Saturday, February 04, 2006

Illegal Wiretaps: It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Rumsfield and Cheney have been trying to violate the Constitutional prohibition against warrantless searches for over 3 decades. This AP article, in today's Washington Post:

Papers: Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps

WASHINGTON -- The White House was eager to protect its ability to gather foreign intelligence. Congress was eager to rein in executive power. What sounds like a new debate over the president's ability to eavesdrop without warrants occurred 30 years ago.

Documents from the Ford administration reflect a remarkably similar dispute between the White House and Congress a generation before President Bush acknowledged that he authorized wiretaps without warrants on some Americans in terrorism investigations.

"Yogi Berra was right: It's deja vu all over again," said Tom Blanton, executive director for the National Security Archive, a private group at George Washington University that compiles collections of sensitive government documents. "It's the same debate."


Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said comparing the Ford-era debate to the current controversy is "misleading because no matter what Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld may have argued back in 1976, the fact is they lost. When Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, Congress decisively resolved this debate.


Notes from a 1975 meeting between then-White House chief of staff Dick Cheney, Attorney General Edward Levi and others cite the "problem" of a New York Times article by Seymour Hersh about U.S. submarines spying inside Soviet waters. Participants considered a formal FBI investigation of Hersh and the Times and searching Hersh's apartment "to go after (his) papers," the document said.

"I was surprised," Hersh said in a telephone interview Friday. "I was surprised that they didn't know I had a house and a mortgage."

One option outlined at the 1975 meeting was to "ignore the Hersh story and hope it doesn't happen again." Participants worried about "will we get hit with violating the First Amendment to the Constitution?"

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