Letters to the Editor

Executive power

February 27, 2008


To the editor:

Sen. Pat Roberts and other Republicans have attempted to convert the disagreement over extension of the eavesdropping law into an opportunity to impugn the patriotism of the Democratic House leadership that opposes the extension. This supposition clearly misses the point of the opposition.

The sticking point is Bush administration's insistence that the telecom companies, which assisted in the eavesdropping after the attacks 9/11, be provided with blanket retrospective immunity. This eavesdropping was illegal at that time. FISA was passed by Congress not to prevent the acquisition of intelligence data, but to provide judicial oversight of the process. This oversight was intended to prevent intelligence agencies from spying on American citizens for political reasons. This abuse had occurred in the past.

Thus the real issue in this debate is the expansion of power by the executive branch. The Bush administration, as well as the telecom companies, were aware they were ignoring the provisions of FISA, yet they unilaterally chose to proceed. This sets a dangerous precedent. The executive branch should not be allowed to ignore laws passed by Congress when it seems expedient, then ask for immunity later.

Democrats are not attempting to prevent the gathering of intelligence. Both parties want to keep the country safe. FISA may need modification, and a bipartisan agreement would be in everyone's best interests. However, there are major constitutional issues at stake. If a new FISA is passed, will the administration ignore it when it seems expedient?

Hugh Janney,


Bruce Bertsch 10 years ago

The US Constitution did not change ofter 9/11. The Bush administration can do all the spying they want, they just have to take their activities to the FISA court for oversight AFTER the fact. This isn't far left anything, its called standing up for the rights of the people. Even the telcos now see the issue for what it is; illegal surveilance that they will no longer take part in without immunity. You don't need immunity unless you have/are breaking the law.

Ragingbear 10 years ago

If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again. If you need help, then your a terrorist. We are now seizing your bank accounts, and putting you on the no-fly list.

moo 10 years ago

You're absolutely correct, RT, if we do not give up every one of our personal rights and claim we have on privacy, the terrorists will come and eat our babies. We should not require any form of judicial oversight or any reasonable suspicion before spying on American citizens (and yes, simply making a single phone call to a foreign country or to someone inside this country that seems a little fishy is definitely enough probable cause). We know that all politicians only have the citizens' best interests at heart and would never misuse such power because all politicians are completely trustworthy. Remember everyone, the terrorists can and will storm into your home tomorrow and kill your children if you hold the executive branch to the laws of the country! Be afraid!!!!

If a democrat were supporting these measures, RT, you would be screaming pretty loud. "Left loonies want to invade our homes!!!" I do not hate these violations of privacy because I hate Bush. I hate Bush because he supported these violations of privacy.

marcdeveraux 10 years ago

RT has lost his mind, or maybe he is playing devils advocate. The entire bush team, ENron, banking and wall street collapse,trillion $ war that cannot be won.Torture, world opinion ,lies, misinformation,haliburton, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed,almost 4,000 american lives.I could go on, bottom line is our country is on the verge of a depression, people are losing jobs to other countries, and the corporate machine kills family farms and poisons our air and water.And R.T. thinks dems are the problem. Serious lack of connection to reality is the problem that the right wing has. Admit it, republicans have destroyed our country because they don't have the guts to admit the truth.Bush can 't do it ,either can Mr rt

moo 10 years ago

I don't know, 75x55, give me a link to what the heck you're talking about and I'd be happy to form an opinion for you. In general I can say that anyone opening up health records better have a pretty good legal reason for it. Also, though, I think firearms should simply be wiped off the earth. : )

gogoplata 10 years ago

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

Big brother can still spy...... legally.

If no laws have been broken why the need for immunity?

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

75x55 hates the towel-heads. When they come to eat his babies, there will be a 75x55 perimeter of bloody towels around his position.

sfjayhawk 10 years ago

RT - when your hero gorge bush, the decider - admits that the economy is in peril and even puts together a huge bailout plan - its must be hard, even for you, to blame the "liberal media" for making up a recession for election year politics.

Seriously, do you think the economy is just peachy? Why do you disagree with even the administration you worship so much?

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

Logic, you forgot about the designated peaceful assembly zones.

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23367821 -- "Bernanke: Fed ready to act to boost economy Fed chief tells Congress economic situation is 'distinctly less favorable'"

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

Boontling? Are you referring to that weird language that appears on Anderson Valley Brewery's beer?

With regard to the towel head comment: I had previously admonished 75x55 for being an Islamophobe on a different forum. I was merely poking a stick at someone who appears to have a dangerously irrational fear of Muslims. I agree at its offensiveness, but I've head many an Islamophobe utter that epithet. What I was hoping was to have 75x55 either clarify his views (with regard to their American baby-eating nature) or reinforce my hypothesis that 75x55 is an Islamophobe, which is something I have no tolerance for.

geniusmannumber1 10 years ago

Gosh, RT, you have a problem with a judge who has the presumption to cite the intent of the framers of the Constitution? Can we assume that you therefore disagree with every opinion authored by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas?

I'm sorry. You have a problem with a "black judge". Okay.

Scott Drummond 10 years ago

The Democrats should offer bush a clean, unencumbered update of the FISA law without the immunity issue and force idiot george to either sign and continue to whine about immunity for his corporate buddies, or refuse to sign and force him to shut up about the supposed danger we are in. Let's have a simple debate on why the telecoms should have immunity (ammnesty) for criminal behavior that has not been confirmed. Or is georgie just trying to make sure we can't ever find out who ordered the unconstitutional abuses?

Bryan Moore 10 years ago

Just a couple of questions. If a Democrat wins the election will you still think it's OK for the president to be all powerfull and have no constraints apon his will and vision. If Hillary wants to spy on people but doesn't want you to know who or Barack wants arrest people and throw away the key without due process because he says they are a threat will you be with us or against us?

ndmoderate 10 years ago

Great questions, arizona!

But instead of getting answers, all you'll hear is:

"But, but, but Clinton did _!"

ndmoderate 10 years ago


So you post a link to your own video on YouTube--what's next?

Maybe a link to your website in an attempt to sell your book?

Oh wait! That got you banned in short order last time.

tick tock tick tock

gogoplata 10 years ago

Where were you when the Clinton administration was conducting warrantless searches of public housing? http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?:

If you were talking to me. I am against violating the Constitution for any public servant. I really don't care if they are Republican or Democrat. Why do they swear an oath to uphold the Constitution if they have no plans to actually uphold the Constitution?

geniusmannumber1 10 years ago

My apologies, RT; I just assumed that because you felt the need to point out that the judge in question was black and a woman that you somehow felt those facts were significant.

I do notice that you do not disagree with the notion that because "framers' intent" is a hallmark (perhaps the most important hallmark) of the jurisprudence Scalia and Clarence "Yeah, What Scalia Said" Thomas, that the majority of their opinions are intellectually bankrupt.

This in turn would suggest that said jurisprudence was motivated more by ideology than judicial precedent. I've hear a term for that...ah, heck, what was it...heard it on Fox News...oh yeah! "Activist judges." So I assume that you would agree with me that Scalia and Thomas are activist judges, unaccountable to the electorate, ruling on high by fiat. Sound reasonable?

pisafromthewest 10 years ago

moderationman (Anonymous) says:

"The US Constitution did not change ofter 9/11. "

Did it change when Lincoln ignored it during the Civil War?

"You don't need immunity unless you have/are breaking the law."

Simply untrue. Remember the bill recently passed in the Kansas House regarding drug testing after serious accidents? It includes a provision granting immunity to medical professionals who perform and disclose the results of those tests. Police officers already had immunity under the existing law.

moo 10 years ago

Aren't we supposed to learn from the past? I admire Abraham Lincoln for many things, however I do not admire his decision to suspend the writ of habeus corpus. Although it was a move that made sense to him at the time and was probably very effective, it set a dangerous precedent and has been criticized in hindsight. Just because it has been done before, does not make it right and does not mean it should be done again.

As for Clinton's administration, I apologize, I guess while Clinton was in office and I was muddling my way through elementary school and junior high, I really should have paid more attention to his public housing policies. Had the LJW blog been around then, I bet I could point out where RT yelled and blustered about it, sadly we will never know.

Once again, just because something has been done before doesn't make it right. I liked Clinton overall, but if he indeed had those policies, I am exceedingly disappointed in him. If I had been old enough to know or care at the time, I would have fought against it. However since he is not currently in office and never will be again (don't even think about saying he will be if Hillary is elected) the point is quite moot.

supertrampofkansas 10 years ago

"That is known as a weasel response."

Hey lacolonia you resemble that remark!

jonas 10 years ago

"lacolonia (Anonymous) says:

moo: Bill Clinton ordered warrantless searches of public housing. Show us where RT screamed then."

That's kind of a dumb thing to say, ne? This forum didn't exist when Clinton was in office. Maybe the reader's reaction forum, but even that's pushing it. But you knew that. Which makes me wonder why you'd bother saying such a dumb thing?

I bet you, though, that Right-Thinker howled like a dog full of buckshot, assuming he was old enough at that point to have looked around and taken notice.

moo 10 years ago

Ok, sorry, I guess I wasn't clear enough. The past does matter. We should learn from it. Clinton some things that were wrong. I don't know anything about the specific situation you are bringing up, but it sure sounds wrong to me. Instead of using the fact that Clinton did it to rationalize the fact that Bush is doing even worse and more widespread things now doesn't make any sense. We should learn from what previous presidents did wrong and do them differently now!

The real "weasel argument" is bringing up something Clinton did everytime it is pointed out that Bush is doing something wrong now with the intention of "tripping up the lousy liberals". We cannot change the past. We can use the past to help us decide to change the present!

geniusmannumber1 10 years ago

"I would argue that warrantless searches in public housing is far worse than warrantless wiretaps of conversations between terrorists, but that's just me. I realize that some of you believe terrorists should not be inconvenienced."

And the winner of the Strawman Argument of the Day is....

jumpin_catfish 10 years ago

Oversight is a good thing and although there is no perfect system blindly trusting the likes of General George and co. doesn't sit well with me. I think it is silly or stupid to think the democrats would purposefully endanger the public's safety. Democrats are Americans too.

BrianR 10 years ago

I don't think that this lacolonia person is who you think it is.

I can usually tell a Groenhagen comment from a similar comment with almost as much ease as I can tell the Beatles from the Stones, this just doesn't sound right. Unless he's experimenting with serious style and interpersonal communication changes...?

kansas778 10 years ago

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."
Chief Justice John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison.

As such, it's not up to President Bush or Congress to determine what the law is.

Anyway, America is not a country founded on any shared ancestry or race, or on a ruling class or family. America is a unique nation founded on ideas, ideas that are espoused in the Constitution. Therefore, to defend the Constitution IS to defend America. Not upholding parts of the Constitution is just as bad as letting terrorists bomb our buildings. Now there may be a disagreement as to what the law is, but as stated above, there is a branch of government who's duty is to say what the law is.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

lacolonia (Anonymous) says:

"Aren't terrorists more of a threat to the U.S. than those in public housing?"

I still don't like the argument, but public housing is owned by the government.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

scott3460 (Anonymous) says:

"The Democrats should offer bush a clean, unencumbered update of the FISA law without the immunity issue and force idiot george to either sign and continue to whine about immunity for his corporate buddies, or refuse to sign and force him to shut up about the supposed danger we are in."

It looks like that's exactly where this is headed. If it is so crucial, he'll sign it without the immunity. Bush has already threatened to veto it if it doesn't include immunity. It's more about saving some corporate buddies a few $b's than our security.

jonas 10 years ago

"Yes, before this forum was launched, no one had a way to express his displeasure with a president."

That's even more pointless than the first post. Your challenge requires a recorded statement, and the only context we have for right-thinker is on this forum.

I'm not sure what your point is in posting my real name.(though I am somewhat dumfounded that you would take the time to check my internet history or whatever in order to find it) You are free to continue to use it, should you desire to. It is my name, after all, and I will continue to answer to it. I have no particular need to protect my identity, or to remain anonymous. The only reason I haven't done so to this point is that no one knows my real name, as I'm just a graduate student with no particular political aspersions, and my real name is hardly relevent to the context of this forum. Unlike some, I have no particular need for any sort of internet psuedo-celebrity.

At any rate, any investigation into my background will only reveal that I'm just an average (but strikingly handsome!!) student that is doing reasonably well in life. If finding that out gives you some sense of gratification, then continue yanking that cord.

pisafromthewest 10 years ago

a_flock_of_jayhawks (Anonymous) says:

"It looks like that's exactly where this is headed. If it is so crucial, he'll sign it without the immunity. Bush has already threatened to veto it if it doesn't include immunity. It's more about saving some corporate buddies a few $b's than our security."

Um, yeah. It would be completely pointless to sign it without immunity. As I mentioned before, consider the bill just passed by the Kansas House mandating drug tests after serious car accidents. If doctors or nurses could be sued (or even face criminal charges and/or sanctions against their licenses) for drawing blood without the driver's permission, or for breaching patient confidentiality by releasing the results against the driver's wishes, how many do you think would put themselves at risk and draw the blood? For that matter, how many cops would take them to a hospital to have the blood drawn if they were going to spend half their time tied up in court defending themselves against lawsuits filed by every driver?

It's not unheard of for a private party or organization to be granted immunity as part of their cooperation in enforcing a law. As I said, in many instances it would be pointless to pass legislation requiring private party cooperation without insulating that party from legal action.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

pisafromthewest says, "It's not unheard of for a private party or organization to be granted immunity as part of their cooperation in enforcing a law. As I said, in many instances it would be pointless to pass legislation requiring private party cooperation without insulating that party from legal action."

The problem with that is that the immunity is for cooperation in breaking a law rather than enforcing it. The private party cooperation you speak of is in conjunction with a court's oversight...they would not turn over the records vis-a-vis the law going forward from this point without what would have been required prior to today. AFAIK, there is no provision that would insulate them from legal action for any additional cooperation included in this new version.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

pisafromthewest says, "Um, yeah. It would be completely pointless to sign it without immunity"

Hmmm. Then why would the original law have been signed in the first place without it?

sfjayhawk 10 years ago

RT - And bush has been too busy with his coloring books to keep his eye on the economy - as I recall the economy was pretty darn good in the clinton 1 years.

sfjayhawk 10 years ago

PA - There definitely was no 'stagflation' in the mid/late 90s - just people making a bunch of $$, a huge budget surplus and the US was envy of the world - my how times have changed!

At least those smart enough to invest in big oil these last years have been rewarded - imagine that!!

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

PA says, "Actually, there was an ACTUAL (all caps) recession beginning on BJ's watch."

Primarily due to overpriced tech stocks and too many players in a space that could not accommodate that many. And a correction occurred. Free market economy at work. And how was that Clinton's fault? Would you rather have seen the government step in and regulate that somehow?

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

BTW, if you want to take that tack, why don't you go back and read / quote what Greenspan had to say during and reflecting on those years. Or maybe you don't believe what he has to say?

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

You can revise history here all you want. I was paying attention as many other were and heard news of declines in sectors a few months after W took office. NBR says it was March 2001. Recessions occur after a peak.


a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years ago

R_T says, "In reality, yes, it was an empty paper bag. That's all."

I agree. Biomed was still doing pretty good after the bubble had burst.

Everyone opened a storefront even if there were too many players, hoping that when the consolidation would occur, that they would end up with a piece of the pie (get bought out).

My observation at that time was that they were hoping widespread broadband Internet access deployments would accelerate quicker than they did. So, they had to hang around too long on burn money.

sfjayhawk 10 years ago

PA - I have no idea why investing in tech stocks in the 90s was unscrupulous? How can a gorge bush fluffer think that anything to do with investing in the stock market - the free market - is unscrupulous? Are you some kind of closet commie?

At least during the dot com bust, no one stepped in with any big-government bail out package - like what has happened with the mortgage bust.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 9 years, 12 months ago

For all of you who make the false claim that Bush inherited a recession:


a_flock_of_jayhawks 9 years, 12 months ago

BTW, FISA is still intact. It is the PAA provision that allows eavesdropping on American's domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant that expired.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 9 years, 12 months ago

lacolonia (Anonymous) says:


Media Matters for Hillary's CEO and president is an admitted liar. Why would you refer us to that site in an attempt to make a point?"

In spite of your attempt to discredit the source, the article is quite well documented and syncs with what I heard at the time. Perhaps you can refute specific claims in it with some evidence of your own. The current Fed chair was one of the authors.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 9 years, 12 months ago

lacolonia says, "None of Bush's economy policies were put into law until several months after the recession began."

So you're going to maintain that a sitting President with a Republican-controlled Congress did not have the means and capability of making changes to economic policy where necessary, even when they threw the R-word around before taking office. Then what actually did happen in W's first 100 days in office?

Scott Drummond 9 years, 12 months ago

Blah, Blah, Blah.....what a bunch of stupid blather.

bush violated his oath of office by conspiring with the telecoms to spy on American citizens without Court order and now he doesn't want to get caught at it. There's 102 comments so far & I have yet to see any legitimate defense of the unconstitutional acts. Why grant immunity for something we do not know the full extent of, don't know if other more serious constitutional violations have taken place and have, at this point, virtually no reason to trust bush at his word (this is the guy, afterall, who ran around the country stating "a wiretap requires a Court order" when he knew he was engaged in domestic spying without benefit of any Court order.) It is sad enough that such a pathetic & unworthy administration has been left in place so long, but it would be even worse were they allowed to leave office without the full extent of their abuses known.

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