Barron's Calls for Impeachment Hearings on Wiretapping

Barron's calls for impeachment (via Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture)

"AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers . . .

Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years . . .

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make his misgivings public and demand more information.

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.

Barron's ain't exactly a commie rag, or even a 'Democratic website'.  Oh, wait, I forgot, and impeachment talk makes Richard Morin mad. To be clear, it's WAAYYY more legitimate for someone like Rockefeller to decide to obey the law and not disclose what he knows than it is for someone like Bush to break the law. It's not what I would have done, but I get respect for the law. I also wonder why Barron's isn't picking on the Republicans who were informed, and didn't apparently protest even in private. Ah well.

Tags: Media (all tags)



Releasing classified information is a crime
A big crime. One that usually deserves jail time. The suggestion that Rockefeller should just have gone ahead and blown the whistle is mystifying. Either you have respect for the law or you don't. Either impeaching a President for perjury on material that was ruled irrelevant in a case that was ruled without merit is important or it is vindictive partisan crap. To vindicate a Republican President because a Democratic Senator refused to commit a felony and disclose classified information in time of war while saying with a straight face that Clintonian misdemeanor perjury justifies impeachment is not only to put logic and law on its head, its to put that head in a toilet and give it a swirly.

Did the outing of Valerie Plame actually harm the National Security of the United States? Maybe yes, maybe no. But Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were not in a position that they could judge that fact, or legally given the power to declassify it. Which is why we want them in jail.

This retroactive "If Rockefeller was serious he should have committed treason" argument is nonsense from people who are not thinking. Bush and Republicans may believe they get to just pick and choose which laws they want to follow, chiding Democrats for not going along with that is sociopathological.

by Bruce Webb 2005-12-24 07:39AM | 0 recs
Don't expect impeachment, unless...
the Democrats win control of the Congress in 06. But it's nice to see this put forth in a venue that is certainly not even tilted slightly to the left.
by blogus 2005-12-24 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't expect impeachment, unless...
Impeachment is not the solution. Winning elections is the solution.

Impeachment is a blunt axe that has been used twice in this country's history and in both cases in blatantly partisan fashion. Any Constitutional remedy that only works if the opposition party controls both house of Congress is no remedy at all. And resort to it in 2007 will only result in a huge backlash from a group of GOP partisans that are guaranteed to be plenty angry to start with.

If Democrats win control of Congress they need to concentrate first and foremost on removing the policy distortions that this administration has inserted into the economic and policy arenas, when it comes down to it Bush can't spend money he doesn't have.

We don't want Bush to go out with a Bang, we want him to go out with a Whimper. Impeachment would just bestow a Martyr tag on Bush for generations of Republicans to come, having him pack his bags in January 2009 with nothing but chaos to his credit is the fitting punishment.

What Bush fears more than anything else is for history to remember him as we do: "Worst President Ever". Let it Be So.

by Bruce Webb 2005-12-24 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't expect impeachment, unless...
Minor historical note: the Republicans who controlled Congress during the Andrew Johnson impeachment were putatively in the same party as the president.  Johnson joined Lincoln on a "Union" ticket in 1864, but they were the Republican nominees nonetheless.  The Democratic Party to which Johnson once belonged vanished in 1861, at the moment Confederate troops fired on Ft. Sumter.  For all practical purposes, Johnson, like the majority in Congress, was a Republican.
by wallyw 2005-12-24 08:52AM | 0 recs
Which obviates my point how?
The Republicans in control of Congress in 1868 clearly did not regard Johnson as one of them whatever label he had in the election of 1864

"The charges against President Johnson stemmed from the Tenure of Office Act of 1867. This law, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1926, required the president to get the Senate's permission to remove any officeholder whose appointment it had to confirm.

Johnson was so angered by this challenge to the power of the president that he tested the law by suspending Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the only Radical sympathizer in his cabinet, and replacing him with Ulysses S. Grant.

Eleven articles of impeachment were brought, charging Johnson with unlawfully removing Stanton and violating the Reconstruction Acts. The House of Representatives passed a resolution impeaching Johnson by a vote of 126 to 47."

"For all practical purposes" Congress treated Johnson like a foreign occupier of the White House, even denying him the powers to appoint his own cabinet members.

As for the suggestion that the Democratic Party vanished in 1861 I would suggest that the organizers of the Jefferson/Jackson dinners would be profoundly surprised at knowing the Party mysteriously vanished.

Johnson was on the ticket as an attempt at ticket balancing, Republicans neither wanted nor expected him to become President. And the whole affair was partisan to the core.

by Bruce Webb 2005-12-25 07:52AM | 0 recs
Bush court packing in context
The Harriet Miers nomination makes complete sense if you put it into the context of the NSA illegal wiretapping.  Who better to put on the Supreme Court than someone who signed off on the felonious activity as part of her White House duties?  (And who better to have as Attorney General than her predecessor in crime?)

Bush may never have asked Judge Alito about Roe v. Wade (yeah, right) but you can bet they discussed the expansion of Executive authority beyond the boundaries of the law and the Constitution.

by wallyw 2005-12-24 08:45AM | 0 recs
at least
at least the suggestion is coming from a source that the repubbbs (and washpost) can't claim to be partisan democratic operatives.
by skippy 2005-12-24 10:28AM | 0 recs
good but one complaint
>> the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type

No, that's respect for the rule of law.  He is not allowed, under penalty of law, to share or discuss this information.  A 'higher moral authority' doesn't save the senator from criminal proceedings, and you can be sure if he had the right wing would shouting it from the mountain tops!

The senator, in the minority party, handled this about as well and strategicly as he could.  At least he had the sense and balls to write what he wrote and indidcate he was putting a copy away for safe keeping.  (When did the US government become Goodfellas?)

by lutton 2005-12-24 04:43PM | 0 recs
No, No, a thousand times no!
Don't Impeach Bu$h!  That would give him an excuse to resign and stick us with "President Cheney," a consummation devoutly to be detested!  I'd much rather see us impeach Cheney and jail the criminal SOB; then Bu$h would have to be President in fact as well as in name - (except that we'd also have to jail Rove) - it is true, something has to be done about the criminal mess in DC, but impeachment is too good for him;  Make him REALLY do the job he was (S)elected to do!  AND - the Congre$$ should take away the Presidential Pardon prerogative.  These damn' crooks deserve jail time!  About three or four lifetimes each!  And, after Bu$h leaves office, a few years on the rockpile for War Crimes would be about right - - - the biggest war crime of all, of course, was going to war against a country from which we had no threat, and thus killing thousands of our own young people.  THAT, my friends, was a CRIME!
by tedeger 2005-12-24 08:36PM | 0 recs
Impeach Bush
I don't like impeachment because it would elevate Cheney.  But something needs to be done to stop the lunacy.  Does the moron really expect that we'll accept his declaring himself exempt from congressional oversight, judicial review, and the concept of separation of powers?

Lunacy!  Especially the fact that 40 percent of the American electorate think the moron is a great leader.  

I wish SOMEBODY would explain that one to me.

by Palcewski 2005-12-25 12:31AM | 0 recs
one thing that impeachment proceedings might do is spread a little of the "reality-based" community into the White House.

Someone once said that a near-death experience has a remarkable way of concentrating the mind (or something like that).

I would think that impeachment proceedings, especially with the support of the electorate, would be a marvelous way of concentrating their minds.

I would just like to see them sweat a bit.  To effect real change in the government, we'd have to jail about the first 15 layers in the presidential succession list.

Taking back congress would be much more effective, I think.

by Marc in KS 2005-12-25 04:27AM | 0 recs
This is how it will end.
Dau Report (from -
"The Dynamic of a Bush Scandal: How the Spying Story Will Unfold (and Fade)"
by Peter Daou
The third button on the Daou Report's navigation bar links to the U.S. Constitution, a Constitution many Americans believe is on life support - if not already dead. The cause of its demise is the corrosive interplay between the Bush administration, a bevy of blind apologists, a politically apathetic public, a well-oiled rightwing message machine, lapdog reporters, and a disorganized opposition. The domestic spying case perfectly illuminates the workings of that system. And the unfolding of this story augurs poorly for those who expect it to yield different results from other administration scandals.
Here's why: the dynamic of a typical Bush scandal follows familiar contours...
  1. POTUS circumvents the law - an impeachable offense.
  2. The story breaks (in this case after having been concealed by a news organization until well after Election 2004).
  3. The Bush crew floats a number of pushback strategies, settling on one that becomes the mantra of virtually every Republican surrogate. These Republicans face down poorly prepped Dem surrogates and shred them on cable news shows.
  4. Rightwing attack dogs on talk radio, blogs, cable nets, and conservative editorial pages maul Bush's critics as traitors for questioning the CIC.
  5. The Republican leadership plays defense for Bush, no matter how flagrant the Bush over-reach, no matter how damaging the administration's actions to America's reputation and to the Constitution. A few 'mavericks' like Hagel or Specter risk the inevitable rightwing backlash and meekly suggest that the president should obey the law. John McCain, always the Bush apologist when it really comes down to it, minimizes the scandal.
  6. Left-leaning bloggers and online activists go ballistic, expressing their all-too-familiar combination of outrage at Bush and frustration that nothing ever seems to happen with these scandals. Several newspaper editorials echo these sentiments but quickly move on to other issues.
  7. A few reliable Dems, Conyers, Boxer, et al, take a stand on principle, giving momentary hope to the progressive grassroots/netroots community. The rest of the Dem leadership is temporarily outraged (adding to that hope), but is chronically incapable of maintaining the sense of high indignation and focus required to reach critical mass and create a wholesale shift in public opinion. For example, just as this mother of all scandals hits Washington, Democrats are still putting out press releases on Iraq, ANWR and a range of other topics, diluting the story and signaling that they have little intention of following through. This allows Bush to use his three favorite weapons: time, America's political apathy, and make-believe 'journalists' who yuck it up with him and ask fluff questions at his frat-boy pressers.
  8. Reporters and media outlets obfuscate and equivocate, pretending to ask tough questions but essentially pushing the same narratives they've developed and perfected over the past five years, namely, some variation of "Bush firm, Dems soft." A range of Bush-protecting tactics are put into play, one being to ask ridiculously misleading questions such as "Should Bush have the right to protect Americans or should he cave in to Democratic political pressure?" All the while, the right assaults the "liberal" media for daring to tell anything resembling the truth.
  9. Polls will emerge with 'proof' that half the public agrees that Bush should have the right to "protect Americans against terrorists." Again, the issue will be framed to mask the true nature of the malfeasance. The media will use these polls to create a self-fulfilling loop and convince the public that it isn't that bad after all. The president breaks the law. Life goes on.
  10. The story starts blending into a long string of administration scandals, and through skillful use of scandal fatigue, Bush weathers the storm and moves on, further demoralizing his opponents and cementing the press narrative about his 'resolve' and toughness. Congressional hearings might revive the issue momentarily, and bloggers will hammer away at it, but the initial hype is all the Democrat leadership and the media can muster, and anyway, it's never as juicy the second time around...
Rinse and repeat.
It's a battle of attrition that Bush and his team have mastered. Short of a major Dem initiative to alter the cycle, to throw a wrench into the system, to go after the media institutionally, this cycle will continue for the foreseeable future.
by Blutodog 2005-12-25 05:47PM | 0 recs


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