John McCain vows to continue Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping program

John McCain has changed his position on illegal warrantless wiretapping: he used to think that the President had to uphold the nation's laws. Now he says that the Constitution is subordinate to the all-powerful executive order.

My favorite line on this comes from the chickenhawks who say that the Fourth Amendment was written before the All Powerful Threat of Terrorism. Sure thing. Ben Franklin and his pals couldn't possibly have foreseen a world in which the very idea of America was under some kind of military threat. Those candyasses didn't understand what war was about. They were armchair theorists, civilians who'd never anticipated foreign soldiers on American soil -- surely if they'd known that America might some day face an actual existential risk, they would have put a little asterisk next to each clause of the Bill of Rights leading to a footnote that said, "Unless the king president really, really needs to do it."

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. [...]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

Link

67

  1. As a non-‘merican, can I submit that there is only one logical presidential candidate, and Mr. McCain just disqualified himself?

  2. I wish I understood how I see these threats to our civil liberties as serious business, and yet my parents buy into our fearmongering nanny state. I’m pretty sure my CS degree had something to do with my POV, but it doesn’t help me convince them. I recently got my signed copy of Cory’s “Little Brother” in the mail…I’m only partway through, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how the protagonist’s efforts to educate his father play out. The story pushes a healthy civil liberties awareness “agenda”, but does so with interestingly detailed examples (borderline tutorials) that are practical and innovative. I’m hoping I’ll also find some insights about spreading this agenda to the previous generation.

  3. except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers

    …and the hippies, and the commies, and the atheists, and the homos, and all those icky others that you don’t identify with.

  4. This is basically a good example of the complete toothlessness of law. If you can’t apply sufficient force to make a lawbreaker stop, there is no point in having a law at all.

  5. Come on Cory, that was a bit loaded.

    Saying that they think the constitution is below the president isn’t the same as them claiming that what they were doing was legal under the constitution (which is what they said).

    Whether or not you agree, you shouldn’t let your feelings about the current administration allow you to blatantly mis-represent what they said. Then you’re no better than they are.

    Please don’t ban me for saying so.

  6. Sam, have a look at the forth amendment and tell me how this could possibly be constitutional — for bonus points, read p on “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” and how they led to the forth amendment.

  7. John McCain is an idiot. He finished near the bottom of his class for a reason. What little brains he had evidently was left in the Hanoi Hilton. Damn that working parachute.

  8. They really don’t understand anything about the founding fathers. They were firmly anti-this crap.

    George W (ashington that is) would ***** slap the current George W for doing exactly what he feared could happen to the presidency.

    Are there no more checks and balances?

  9. That’s a good point, Cory, and one that I oddly haven’t heard in the mainstream or podcasting media. The founding fathers were tremendously worried about attacks on our soil and wrote the constitution as they did. I really think this should become a new talking point for the left.

    Incidentally, I’m all for not lionizing the founding fathers as omniscient psychics whose words can be bent to whatever political cause is at stake. Politicians have found ideal puppets in the founding fathers in that they have credibility and can be made to say anything.

  10. Yeah the Constitution is only as good as your Judiciary and as far as Habeas Corpus goes the Supreme Court apparently thinks seven years as speedy enough for a hearing… Hiya Omar!
    The Far-right Repubs have stacked your Courts. President Bush appointed two Supremes AFTER he ordered people to be tortured unto death it appears…how can you have confidence in your Judges therefter?

  11. And yet the democrats in congress have still been unable to do anything about the Bush administration and their “police state”. Truly sad.

  12. MACBRAK

    When George Washington delivered his Farewell Address in March 1797, he advised his fellow Americans to avoid foreign entanglements, to preserve the good credit of the nation, and to beware of the dangers of political parties, which might fragment the nation.

    I’ve always remembered those three points from my U.S. History Seminar. (sigh) If we had only listened…

  13. @10 – No, he wouldn’t. We got ourselves into this mess by sheer cowardice. The revolution was fought against a government that would (and did) kill anyone caught in their seditious acts. It took bravery and moral certainty in the cause of liberty to go up against the colonial government. We screwed it up by letting fear take away our liberties. The fear may be legit, but it doesn’t change the effects. No tyrant’s army marched on us; we as a nation put the chains on ourselves. If anything, I think our Founding Fathers would be disappointed in us, not angry.

    The following quote really was a common belief held at one time …

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Benjamin Franklin)

  14. This is exactly why the founding fathers wanted a President and NOT a king. They wanted a leader elected from among the citizenry who would have to operate under the same laws as any other citizen.

  15. I just hope the majority of Americans find what McCain is saying as unattractive as I do. What a nutbag. He used to seem somewhat normal.

  16. “They?” The founding “fathers” were hardly a monolithic “they.” And while most if not all would be disgusted with this, its best to remember that the constitution was based on many compromises, one being the addition of the bill of rights. Given the sedition policies put in by the John Adams administration tells me that “they” did not always agree on things defining the limits of government power.

  17. As a non-‘merican, can I submit that there is only one logical presidential candidate, and Mr. McCain just disqualified himself?

    As a non-‘merican, this is a reasonable conclusion.

    However, FOR SOME UNIDENTIFIABLE REASON, ‘mericans think this is a REASONABLE idea and that we have to protect our CHILDRUNZ AND LUVD ONEZ by taking away rights. I don’t understand it.

    I wish I understood how I see these threats to our civil liberties as serious business, and yet my parents buy into our fearmongering nanny state.

    I feel you, man. Sometimes (once) I can even convince my parents with a well-reasoned argument! Five minutes later, they talk to each other and reinforce the lies, and it’s like nothing ever happened. I’ve Ben Franklin quoted ’em, I’ve Little Brother’ed em, it all leads back to this. That GITMO is a necessary thing and that the people in there are TERRISTS. That anyone in trouble has done something wrong. That you might have to break a few eggs for the omelet. That the terrists are gonna get us.

    I can’t believe that a whole country, and so many red-staters with so many guns and talk of their readiness for battle, has been hoodwinked into the idiocy.

    And yet still no one realizes that the Middle East is our fault. We were going over the origins of Al Qaeda in History, and my teacher was near ready to go pick up all the dropped jaws with a dustbin and give them to Biology for dissections.

  18. Bush/McCain consistently and vehemently insist that the Constitution of the U.S. doesn’t apply to the executive branch, and that the Constitution either 1) says this is so (no it does NOT), or 2) the Constitution does not matter if does not. It is not a misrepresentation to say that they disregard the Constitution. It is not, as one of Bush’s cronies reported Bush himself as saying, “just a goddamned piece of paper”. The President’s power is granted by the goddamned piece of paper, and he/she has no power without it, in war or in peace. Without the Constitution, Bush is just a dictator who may or may not decide to follow the law. The law is not whatever Bush/McCain decide it is today.

  19. I love when these guys site Article II of the Constitution. I’m looking at Article II right now. Can someone tell me where it says a President can spy on its citizens? I sure can’t find it.

  20. If we’re compliant enough, we could have a Golden Shield just like the one China’s building. Everyone else in the society is a potential enemy. You’re always being watched, always being scrutinized, always being measured against an (arbitrary, inscrutable) standard.

    But safe, safe, safe. Oh that magical feeling.

  21. I don’t understand how people can say the Founding Fathers didn’t understand war. That’s a ludicrous notion, considering the primary actions were mostly on colonial soil. And hello, Francis Marion? Did these people sleep through history class?

  22. Sam @6

    Saying that they think the constitution is below the president isn’t the same as them claiming that what they were doing was legal under the constitution (which is what they said).

    That’s not actually what they said. The exact quote is:

    [N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

    What they said is not that their actions were constitutional. They’re saying that most people understand them to have been/i> constitutional. Which may well be true, but in theory it doesn’t matter before the law.

  23. Congratulations, Mr. McCain. You’re well on your way to exceeding Arch-Traitor Bush as a threat to America.

  24. In a strict sense, the Founding Father could be considered terrorists, from the view of the British Crown, at any rate. Or treasonous scum, at any rate. The boston tea party was hardly the same as a suicide bombing.

    Their lesson was: if you don’t like your government, change your government. But then, it seems most americans honestly believe Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al qaeda and planned 9/11 because Bush told them so. I mean why would the President lie to them about their safety?

  25. C’mon. Now, I’m no lover of McCain, but really…. If you asked him if he supported “illegal warrantless wiretapping” (as you put it), you must be confident that he’d reply in the negative.

    Perhaps you need to make a more solid case for why you think it MIGHT BE illegal (even though it hasn’t been JUDGED illegal by our courts), and have a discussion about that before coloring his position as outright illegal. And then try to prosecute it sucessfully.

    Really, it’s only “illegal” in your opinion, right? Not in the true, legal sense.

    Hyperbole doesn’t really help here, I’m sorry to say.

  26. (even though it hasn’t been JUDGED illegal by our courts)

    It’s judged illegal in law, isn’t it? It hasn’t been tested by court case, granted.

    But the Constitution denies the idea of search without warrant, and this is what wiretapping without warrant amounts to.

  27. “except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers”

    …and a large majority of the voters.

    As he will find in November.

  28. #29 the whole source of the problem was people deciding that IN THEIR OPINION, such-and-such was legal, regardless of what Congress says, regardless of the law says, regardless of what the Constitution says. If the president says something is legal, then by definition it’s legal.

    So I share your concern that people hold the misconception that their personal opinions allow them to define what is and isn’t illegal.

  29. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    well in that case, if he becomes president, he can’t take the oath… he can’t say that we’ll ignore it to defend it… otherwise what is the whole point of having a constitution to defend? Bush managed to completely blow the moral high ground when he made those decisions…

  30. McCain hasn’t vowed to continue anything. Wired spun this one badly. I’m not a Republican or a McCain supporter (pretty apathetic about politics, actually), but a lot of the remarks I’ve seen so far are pretty out there.

    I’m restoring the part that Wired excised:

    [N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Senator McCain has never stated, nor does he believe that telecoms should only receive retroactive immunity in exchange for congressional testimony about their actions.

    I like how Wired removed the part about “retroactive immunity” to make it look like McCain is referring to the present. McCain believes the telecoms should have retroactive immunity from what they did post-9/11. He’s toeing the party line. Nothing about future policy or immunity.

    We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

    “Appropriate” could always mean “with a warrant”, could it not? And perhaps McCain interprets Article II differently than Bush. Let the voters decide.

    Every time someone posits “What would the founding fathers have done?” I think of what likely happened to people suspected of being British spies. It probably wasn’t nice.

  31. @36

    If he meant that wiretaps should only be carried out with a warrant, why didn’t he say so? The fact that he defaulted to “doing everything he can to protect us from the terrorists” indicates he didn’t want to be on record saying wiretaps require warrants.

    Further – as you point out, he said

    “Senator McCain has never stated, nor does he believe that telecoms should only receive retroactive immunity in exchange for congressional testimony about their actions.”
    (emphasis mine)

    In other words, he believes they should receive retroactive immunity. He believes, and has never stated to the contrary, that they should receive more than that – most likely future immunity for criminal acts, which is quite illegal, as opposed to retroactive immunity, which is legal.

  32. @32 Kibble –

    I think that the administration looked at the consequences of breaking the law while they had control of two branches of government and decided the benefits outweighed the risks.

    “Well sir, we control the senate and the house, so that leaves the Judiciary, and it will take them more than 8 years to unravel this mess, so let’s fucking go for it!”

    Our laws are only as powerful as our ability to enforce them. We’ve got a pretty good example of what can happen when you get a bunch of bad apples at the top. The foxes are already in the henhouse, and the door is wide open, blowing in the wind. Most of the hens just haven’t realized it yet.

  33. McCain is just Bushlite. he has voted with W 100% of the time. just a clone of FAIL. the problem will be during the actual election, when the right wing once again will haul out their dirtiest of trix. and if that fails, i think they will downright steal it. then what will we do?

  34. 1. Of course McCain thinks “the Constitution is subordinate to the all-powerful executive order”, because he thinks HE’S going to be the next Chief Executive. Let’s see if he still feels the same way with Obama in the White House. . . let’s see if any of those other chickenhawks feel the same way.

    2. Hmmmm, yes, terrorism is a grave threat, but is it REALLY a greater threat than all the nukes the Soviets had pointed at us for 40 years (and Putin probably STILL has pointed at us)? Really, how many nukes could Bin Laden get his hands on? One? Two? Seven? (to say nothing of actually delivering them to a target, from within the mountains of Pakistan). We didn’t allow wholesale wiretapping during the darkest days of the red scare, why allow it now? In fact the Soviets tapped every Russian phone with no oversight and no qualms (you know, because they were DICTATORS! So now we want to be a country of dictators?) Ask a Russian who grew up under Stalin if it was a worthwhile trade-off: “security” from western invasion in exchange for personal freedoms within your own country. Hmmmm. . . maybe that’s why the Soviets won the cold war– they were tapping all their own phones. . . oh wait, they DIDN’T win the cold war, how did that happen with all the tapping they did!

    3. The eternal bogeymen of the right, “ACLU and trial lawyers.” Yeah, they hate trial lawyers, until they are facing a trial, and then they have no problem hiring a trial lawyer. The ACLU works for EVERYBODY’S rights, not just liberals, ALL citizens. They are the last line of defense against an increasingly intrusive government (or second to last, before the gun.)

  35. [N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. […]

    Perhaps this was just a poor choice of words, but McCain’s comment leaves a lot of interpretations possible.

    First, he refers to these as “actions that most people … understand were Constitutional…” What does “understand” mean in this context? Is he implying that they were legally constitutional and most people know that, or is he implying that most people believe that it was constitutional.

    He also mentions the qualifier of September 11th. It may be that he meant something like, “…actions, in the wake of September 11th, that most people believed…”, but as he said it, it reads as a qualifier, saying that those actions were constitutional and appropriate because of September 11th. If that’s what he meant, then it shows a complete lack of understand of what the Constitution is, because it certainly isn’t dependent on current events. The Constitution is not something that is to be applied when and where it’s deemed fitting — it applies to all Americans in all situations.

    Lastly, he directs his attack at the ACLU and “the trial lawyers”. While it’s possible that the trial lawyers’ interpretation of the Constitution will not be consistent with the trial judge’s interpretation, I find it highly presumptuous of him to believe that he and “most people” have a better understanding of the Constitution and its implications in this case than the ACLU (a collection of lawyers) or the trial lawyers. Is a lawyer’s entire profession not based around being an expert on laws and their applications?

  36. @ #36: While I agree that excising that portion of the quote does skew the meaning behind his quote, I don’t see that the additional explanation makes his adgenda any more legitimate.

    Assuming that what the telcos did (at the request of the government) was legal, then retroactive immunity isn’t even an issue — you don’t need immunity from punishment if you haven’t committed a crime. On the other hand, if the telcos’ actions were, in fact, illegal, then how is granting immunity anything less than putting them outside of the law? Even if it is only retroactive, it absolves them of a crime that they knowingly committed. That certainly doesn’t give them any incentive to follow the law in the future, knowing that the president could be convinced to give them retroactive immunity if the shit hits the fan.

    He may not have promised to allow it in the future, but by not punishing it in the present, he certainly would be setting a precident for not punishing it in the future.

  37. Dragonfrog, read it again. McCain was referring to telecoms only getting retroactive immunity if they testify before congress. He wants to pardon the telecoms for what they have done, not necessarily force them to continue it.

    I see some downright paranoid assumptions regarding these wiretaps. EVERYONE’S phone being tapped? I don’t think so.

    NSA can’t directly snoop on US citizens. OK. As I understand it, the wiretaps were designed to catch all calls involving certain foreign nationals (who may actually be on American soil, but who ARE NOT US citizens). The problem is when the other party is a US citizen, you need a FISA warrant.

    Well, if you set up a permanent system to catch all calls to a certain foreign party there’s no way you can know if an American is going to call them. For that matter, what if a foreign national calls from a phone number registered to an American? Stolen cell phones, beige boxing, calling cards, etc…

    So, you catch all of it and then get warrants to use the stuff later.

  38. I wish I understood how I see these threats to our civil liberties as serious business, and yet my parents buy into our fearmongering nanny state. I’m pretty sure my CS degree had something to do with my POV, but it doesn’t help me convince them.

    A degree in computer science influences how you think about the role of the state? You should try some political philosophy or something.

  39. Speaking as a Canadian, I truly fear for the welfare of the united states if McCain is elected. Four more years of Bushian policies would prove devastating.

    It’s a funny thing. You watch shows like Dark Angel and Babylon 5, and today they’re becoming ever more salient. The future depicted in Dark Angel is approaching, but not for the reason depicted in the show.

  40. Hey, Mister Antinous!

    What a great pastime! Now that Operation Chaos is over, I’m really, really glad we have another way to ensure that the Damn Dems don’t get our guns!

    Come on guys, let’s go proselytize!

  41. you know, I could DO something with this..

    “Spread The Word

    Help spread the word about John McCain on news and blog sites. Your efforts to help get the message out about John McCain’s policies and plan for the future is one of the most valuable things you can do for this campaign. You know why John McCain should be the next President of the United States and we need you to tell others why.

    Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known. Once you’ve commented on a post, video or news story, report the details of your comment by clicking the button below. After your comments are verified, you will be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center.

    Featured Blogs:”

  42. antinous – how is it trolling? Because it’s McCain?

    Encouraging your supporters to speak freely about who they support in discussions… How terrible! Especially since the majority of people who comment on news and blogs do so to either kiss ass (if it’s a blog) or spout the same old “corrupt government! police state!” rhetoric. Those who disagree with the majority of participants in a discussion are probably not going to speak because they know they’ll be mocked. So his campaign told people to stand up for him if they support him. Well, like it or not, that’s what free speech is about.

    Frankly, I’m disappointed how you (and Huffington) paint that as trolling. I guess it wouldn’t be trolling if Obama’s campaign asked you to do it.

  43. and in case you didn’t notice, if you actually select “Liberal” blogs on McCain site, there are none. His campaign is encouraging people to support him on conservative/moderate blogs.

    So RTFA, and check the facts first.

  44. I don’t know about Ant, but I’d be pretty damn disappointed in Obama and his campaign if they asked me to do it. It’s the incentive that pisses me off.

    It wouldn’t change my (hypothetical) vote because I still see McCain as a major threat to democracy, but I wouldn’t be happy.

    And more importantly. Obama’s campaign is running like a well-oiled machine, zipping along on its own momentum. This isn’t necessary for his campaign because he has support.

  45. takuan, tenn:

    paid? eh, sorry if they get points, but it’s still volunteering. You don’t think volunteers should get incentives and recognition?

    The real threat to democracy is invalidating someone as a troll for supporting what you disagree with. Democracy means you or I can still support McCain or whomever we want.

    As for nobody needing to troll for Obama, have you been on digg or slashdot lately? Great noodly gods…

    FWIW, don’t groups like the EFF encourage people to speak up about things?

  46. no, I do not think volunteers should get convertible incentives. They should be acting on beliefs. We expect our politicos to act for no reward beyond minimal salaries. We know it’s a joke, but that is the basic expectation. Volunteers should be volunteers. IE: pro bono. Paying volunteers just shows the politician is basing his thinking on payment – not service.

    Everyone speak up, yes. But the next thing that follows reward or money is being told what to say.

  47. how is it trolling? Because it’s McCain?

    Cube,

    Going to a political website, memorizing ‘Talking Points’ and then going out and posting them as if they were your own thoughts is trolling. Meditate on that and then get back to me in a couple of years.

  48. Antinous – from wikipedia, as linked to by the huffpo article:

    An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

    So how is boosting McCain on political blogs trolling? Not to be too pedantic, but posting the talking points verbatim all over the place is more like spamming.

    Trolls or spam, take your pick.

    Speaking of which, to be fair: This encourages supporters to spam. You can enter 10 emails at a time to get Obama mail. McCain’s site only asks for one. Oh Noes!

    More seriously, Obama 08’s privacy policy never clearly states that the addresses you provide WON’T be used for anything other than a single message, and in face states that all information collected by the site may be “made available to organizations with similar political viewpoints and objectives, in furtherance of our own political objectives.” Also, they really push you to join if you go right to the root of the site, with no link to the privacy policy. I’m sure McCain’s campaigin is no more trustworthy, and that’s the point.

    Wait, aren’t we arguing dirty tricks on campaign websites in a thread about McCain and wiretapping? Inflammatory, check. Offtopic, check. Uh oh, we’re both trolls.

  49. Cube,

    You’re splitting hairs. There are many types of trolls, from the disingenuous to the time wasters. Posting canned opinions from a canned opinion dispensing source is a form of trolling.

  50. you should have seen just how fast the comment sections of the times online filled up with anti Obama and pro-republican messages yesterday after the Obama announcement… It was as if a gun had been fired starting the 4 yearly “war” (election campaign)

  51. President Obama….”Today President Obama said….”
    “Air Force 1 landed today in Beijing with President Obama onboard for….” …..yep, though the only one I am really waiting to hear: “Today President Obama signed the final Executive Order authorizing the capital trials of Cheney, Bush and various others of the…” Worth waiting for.

  52. That would be a great talking point in the next debate! “Would you support any legal actions against the former administration for flagrantly violating international laws and treaties, or failing such, allow their extradition to another country for said country to initiate their own proceedings?” (sounds clunky, but I can’t think of better wording)

  53. HuffPo is a tragedy. I finally decided that reading it was more likely to give me a brain tumor than any valuable information, so I’ve stopped.

  54. It’s sad that once again the major choice in November will be between candidates who largely have little use for the actual Constitution when it gets in the way of their vision.

    Reason had a nice article The Cult of the Presidency looking at how we go from the Founders minimalist vision of executive power to the sort of sweeping powers that both McCain and Obama simply assume naturally go with the office of the presidency.

  55. nt: gr ttlly wth Cb.

    Jhn McCn wll pt th ntnl ntrst hd f prtsnshp, h wll wrk wth nyn wh sncrly wnts t gt ths cntry mvng gn. f Jhn McCn s lctd Prsdnt, th r f th prmnnt cmpgn wll nd. Th r f prblm slvng wll bgn.

    Thr r srs sss t stk n ths lctn, nd srs dffrncs btwn th cnddts. nd w wll rg bt thm, s w shld. Bt t shld rmn n rgmnt mng frnds; ch f s strgglng t hr r cnscnc, nd hd ts dmnds; ch f s, dspt r dffrncs, ntd n r grt cs, nd rspctfl f th gdnss n ch thr.

  56. Slowpeople,

    We’re not currently accepting cut-and-paste partisan speeches from people who have never posted on BB before.

Comments are closed.