One day after former Vice President Al Gore’s speech, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (part of the USA Today family of papers), in an “essay” by Anthony Macula (an associate professor of mathematics at the State University College at Geneseo) heralded on it’s OP-Ed page that we are in a constitutional crisis:

We are on the brink of a constitutional crisis. President Bush is in trouble over his authorization of domestic spying by the National Security Agency. Meanwhile, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is acting as if the president needs to be protected from the law while his critics should not be protected by the law.

Sounds like 1973, when Richard Nixon was president and John Mitchell attorney general. However, there is a big difference between the 1973 constitutional crisis and the one looming today — a special prosecutor like Archibald Cox has yet to be appointed.

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Even though it is entirely possible to prove to judge and jury that President Bush knowingly broke the FISA laws, the record clearly indicates that neither Gonzales, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld nor Condoleezza Rice could ever conceive that a man like President Bush could be wrong. The scales of justice are stacked in favor of the president and we need a special prosecutor to bring them back into balance. We need an impartial investigator who believes more in a government of laws than a government of men.

Yes, I know it is not the official position of the paper’s editorial board, but the fact that they would publish this “essay” so quickly after Gore’s speech tells me that, no matter how faint hearted they may be with regard to giving this viewpoint the paper’s official imprimatur, someone there (hopefully the publisher) is concerned enough to feature this prominently on the editorial page. Although Rochester proper is a Democratic city, the D&C’s circulation base is primarily in the surrounding suburbs which vote heavily Republican. So I read this as a good sign.

Links to more editorials attacking the Bush administration and its illegal wirtetaps after the fold.
From the Spring Grove Herald in Minnesota:

If the president can simply chart his course and establish his own rules, not being bound by the legislative or judicial branches of the government, he is effectively “above the law.” In fact, he is the law. If the judiciary and Congress have significantly diminished roles during perceived times of war, what rule of law binds the president? The frightening answer is that there isn’t one, explained Whitehead in a recent column.

Some people are willing to give up their powers in exchange for the security of knowing that everything is being done to fight the terrorists, even if it involves spying on people who may be their neighbor.

However, a concrete example of why this isn’t acceptable is provided by the man who was honored Monday during a national holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the subject of an intrusive and relentless campaign waged against him by the U.S. government, through its agencies such as the FBI.

Ari Emanuel, at Yahoo News:

Remember all the huffing and puffing the right wing did about how the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was to blame for the epidemic of blow jobs — especially among high school age teens? It was “He’s leading by bad example.” So how come none of those same culture warriors are drawing the connection between President Bush’s habitual inability to tell the truth — about WMD, about the war, about torture, about NSA wiretaps, about Abramoff’s White House visits, etc, etc — and the epidemic of lying that has taken hold in America?

From the Edmund Sun in Oklahoma:

The only explanation I can arrive at for the way things were done is that Bush and company simply can’t be bothered to comply. After all, it’s only the Constitution that is at stake. These are the people who find the Constitution an impediment to their doing what they want to in other regards, like forcing their religion on innocent school children, torturing prisoners and acting as if the executive branch has primacy over the other two. The last point has been the most important part of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the appointment of Samuel Alito to the U.S., Supreme Court, though a lot of folks missed the point in focusing on Roe vs. Wade.

George W. Bush and his staff simply do not have the respect for the American people and for our constitutional form of government that is required of a president. The administration should not get a pass on this. The claim has been made that the administration’s legal staff must have advised Bush and the NSA that what they were doing would pass legal muster. But people forget that not all advice given by lawyers passes the review of the courts, and further, that what clients want to know isn’t always “Is it legal.” It is often, “Can we get away with it?”

An Op-ed by Christopher and Jeffrey Pyle, constitutional law scholar and First Amendment lawyer, respectively, at AXcess News:

Does anyone remember how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blackmailed members of Congress and tried to force Dr. King to commit suicide by anonymously threatening to disclose personal information obtained through warrantless wiretaps and bugs? We know that UN ambassador John Bolton, when he was under-secretary of State, obtained NSA intercepts of the international communications of fellow Republicans. Given the intensity of partisanship in Washington today, can we be sure that he and colleagues have not been using NSA intercepts to monitor Democrats, journalists, or anti-war activists?

So, whether we have anything to hide or not, we do have a democracy to protect from what is fast becoming the apparatus of a police state.

Nat Hentoff, from the Sacramento Bee:

. . .[W]ith the Senate conducting its own investigation, there is White House pressure to move that inquiry from Arlen Specter’s Judiciary Committee to the Intelligence Committee. But the latter’s chairman, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is so indifferent to Fourth Amendment privacy protection that he supports giving the FBI the power, through administrative subpoenas, to seize extensive personal data from Americans not involved in any criminal acts. There is no judicial review of those subpoenas.

Whoever is in charge of the inquiry should call, as a witness, James Comey, who was an effective federal prosecutor of terrorists. In 2004, while Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized with pancreatitis, Comey refused to sign off on certain expansive surveillance operations of the NSA authorized by the president because he was not sure they were legal.

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Congress must remember that the Constitution has not been suspended, and its members do have crucial oversight responsibilities, especially in this administration.

And this last one from the San Francisco Chronicle:

. . . [A] story in Tuesday’s New York Times suggested that the FBI was not only questioning the legality of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program, but also the value of the voluminous, but overwhelmingly meaningless, “tips” it was producing.

The Bush White House has argued that its surveillance efforts are legal — under an exceedingly loose interpretation of a use-of-force resolution after Sept. 11 — and have saved thousands of lives. In this country, citizens whose liberties are being sacrificed have not only a right, but a duty, to challenge such claims.

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