Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Something to Think About: What is Considered Wartime?

If the Bush Administration is justifying its domestic, warrantless wiretapping by saying it has the authority due to a Congressional authorization of force; and prisoners captured on the battlefields do not deserve the protections of the Geneva Convention because of the special nature of Bush's "war," is there any action that does not fall into the administration's new war powers? What is the actual definition of wartime? Is there anylimit on these powers? Ever?
by Kevin Drum(Washington Monthly)
WARTIME....Do President Bush's inherent constitutional powers as commander-in-chief give him the authority to override federal law and approve domestic spying by the NSA? That's certainly the justification he provided at Monday's press conference:

Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.

Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt support this assessment in the Washington Post today, and they've been joined by a small army of other commentators.

Of course, their argument is not that the president has the inherent power to authorize domestic surveillance anytime he wants, only that he has that power during wartime. And as near as I can tell, that's the elephant in the room that no one is really very anxious to discuss: What is "wartime"? Is George Bush really a "wartime president," as he's so fond of calling himself? Conservatives take it for granted that he is, while liberals tend to avoid the subject entirely for fear of being thought unserious about the War on Terror. But it's something that ought be brought up and discussed openly.

Consider a different war, for example. It's safe to say that whatever Bush's NSA program actually involves, no one would have batted an eyelash if FDR had approved a similar program during World War II. Experience suggests that during a period of genuine, all-out war, few people complain when a president pushes the boundaries of the law based on military necessity. But aside from World War II, what else counts as wartime?(read the rest)

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