Robert F. Turner, co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law and a Reagan-era lawdog, takes to the editorial pages of the WSJ to defend Dear Leader’s extra-consitutional snooping. Unfortunately for his argument and the blind legions of the right Turner stumbled over the truth.
I’m not saying that what the president authorized was unquestionably lawful. The Supreme Court in the 1972 “Keith case” held that a warrant was required for national security wiretaps involving purely domestic targets, but expressly distinguished the case from one involving wiretapping “foreign powers” or their agents in this country. In the 1980 Truong case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the warrantless surveillance of a foreign power, its agent or collaborators (including U.S. citizens) when the “primary purpose” of the intercepts was for “foreign intelligence” rather than law enforcement purposes.
This is what the right either fails to understand or willfully ignores. Bush directed the NSA to listen in on the communications of American citizens without a warrant, an act expressly forbidden by the Fourth Amendment of the US Consitution. We do not yet know whether all of the warrantless wiretaps were for “‘foreign intelligence’ rather than law enforcement purposes” but we do know that the Assministration snooped on UN reps to find out how they would vote on attacking Iraq, which is clearly outside the bounds of FISA.
Yes, Turner won’t claim that “that what the president authorized was unquestionably lawful” because he can’t honestly do so. He would if he could, but it’s stunningly obvious that the President of the United States violated federal law, the Constitution, and his oath of office.