Friday, January 20, 2006

Because We Say So

The Justice Department goes to great pains to explain why it’s okay for the President to break the law.

The Bush administration offered its fullest defense to date Thursday of the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program, saying that authorization from Congress to deter terrorist attacks “places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the N.S.A. activities.”

In a 42-page legal analysis, the Justice Department cited the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the writings of presidents both Republican and Democratic, and dozens of scholarly papers and court cases in justifying President Bush’s power to order the N.S.A. surveillance program.

With the legality of the program under public attack since its disclosure last month, officials said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales ordered up the analysis partly in response to what administration lawyers felt were unfair conclusions in a Jan. 6 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The Congressional report challenged virtually all the main legal justifications the administration had cited for the program.

I noticed that the New York Times has changed their copy from this version, removing the reference to the president being the “nation’s ‘sole organ’ for foreign affairs.” It was just too easy to make an adolescent joke about organs (and I’ll bet five bucks that there will be some guy advertising himself as the SOLE ORGAN on before nightfall).

I leave it to the lawyers to pick apart the briefs (heh, he said briefs), but President Nixon was able to justify his actions in Watergate in one sentence: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”