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Despite former President Jimmy Carter's pointed jabs at the Bush administration over the NSA surveillance program this past week, it turns out that Carter has more familiarity with warrantless eavesdropping than he let on. Today's Washington Times reports that Carter and his Attorney General authorized warrantless electronic surveillance on two suspected espionage agents, one of whom was an American citizen:
Former President Jimmy Carter, who publicly rebuked President Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program this week during the funeral of Coretta Scott King and at a campaign event, used similar surveillance against suspected spies.
"Under the Bush administration, there's been a disgraceful and illegal decision -- we're not going to the let the judges or the Congress or anyone else know that we're spying on the American people," Mr. Carter said Monday in Nevada when his son Jack announced his Senate campaign. ...
But in 1977, Mr. Carter and his attorney general, Griffin B. Bell, authorized warrantless electronic surveillance used in the conviction of two men for spying on behalf of Vietnam.
The men, Truong Dinh Hung and Ronald Louis Humphrey, challenged their espionage convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which unanimously ruled that the warrantless searches did not violate the men's rights.
In its opinion, the court said the executive branch has the "inherent authority" to wiretap enemies such as terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when surveillance is "conducted 'primarily' for foreign intelligence reasons."
Not only does Jimmy Carter betray his hypocrisy here, but his Attorney General told Congress when it debated the FISA law in 1978 that FISA would not impede the president from exercising precisely this power under the Constitution. The Times also notes that Jamie Gorelick said much the same thing in 1994. In any case, the appellate court certainly agreed with both Bell and Carter in 1980, even after passage of FISA the year after the surveillance took place.
Keep in mind that this surveillance took place to fight a simple espionage case, not to defend the country against an enemy that has already attacked American assets on numerous occasions and killed 3,000 civilians in one attack on American soil. Carter did not get an authorization for the use of military force against Viet Nam -- can you imagine him asking for one? -- and yet still claimed Constitutional authority for warrantless surveillance on Ronald Humphrey, an American citizen. And the courts agreed with Carter.
That gives a very strong precedent for Bush's argument that both Article II and the AUMF against Al-Qaeda gives him the authority to surveil international communications that may involve American residents without a warrant. It certainly has more common-sense standing than the case against Truong and Humphrey, which the 4th Circuit upheld and for which the Supreme Court denied cert, giving it the authority of precedent. It also shows what a complete hypocrite Carter has become in his bitter pursuit to damage George Bush in any way possible.
I wonder where all the Democrats who hailed stare decisis during the Alito and Roberts confirmation hearings have gone. My guess is that we won't hear from them about this precedent. (via The Anchoress)Sphere It View blog reactions
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