Thursday, January 19

Justice blowing smoke on NSA

The Department of Justice has released a 40-page document outlining exactly how and why the NSA wiretaps aren't a crime against the Constitution and American people, uh... illegal.
The NSA activities are supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent
constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States.

This is true, but the keyword in this sentence is "Foreign" - the President does have the authority to perform warrantless surveillance of foreign subjects and on foreign soil - but not against Americans. Not without a Warrant. Under 18 USC § 2511. (Prohibition of Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications)

(f) Nothing contained in this chapter or chapter 121 or 206 of this title, or section 705 of the Communications Act of 1934, shall be deemed to affect the acquisition by the United States Government of foreign intelligence information from international or foreign communications, or foreign intelligence activities conducted in accordance with otherwise applicable Federal law involving a foreign electronic communications system, utilizing a means other than electronic surveillance as defined in section 101 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and procedures in this chapter or chapter 121 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance, as defined in section 101 of such Act, and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.

Back to Justice.

The President has the chief responsibility under the Constitution to protect America from attack, and the Constitution gives the President the authority necessary to fulfill that solemn responsibility. The President has made clear that he will exercise all authority available to him, consistent with the Constitution, to protect the people
of the United States.

In the specific context of the current armed conflict with al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations, Congress by statute has confirmed and supplemented the President’s recognized authority under Article II of the Constitution to conduct such warrantless surveillance to prevent further catastrophic attacks on the homeland.

They have? That seems to be news the them. From the Washington Post:
The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.
Justice continues:
In its first legislative response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Congress authorized the President to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” of September 11th in order to prevent “any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No. 107-40, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224, 224 (Sept. 18, 2001) (reported as a note to 50 U.S.C.A. § 1541) (“AUMF”)

Jordan Paust
of the University of Houston Law Center disagrees with this analysis.

George W. Bush and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claim that domestic spying in manifest violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was authorized by Congress in broad language in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) regarding persons responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Similar claims have been made in a December 22 letter from Assistant Attorney General William Moschella to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The claims are patently false.

First, there is no persuasive evidence that when passing the AUMF Congress intended to override either criminal or other provisions of the FISA requiring Executive compliance with the FISA process for foreign intelligence surveillance. Second, the AUMF contains no express or implied authorization concerning intelligence surveillance either abroad or within the United States. With respect to Executive action against certain persons, the purpose of the AUMF is clearly contained in the authorization to use merely “necessary and appropriate force” against those “nations, organizations, or persons” that “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 terrorist attacks as such or that “harbored such ... persons.” The authorization of appropriate “force” is not an authorization to torture or to use cruel, inhuman, degrading, or humiliating treatment against any human being; it is not an authorization to create military commissions that are otherwise without jurisdiction under constitutional and international law and violate due process; and it is certainly not an authorization to spy on persons within the United States. Moreover, Congress has only authorized use of “appropriate” force. The word “appropriate” creates a statutory limitation that necessarily requires Executive compliance with relevant constitutional, international, and other federal laws, especially since Supreme Court opinions have long recognized that relevant international law and prior federal statutes are a necessary background more generally for interpretation of newer federal statutes.
More from Justice.
History conclusively demonstrates that warrantless communications intelligence targeted at the enemy in time of armed conflict is a traditional and fundamental incident of the use of military force authorized by the AUMF.
Only when that "enemy" doesn't include U.S. Citizens. If it does, you need a FISA Warrant. Justice again...
The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the AUMF in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), confirms that Congress in the AUMF gave its express approval to the military conflict against al Qaeda and its allies and thereby to the President’s use of all traditional and accepted incidents of force in this current military conflict—including warrantless electronic surveillance to intercept enemy communications both at home and abroad.
Hamdi found that the President did have the authority to declare a U.S. Citizen as an "Enemy Combatant" (particularly since he was captured during combat with the Talibn in Afghanistan), but it did not grant the President the authority to bypass judicial review of the case.
JUSTICE O ’CONNOR,joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE,JUSTICE KENNEDY,and JUSTICE BREYER,concluded that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged in this case, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker.Pp.14 –15.

JUSTICE SOUTER,joined by JUSTICE GINSBURG,concluded that Hamdi ’ s detention is unauthorized,but joined with the plurality to conclude that on remand Hamdi should have a meaningful opportunity to offer evidence that he is not an enemy combatant.
This understanding of the AUMF demonstrates Congress’s support for the President’s authority to protect the Nation and, at the same time, adheres to Justice O’Connor’s admonition that “a state of war is not a blank check for the President,” Hamdi, 542 U.S. at 536 (plurality opinion), particularly in view of the narrow scope of the NSA activities.
"This understanding of the AUMF"? Can you say - "Load of Crap", ladies and gentlemen? When Justice O'Connor said "a state of war is not a blank check" she also said...
We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation ’s citizens. Youngstown Sheet &Tube ,343 U.S.,at 587. Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.
Cutting to the chase - The President can not cut the courts out of the mix on decisions such as these, even during a time of war. Sorry Bushie - can't do it.

In Youngstown, the Supreme Court overruled the action of President Truman in seizing control of American Steel Mills to prevent a strike during the Korean War.
(a) There is no statute which expressly or impliedly authorizes the President to take possession of this property as he did here. Pp. 585-586.

(b) In its consideration of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, Congress refused to authorize governmental seizures of property as a method of preventing work stoppages and settling labor disputes. P. 586.

(c) Authority of the President to issue such an order in the circumstances of this case cannot be implied from the aggregate of his powers under Article II of the Constitution. Pp. 587-589.

(d) The Order cannot properly be sustained as an exercise of the President's military power as commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. P. 587.
Back to Justice...
The AUMF places the President at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the NSA activities. Under the tripartite framework set forth by Justice Jackson in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635-38 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring), Presidential authority is analyzed to determine whether the President is acting in accordance with congressional authorization (category I), whether he acts in the absence of a grant or denial of authority by Congress (category II), or whether he uses his own authority under the Constitution to take actions incompatible with congressional measures (category III). Because of the broad authorization provided in the AUMF, the President’s action here falls within category I of Justice Jackson’s framework. Accordingly, the President’s power in authorizing the NSA activities is at its height because he acted “pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress,” and his power “includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.” Id. at 635.
This entire house of cards constructed by Justice falls completely apart when you pull out the AUMF lynch-pin. Neither Hamdi nor Youngstown support their arguements. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe takes out that lynch-pin with a sledgehammer.

If Hamdi treated the AUMF as an "explicit congressional authorization," 124 S.Ct. at 2640-41, for imprisoning an enemy combatant despite AUMF's failure to mention "detention" or "imprisonment" in so many words, the argument goes, the AUMF must be read to impliedly authorize the far less severe intrusion of merely eavesdropping on our terrorist enemies, and on members of organizations that indirectly support them. After all, the collection of "signals intelligence" about our enemies abroad is no less an accepted incident of war than detaining the captured enemy -- just as signals intelligence of foreign agents (including some going to and from the United States) has been accepted as an inherent power of the President even in the absence of war. Surely, then, now that Al Qaeda has launched a war against us, and now that Congress has responded with the functional equivalent of a declaration of war in the AUMF, even the entirely innocent American citizen in Chicago or Cleveland whose phone conversation with a member of an Al Qaeda-supportive organization happens to be ensnared by the eavesdropping being undertaken by the NSA cannot be heard to complain that no statute specifically authorized the Executive to capture her telephone communications and e-mails as such. Invasion of that citizen's privacy was, alas, but one of war's sad side effects -- a species of collateral damage.

The technical legal term for that, I believe, is poppycock.
That's putting it mildly Larry, very mildly indeed.


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