Friday, December 23, 2005

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Sets the Record Straight

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, writing in the Washington Post, refutes the argument that that Congress gave Bush the authority to wiretap U.S. citizens without court order:
On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the president "was granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that's what we've done."
Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens.
The last-minute request was not included in the resolution that was adopted on September 14, 2001. If you asked and the answer it no, then that's that.
Not only does Daschle's account contradict Cheney's claim, it also effectively refutes any argument that the administration didn't need any authorization to conduct secret, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens here at home. For if no such authorization was needed, then why did Bush try to have it inserted in the resolution?


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