsibility to elicit congressional approval of extraordinary applications of the authority of commanders in chief?

    Why didn't he tell Congress?


    The president loved that question, and several times told the press that he had in fact informed Congressional leaders no less than one dozen times since he began the disputed process. It is of course left for the press to inquire why the legislators who knew about the practice didn't raise their voices to object. Their answer is easily predictable. They did not object for the same reason that the president would not disclose what he was up to publicly: to do so would have been to jeopardize the success of a continuing tactical operation.

    Those senators in the know who may now confess themselves as embarrassed by their silence will surely also cite effective executive practice in matters that bear on national security and the prosecution of justice. Why didn’t the president call on a judge to stamp his approval on a proposed phone interception? During the day, historic and extraordinary figures were revealed. Since 1979, the Executive has petitioned the courts to authorize 19,000 telephone interceptions. Permission has been granted in all but five instances. Curiosity understandably turns on which five projected buggings the courts said no to, and how many trysts were saved for the day.

    The president pronounced it shameful that the practice he had authorized had been publicly disclosed. Doing this, he said, diminished the kind of operational silence ultra secret operations profit from.

    What is a reasonable verdict from a conservative/libertarian on what happened?

    1) The president did his job of attempting to out-maneuver the enemy.
    2) The press may have overdone its interceptive curiosity, but it performed the function of a free press.
    3) The legislative arm yielded to the demands of national security.
    4) The courts, acknowledging a natural division of responsibilities, stayed away.

    -------------------------------------
    Link: http://www.nationalreview.com/buckle...0512201139.asp
    I have one firm belief about the American political system, God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat P.J. O'Rourke





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