Bush is abusing authority by spying on citizens

Mike Siciliano

Originally Published March 28, 2006

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer,” said former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973.

It seems President Bush, or “King George,” as Time Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan appropriately described him, took a bit of a history lesson from the infamous Nixon-administration diplomat.

Sure, King George could have done a lazy job and abridged a few congressionally passed laws, but instead, he decided to put in 110 percent and invest four and a half years violating the very document that grants him his authority. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I’m speaking of the NSA wiretaps, of course.

The Fourth Amendment lays the foundation for government searches. The government can’t search citizens without a warrant being issued and supported by probable cause. Bush authorized the NSA-conducted wiretaps, which are searches without warrants.

The president violated the law. Anyone can figure that out.

The editorial titled “Bush has right to spy,” published March 27 in the Daily Sundial, however, drew attention to irrelevant points.

The fact that the president has not been impeached does not vindicate him from his flagrant abuses. Only two presidents in history have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

If history tells us anything, it is that presidents have stayed in office while committing greater transgressions.

Woodrow Wilson actually imprisoned citizens under the Sedition Act of 1918 for uttering and writing words that were “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive” toward the government. He didn’t just spy on them for it.

The third vice president, Aaron Burr, fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804 as a result of Hamilton’s criticism of Burr. Burr was never prosecuted.

If there is anything to learn here, it is that culpability is not dependent upon prosecution or impeachment.

The writer is looking at the wrong area anyway. Presidents don’t get impeached for violating the Constitution. They get impeached for ejaculating on a dress and being too lazy to have it dry-cleaned the next day.

When presidents violate the Constitution, they get sued. The ACLU is currently suing the Bush administration for spying on Americans.

After points about presidential authority, the article’s focus then shifts toward the media.

It reads: “The media is not a forum to bash the Bush administration,” and “All our jobs should be held to high standards, including members of the media.”

As for the role of journalism, it is not Bush’s or anyone else’s place to state what it is. Journalism is not a licensed profession like law or medicine. Journalists do not receive certification by the government and they are not constrained by anything other than their own judgment.

There are almost no rules for journalism, only general principles used for guidance. We don’t need a man who has given us at least five volumes of Bushisms to tell us what not to say.

The biggest fallacy in the March 27 editorial is that in the piece is the argument that wire taps “aren’t conducted on just any or all U.S. citizens,” but only “toward people on the terrorist watch list, with known ties to terrorist groups.”

Perhaps this should have been told to the UC Santa Cruz group Students Against War, and the UC Berkeley group Stop the War Coalition, after they were both placed on the terrorist watch list for protesting military recruitment on their campuses last April. I’m sure they could have used the reassurance, however naive it may have been.

As for the most illogical statement in the editorial, this one wins first place: “Revealing our government’s anti-terrorism tactics to the public and the entire world, borders on treason.”

How revealing that the government is spying on citizens is giving away top government secrets to terrorists is beyond my understanding.

After all, the government has been far less secretive with issues more important to national security.

As comedian George Carlin pointed out, “How can it be a spy satellite if they announce on TV that it’s a spy satellite?”

If the writer wants the announcement of the NSA’s spying to be considered treason, that’s fine with me. But he had better hold the government to the same level every time it announces that a new spy satellite has been launched.

“Bush has every right to be mad at the media,” the writer stated.

He’s absolutely right. But we have every right to be mad at Bush, too.

Mike Siciliano can be reached at mas20740@csun.edu.