Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hil, Bill, The Dems And Echelon

By Cernig

Earlier today, Libby rightly flagged up an excellent bit of real journalism by Bill Savage of the Boston Globe, in which he finally put "the damn question" to all the presidential candidates. It was a refreshing change from the horse-race faux-news we've been treated to so far and really should be read in full.

I read some things to be encouraged by in all the Dem's responses, and a lot to be horrified by in Mitt the Romnulan's answers. Let's face it, the three Republicans who refused to answer Savage's question at all are unlikely to have done so because their answers would have upset their torture and surveillance loving base. No, they clearly refused because their answers would have shown them up as a triumvirate of tinpot wannabe-Mussolinis. But none of the Dems left me feeling utterly comfortable with their answers - especially Tony Blair John Edwards' prevaricating and Hilary Clinton's careful parsing.

Which brings me to this question:
Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?
And the Dem frontrunners' answers:
Barack Obama - The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

Hillary Clinton - No. The President is not above the law.

John Edwards - I strongly oppose George Bush's illegal spying on American citizens. Surveillance that takes place within the United States should be performed with judicial oversight, as the law provides.
Can it be that they are all unaware of a little project called echelon and its bearing on this debate? Hillary's husband used the echelon listening system to spy on all kinds of people he couldn't have gotten warrants to spy on - by the simple expedient of asking allies like Australia and Britain to do it for him then tell his intelligence agencies what they found. The Australians let it slip and eventually even formally admitted it. He thus exploited a loophole in the law with the intent of violating Constitutional rights by proxy.

You sorta have to assume Hillary is OK with that, despite her answer - but what about the others? All of their answers leave open the possibility that they would be fine with such a legal sidestep too. Could someone ask please?

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