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Yet Another Democrat Can't Explain What's Wrong With Bush Spying On Americans

Reported by Ellen - December 21, 2005

You'd think that with President Bush virtually admitting that he broke the law by authorizing the secret spying on Americans and then getting caught on tape saying there would be no wiretapping without a court order, that even the most inexperienced, inept Democratic spokesperson could manage to effectively explain what's wrong with this picture. But for the third night in a row, the Democratic guest on Hannity & Colmes could not articulate a clear case.

Last night's Democrat was PJ Crowley, described as a former NSA member under Clinton. I'm sure he's a nice, knowledgeable fellow but he was utterly unprepared for the predictable curveball Rich Lowry threw and, even worse, gave what has to be the most wishy-washy objection to Bush's actions. Fortunately for Dems, Alan Colmes picked up the slack.

Rich Lowry started off the discussion with the now-pathetic "Clinton did it" excuse. Lowry cited a 1994 statement by Clinton's then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick saying that the president has the authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes. Comment: Judd, at ThinkProgress.org debunks that myth by explaining that "at the time of Gorelick’s testimony, physical searches weren’t covered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It’s not surprising that, in 1994, Gorelick argued that physical searches weren’t covered by FISA. They weren’t. With Clinton’s backing, the law was amended in 1995 to include physical searches."

Crowley was thrown by Lowry's undoubtedly deliberate attempt to derail the discussion. Rather than dismiss it as irrelevant and get right to what is wrong with Bush's actions, he gave this incomprehensible response: "Let's be clear, I think that first of all after 9/11, we did have to make adjustments in how the intelligence community does business. I have no objections to giving the NSA more authorities but at some point, once you've invoked special powers 30 times, as part of a conflict that is open-ended, it's really time to make sure that you adjust the case law underlying..."

Lowry interrupted to ask again if Gorelick was wrong to say what she did.

Crowley said he couldn't answer because Lowry was quoting something out of context that he wasn't familiar with. When Lowry repeated the question again, Crowley said, "After 9/11, it was perfectly appropriate to do this but at some point, if you want to change the way the NSA is doing business, let's debate it...

Colmes broke in. "(Saying) 'Clinton did it, too', is really avoiding what's going on right now in this Administration." He read off a few of the organizations under surveillance: Vegan Community Project, Catholic Workers Groups, trying to determine the location of a PETA protest over llama fur. "Are you telling me that this is appropriate? That we should be looking at these groups in a time of war?"

Peter Brookes, a former CIA officer who was the other guest, claimed that "Since 9/11, the President has wide Constitutional and statutory authority in times of war to protect our national security and that's what he's doing."

Colmes, obviously outraged, said that the Congressional authorization to use force was for military action. He demanded to know "What law gives the president the authority to go and spy or listen to conversations on Americans? Where is that authority?"

Brookes said, condescendingly, "I recommend that you read the Constitution."

"Where does it say that in the Constitution? The Fourth Amendment talks about warrants. WHERE DOES HE HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO DO IT? (his emphasis)"

Brookes couldn't cite a law but tried to make the case (not so condescendingly now) that the authorization for the use of force gave Bush the power to "protect our national security."

Colmes, almost shouting, said, "What law? You can't cite the law! There is none!"

Lowry ended the discussion but told Colmes that just because something shows up in an FBI file doesn't mean that there's an investigation of the group (Comment: Lowry should read the ACLU documents). "This is an ACLU smear job."

Colmes, still excited, asked, "Are you saying it's appropriate to look at PETA, to look at vegan groups? I still want to know where in the Constitution, what law gives the president this authority?"

Lowry had no answer for that.

Comment: Contrast Crowley's remarks with those of FOX News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, who voted for Bush. As reported by Janie, Napolitano said:

The President has violated the law, in the name of National Security, not wanting to violate the law, believing he's doing the right thing, but he violated it nevertheless. He can't pick and choose which laws to obey, or not to obey, anymore than the rest of us can... The President took an oath to uphold the Constitution, to faithfully enforce the laws, he has to uphold the Constitution, and enforce all the laws, even the laws that say thou shalt not wire tap without a warrant... One of the rights that we have in this country is the right to be left alone. If we let the government listen to all of our conversations, we'll become like East Germany was. We fought a Cold War for 40 years against governments that spied on their own people. Are we going to let that happen here?

It's not a complicated issue. The fact that no Democratic spokesperson on H&C has been able to frame it as well as a Bush supporter is almost as disturbing as the spying.

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