Notwithstanding the haughty pretensions of this imperial president -- who never apologizes and rarely explains -- the officials, scribes and courtiers of the Bush administration are busy fashioning excuses for the illegal-surveillance scandal. Advanced by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as the likes of Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh, these sophistries range from the absurdly illogical to the blatantly misleading.Later on...
In his signature style, Drudge has sought to suggest that Bush has done nothing that Democratic presidents didn't do, which may reflect his own continuing obsession with Bill Clinton. The Internet gossip's headline this week blared, "Clinton Executive Order: Secret Search on Americans Without Court Order..." He went on to link to a National Review Online article that made much of a Clinton order in 1994 authorizing warrantless searches. But it is important to connect the dots, as the president would say, in Drudge's ellipsis points. The Clinton executive order permitted such searches only under certain very limited circumstances that are legal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the very statute that Bush has admitted ignoring.Impeach
The Center for American Progress noted Wednesday what Drudge left out and what the National Review's Byron York elided -- namely, the difference between search or surveillance operations conducted against foreigners and those conducted against American citizens. ("Some people," York later noted in chiding exaggerations on both sides of the issue, "have said that Bill Clinton signed an executive order authorizing such surveillance; he did not.")
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act restrictions were designed to protect Americans, not to hobble U.S. counterintelligence aimed at foreign spies and terrorists.
That was why Clinton's order authorized the attorney general "to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year" -- but only if the attorney general "makes the certifications required" by Section 302(a)(1) of FISA. That section requires the attorney general to certify that the search or surveillance in question would not invade the property or premises of "a United States person," meaning a citizen or someone living here legally. By leaving out the same qualification, Drudge made the same incorrect implication about an order signed by Jimmy Carter in 1979. Then again, as Drudge has occasionally boasted, his reporting is 80 percent correct -- but sometimes that omitted 20 percent can make all the difference.