Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Jimmah: You Will Respect Mah Authoritah
Former President Jimmy Carter manages to show his increasing lack of gravitas twice in less than twenty-four hours. First, he enters the fray on the NSA surveillance program by announcing it is illegal. He knows because he signed the FISA Act into law at the same time that he and Sen. Frank Church were gutting the rest of our intelligence-gathering abilities.
Guess what? I don't know whether the NSA surveillance program is illegal and neither does the increaingly sanctimonious Carter. Part of the problem is that no one knows exactly what the program entails because, everyone agrees, the precise nature of the program needs to remain classified. The repeated claim that the administration "could have" obtained warrants after the fact might be true, but no one who is making it really knows if that's the case.
The legality of the NSA program would make a great law school exam hypothetical. The Constitution probably permits it, but you could make an argument the other way. The language of the FISA Act probably forbids it, but there is some wiggle room (depending on precisely what they are doing), and, after the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi in which a majority of the Court found that the Authorization to Use Necessary Military Force after 9/11 authorized detention of American citizens who were enemy combatants, it is just not clear that Congress didn't grant the President this authority under the AUMF.
And even if the FISA act forbids it, there is a neat question as to wheher Congress has the authority to place such a restriction on the President's exercise of his power as Commander-in-Chief.
John McAdams links to some useful background material.
Then Carter participates in turning Coretta Scott King's funeral into a political rally. Very Nobel Laureate-like.
Having presided over one of the worst administrations in American history, you'd think he'd have the decency to slink off into anonymity. Play golf. Build houses. But please don't continue to bore us. Over twenty-five years ago, we told you that we don't care.