Tuesday, January 31, 2006

John Kerry Responds to State of the Union Address

The talking heads are busy spinning Bush's State of the Union Speech... Here's the response to the SOTU from Senator John Kerry:

President Bush tonight described a very different state of our union than the one most Americans live with every day. In fact, he described a fantasyland. In Republican Washington, the rhetoric continues to mislead and the promises continue to be broken. It’s going to take more than poll-tested lines in a speech to strengthen our union. It’s going to take change in Washington to make America stronger.

“President Bush refuses to tell the truth about America’s dependence on oil. It’s the Bush Administration and Washington Republicans who are addicted to oil, and this Administration refuses to break the dependence that undermines our economy and threatens our security. America’s dependence on oil has gotten worse on this President’s watch. He won’t acknowledge that Vice President Cheney let lobbyists write an energy bill behind closed doors that’s helped the big oil companies earn record profits while Americans are squeezed at the pump. We can’t drill our way to energy independence, we must invent our way there, but we can’t do it if this President won’t tell the truth about our energy future.

President Bush uses national security as a political weapon while day by day we become less secure. We’re bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction while Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, North Korea has quadrupled its nuclear weapons, Iran is closer to nuclear weapons, and Hamas has come to power. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve presidential leadership equal to their sacrifice. Americans deserve the truth. President Bush needs to stop retreating from reality. We can’t afford leadership that still cuts and runs from the truth.


TV Alert: John Kerry to Discuss SOTU on the Today Show

Senator John Kerry will be LIVE on the Today Show tomorrow morning at 7:05 am. The topic is the State of the Union address. John Kerry will be the only elected official on tomorrow’s show. Don’t miss it!

Bush Promises to Ban Human-Animal Hybrids

The biggest surprise to come out of the State of the Union was Bush’s pledge to ban human-animal hybrids.

Sure is a strange plan from a guy who is half man, half chimp.

Bush Chimp

Bush Chimp2

SOTU Google Bombed

Google “state of the union address.”

The first link is for:

2006 State of the Union Address (Advance Copy) - Chicago Sun-Times

Read and enjoy.

A Done Deal: Alito

We tried, the valiant Democrats in the Senate tried... The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito.

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president's opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history. Chief Justice John Roberts got 22 Democratic votes last year, and Justice Clarence Thomas _ who was confirmed in 1991 on a 52-48 vote _ got 11 Democratic votes.

The WaPo reports that bosom buddies, Bush and Alito watched the vote together in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. No doubt, Bush was all a gush when the announcement was made. Chief Justice Roberts will swear Alito in, in "a private ceremony later in the day."

This will be "in plenty of time" for Alito to be used as prop by Bush tonight at the State of the Union speech, where we can expect him to tout his victory that will have dire consequences in the future, on the lives of Americans.

John Kerry on the Passing of Coretta Scott King

As reported in the post below, Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has passed away.

Below is a statement from Senator Kerry on the death of Coretta Scott King:

“Coretta Scott King was a role model and a leader for all America. She endured threats, bias, violence and ultimately the loss of her husband but she never lost her faith or her love of our country.

“She raised her children with grace and dignity, never buckling to threats, never surrendering to violence, and never losing sight of Dr. King’s vision of love and tolerance in the face of unrelenting hatred.

“At a time when America was not what it is today for African Americans or women, a widow with four young children chose to carry on, to keep faith, and to speak out to end the injustice of discrimination. She helped to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive after his tragic slaying, and today it is our responsibility to keep their legacy alive by working for equal opportunity to make America all we know our country can and must become.”

Hotline Sees Benefits in Filibuster

For John Kerry the filibuster was a matter of principle, as he kept a promise from 2003 to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who placed abortion rights at risk. His move has brought about a lot of political speculation as to whether the move was beneficial for Democrats. Hotline On Call argues that it was beneficial:

This Week’s Cover Girl — Sen. John Kerry

As cloture was invoked on Sam Alito’s nomination today — it was 72 to 25 — there’s a case to be made that some Dems should whisper their thanks to Sen.John Kerry.

Consider: Sen. Min Leader Harry Reid reportedly cautioned against Kerry’s filibuster push because he was worried about the maneuver’s unintended impact on Dems in GOP-leaning states. But perhaps Reid wasn’t thinking outside that unintended consequences box of his, because Kerry’s 11th hour push actually provided the Mark Pryor’s of the world with the perfect cover. For Pryor, being able to announce that he’s against Alito, but not beholden to liberal interest groups in the same breath (aka against the filibuster) provided him with the ultimate redeemable wherever, no proof of purchase necessary, Get Out of Jail Free card.

The Red state Dems who will endorse Alito now have a “Yes, but I didn’t filibuster” to placate their constituents with in ‘06. And nothing says the perfect moderate man’s out like Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) embracing the tactic. After all, Chafee got to have the best of both worlds today, announcing he opposed both Alito and the Dems’ efforts at a filibuster. Nicely executed.

Just remember to tell Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR) , Tim Johnson (D-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Ken Salazar (D-CO) that they should address their thank you cards to John Kerry….that’s K-e-r-….[NORA MCALVANAH]

Monday, January 30, 2006

John Kerry’s Remarks on the Alito Nomination

The Democratic Daily has received a copy of John Kerry’s floor speech as prepared for delivery today…

Below are Senator Kerry’s remarks as prepared for delivery on the floor of the Senate today on Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to serve as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court:

“Mr. President, On countless nominations Democrats have joined Republicans and Republicans have joined Democrats to send a judicial nomination to the floor with a powerful, bipartisan vote. Chief Justice Roberts came to the floor 13-5. Justice Breyer came to the floor unanimously. Justice Ginsburg came to the floor unanimously. Justice Breyer won on the floor 87-9. Justice Ginsburg 97-3, and Chief Justice Roberts 78-22.

“But, in this case, Judge Alito comes to the floor in a straight party line, particularly divided vote. In a divided country, at a time of heightened partisan tensions, at a time of ideology often trumping common sense or broad public interest, the President has chosen to send a Supreme Court nominee who comes directly out of a revolt by the ideological wing of his party in order to satisfy their demand for ideological orthodoxy.

“Some people obviously delight in that. We’ve read about that today in the New York Times. And that is their right. But most don’t. Most don’t think that is the way to pick a Supreme Court Justice. It doesn’t mean it’s good for the country. It doesn’t mean it fills our current needs, and it doesn’t mean it is even the right thing to do.

“As we approach this nominee, we can’t forget that he was not the President’s first choice. His first choice was Harriet Miers, and opposition to her nomination came not from Democrats but from the far right of the Republican Party. They challenged her ideological purity with such conviction that the President capitulated to their demands and gave them Judge Alito instead—a nominee who they received with gleeful excitement.

MORE at the Democratic Daily.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Scientists Warn of Irreversible Damage From Global Warming

While the Bush Administration might wish to ignore science and pretend that global warming is not a problem, scientists are becoming increasingly uniform in acknowledging the problem. Many are concerned that we are rapidly approaching a point where the damage will be irreversible.

The Washington Post reports on this shift in the scientific view of the problem:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This “tipping point” scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world’s fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth’s average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would “imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.”

Saturday, January 28, 2006

John Kerry on the Medicare Drug Plan

Fix Medicare prescription drug law
The Lowell Sun

Senator John F. Kerry

Two years ago, President Bush signed the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit into law amid much hype and fanfare. But now the only cheers are from the special interests. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies are thrilled with their profits, but Massachusetts seniors now attempting to fill their prescriptions are finding nothing more than broken promises.

Seniors know a bad deal when they see it. That’s why Massachusetts seniors and Democrats in Congress joined together to oppose this fatally flawed proposal when it was first introduced on Capitol Hill. Now, we’re reminded that this Bush boondoggle is an even bigger real-life nightmare for seniors than we ever could have imagined. The time has come to renew our efforts to go back to the drawing board, fix this legislation and deliver real relief to seniors.

Medicare was enacted 40 years ago as a promise to the American people that, in exchange for their years of hard work and service to our country, their health care would be guaranteed in their golden years. America’s seniors deserve a comprehensive and affordable health-care system — and that includes a guaranteed, simple and affordable prescription-drug benefit. The Bush prescription-drug plan fails to meet that standard. In fact, the Medicare prescription-drug law does more harm than good. Massachusetts seniors can attest to that.

Seniors were first subjected to the dizzying task of choosing a plan among a slew of competing programs. Yet among the countless pages of confusing information, seniors could not find out the one thing they really wanted to know: Would their drugs be covered under this plan? I know accomplished health professionals who were unable to help their parents navigate the maze of paperwork and regulations.

To make matters worse, seniors are not only locked into the first plan they choose; they face a financial penalty for delaying that choice. Every day my office receives hundreds of calls from nervous, confused and worried seniors — and they have every right to be concerned — their options are incredibly confusing, and the government is burdening them with unnecessary pressure on their time and finances.

Even the seniors lucky enough to make sense of this new plan understand that this prescription benefit was falsely advertised. They realize this law, despite all the promises, uses a series of holes in coverage and complex rules to provide shockingly skimpy benefits. Now that we’re seeing the results, our worst fears have been confirmed: wide gaps in coverage, seniors being forced into HMO-style plans, and no price controls. Eventually, elements of this law may even lead to the privatization of Medicare.

Our seniors deserve better than this. If Republicans in Congress are unwilling to scrap Part D altogether and start over, we must at least perform some major surgery on the current law. To begin, we must:

* Simplify the rules, streamline choices, require more transparency, and extend deadlines for making decisions about coverage options.

* Make the benefit comprehensive and end the outrage of charging seniors premiums even after their benefits shut down.

* Restrain double-digit drug price increases and lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors by allowing the federal government to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate volume discounts on behalf of all beneficiaries.

* Allow for the safe re-importation of affordable prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized countries.

* Improve the protections for retiree benefits. Millions of seniors are projected to lose their gold-plated retiree prescription-drug plan and be forced into a lesser benefit under the Medicare plan. This is wrong and we must prevent it from happening.

* Cancel the unprecedented $12 billion slush fund to entice private insurance companies to participate in Medicare. If private companies are unwilling engage in fair competition for customers, the federal government should stand ready to offer a plan as a part of its Medicare package. The $12 billion is better used investing in an expanded benefit for seniors than in a massive corporate handout.

Affordable health care is not a privilege for the elected, the connected and the wealthy; it should be a right afforded to all Americans regardless of their background or social standing. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 soundly rejects this principle, and we have to pass serious reforms now to repair this program before it becomes entrenched. Our goal should be nothing more and nothing less than assuring that a Medicare prescription drug plan actually does what it’s supposed to do: conveniently provide affordable prescription drugs to all seniors.

The Death of "Socialized Medicine"

Despite the obvious failings of our health care system, conservatives have been successful in shouting down any discussion of change by screaming “socialized medicine.” They have been successful in lumping together any form of government involvement with true government run health programs with few, if any, Democrats support.

We may be reaching a tipping point where such cries of “socialized medicine” will no longer work. Americans are becoming increasingly concerned by the high cost of health insurance which leaves far too many uninsured or under-insured. Republican schemes have been a failure, starting with HMO’s and more recently with the idea, reportedly still being promoted by Bush in the State of the Union Address, of health savings accounts. The high deductibles in such plans result in gross under-treatment of chronic diseases and underutilization of preventative measures, increasing the cost of health care in the long run.

A recent example of the failure of the Republican model is being seen with the new prescription drug benefit. Medicare beneficiaries who have dealt with the government program are quickly finding that in this case the move towards private plans, not “socialized medicine,” is the problem.

The Economist provides evidence that long time advocates of market solutions are seeing that this might not be the best model for health care. In a review of America’s health care system they find note that, ” America’s health system is unlike any other. The United States spends 16% of its GDP on health, around twice the rich-country average, equivalent to $6,280 for every American each year. Yet it is the only rich country that does not guarantee universal health coverage.”

The Economist looks for possible solutions, being correct that there is no perfect answer:

Even a glance around the world shows that there is no such thing as a perfect health-care system: every country treads an uneasy compromise between trying to harness market forces and using government cash to ensure some degree of equity. Health care is also the part of the public sector where market forces have had the most limited success: it is plagued by distorted incentives and information failures. To begin with, most health-care decisions are made by patients and doctors, but paid for by someone else. There is also the problem of selection: private-sector insurers may be tempted to weed out the chronically ill and the old, who account for most of the cost of health care.

This forces The Economist to give up knee jerk opposition to “socialized medicine” and accept an increased government role:

In the longer term, America, like this adamantly pro-market newspaper, may have no choice other than to accept a more overtly European-style system. In such a scheme, the government would pay for a mandated insurance system, but leave the provision of care to a mix of public and private providers.

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Evidence Justice Department Knew Surveillance Was Illegal

The Washington Post provides yet more more evidence contradicting the Bush Administration claims that their surveillance without warrants was legal:

Legislation drafted by Justice Department lawyers in 2003 to strengthen the USA Patriot Act would have provided legal backing for several aspects of the administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program. But officials said yesterday that was not the intent.

Most lawmakers and the public were not aware at the time that President Bush had already issued a secret order allowing the National Security Agency to intercept international calls involving U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Some critics of the NSA program said the draft legislation raises questions about recent administration claims that Bush had clear legal authority to order warrantless domestic spying in late 2001 and had no need to go to Congress for explicit approval.

“It’s rather damning to their current view that they didn’t need legislation,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a national security lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Clearly the lawyers at the Justice Department, or some of them, felt that legislation was needed to allow the government to do what it was doing.”

Abramoff Money Shows This is a Republican Scandal

The American Prospect has commissioned an analysis of money coming from Abramoff clients to further show that this is a Republican scandal. We’ver previously noted that 100% of money directly from Abramoff went to Republicans. In addition, 100% of money given in exchange for favors went to Republicans, and 100% of those indicted are Republicans.

Republicans attempt to claim this is a bipartisan scandal as many of Abramoff’s clients donated money to both parties. The study looked at this money and found:

# in total, the donations of Abramoff’s tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;

# five out of seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;

# four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;

# Abramoff’s clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP — exactly the reverse pattern.

Bush Adopts Kerry’s Plan on Iraq

The New York Sun notes that George Bush has borrowed John Kerry’s plan for handling Iran. Conservatives now have a problem considering the way they attacked Kerry every time he brought up the idea of giving Iran nuclear fuel for civilian use under close monitoring. Donklephant has some examples.

John Kerry on the Alito Nomination: The Time To Stand Is Now

John Kerry spoke on the Senate Floor earlier today outlining his reasons for making a stand against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. I heard a clip of the speech this afternoon on The Ed Schultz Show, that defined, in my opinion what this is about: The Time To Stand Is Now (thanks to Swany on Big Ed's Show for the clip)...

Listen Here: The Time To Stand Is Now.

I am proud to join my friend, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, in taking a stand against this nomination. I know it is an uphill battle. I have heard many of my colleagues. I hear the arguments: Reserve your gunpowder for the future. What is the future if it changes so dramatically at this moment in time? What happens to those people who count on us to stand up and protect them now, not later, not at some future time?

This is the choice for the Court now. I reject those notions that there ought to somehow be some political calculus about the future. This impact is going to be now. This choice is now. This ideological direction is defined now.

I just posted a piece a while ago, about standing strong on this fight. That audio clip, that text above defines this fight.


Standing Strong to Filibuster Alito

Here's an update on those committed to Stand Strong and filibuster the Alito nomination...

Leading the Fight:
John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy.

Committed to Filibuster:
Barbara Boxer (D- CA), Dianne Feinstein (D- CA), Christopher J. Dodd (D- CT), Richard J. Durbin (D- IL), Debbie A. Stabenow (D- MI), Robert Menendez (D- NJ), Harry Reid (D- NV), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D- NY), Charles Schumer (D- NY), Ron Wyden (D- OR), Russell D. Feingold (D- WI).

Each and everyone of those Senators deserve our support and our thanks, now and in the future. This has been a tough decision for each of them and it's one that deserves our acknowledgement and praise. We all know that the odds are slim that this will be pulled off... But, it all about standing up and standing strong on the principles that you believe in. So, to each of these Senators, I say -- "I've got your back." I hope everyone here will join me.

Now, this brings me to the next part of my post... The Senators listed below need our help to recognize the folly of their ways. The first list is the Undecided's, the next the Against Filibuster and the last the Dem Senators who will vote to confirm Alito.

If you are with me in this fight, if you have the back's of John Kerry, Edward M. Kennedy and those committed to this fight, get on the phone and call each and everyone of them and let them know you want a filibuster!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kerry to Filibuster Alito, Blogs on The Democratic Daily

John Kerry announced today that he will support a filibuster of Samuel Alito. There's a host of posts on The Democratic Daily including one Blogged by John Kerry!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

John Kerry on His Opposition to Judge Alito’s Nomination to the Supreme Court

For everyone who missed the pain of watching the full day’s proceedings on the Alito nomination in the Senate… The Democratic Daily has got the full John Kerry coverage here!

Below are Senator John Kerry’s full, prepared remarks on the floor of the Senate today on the upcoming vote on Judge Samuel Alito to serve a Justice on the United States Supreme Court:

“Mr. President. Today, we face perhaps one of the most important choices we will make as Senators. A choice that will affect the direction of our country for the next several decades. President Bush has nominated Judge Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court. He has nominated a man who consistently defers to the government action regardless of how egregious it may be; a man who erects rather than breaks down barriers in the area of civil rights, a man who, to this day, has never retreated from his declaration that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to privacy, a man who has demonstrated a persistent insensitivity to the history of racial discrimination in this country and, was even, at the government’s request, willing to ignore overwhelming evidence that African Americans were intentionally stricken from an all-white jury in a black defendant’s capital case.

“And who will this nominee replace? He has been nominated to fill the seat of the Court’s swing vote—a woman who has upheld affirmative action programs, a woman who upheld the right to choose, a woman who upheld state employees’ rights to the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, a woman who recognizes that a declaration of war is not a ‘blank check’ for the President’s actions. A woman who decides each case narrowly on the facts presented, keenly aware of the greater impact her decisions have.

“We are being asked to confirm a nominee who will shift the ideological balance of the Court dramatically to the right. We are being asked to confirm a nominee whose views will undermine the balance of power that I believe keeps our country strong. For these and other compelling reasons, I oppose this nomination.

“In the past, I, like many of my colleagues, have voted for federal court nominees despite the fact that I disagreed with them ideologically. In fact, I voted for Justice Scalia because, despite our ideological differences, in the confirmation process he promised an open-mindedness that we have not witnessed. So the words of the confirmation hearings do not erase ideology. And that ideology cannot be overlooked because a Justice’s decisions can—and will—have a profound impact on the rights we otherwise take for granted.

“Something more is needed. A Supreme Court Justice needs to understand and respect our constitutional rights and liberties. He or she needs to recognize the importance of precedent and the limited situations in which overruling it is acceptable. He or she needs to appreciate the significant struggles that our nation has endured—in the context of racial, sexual, and disability discrimination—and be aware of the road still to be traveled.


John Kerry: Military Must Be Ready to Face Modern-Day Threats

In the wake of recent reports released in the past couple of days, that our military is stretched too thin, and a denial today from Donald Rumsfeld on those reports, Senator John Kerry issued the following statement today:

“Two reports from former Secretary of Defense William Perry and respected defense analyst Andrew Krepinevich tell us what we’ve known for several years – we need to increase the size of our military to meet the threats of today and tomorrow.

“The war on terror and the war in Iraq have shown that no matter how many ‘smart bombs’ you’ve got, you still need boots on the ground. We need more special forces and top-notch intelligence. This Administration doesn’t realize we can’t fight terrorists hiding around the globe in the post-9/11 world with a military sized for the post-Cold War world.

“For the last several years, many of us have warned of an Army that is too small for the missions of the twenty-first century. The Administration has responded with only half-measures and band-aids. In a stunning example of mismanagement, the Administration now plans to reduce National Guard brigades and to slow the rate of growth in the active duty Army. This is taking the Army in the wrong direction—and making America less safe.”

Kerry has introduced several (prior) measures in the Senate to increase the size of the military to meet the threats of today’s world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

John Kerry Hits with Knock Out Punch on Documents Proving Bush Administration Failed to Heed Early Warnings on Katrina

Earlier today, I posted a piece about the news today reported by the WaPo and the NY Times that “48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm’s likely impact.”

John Kerry just released the following statement -- a knock out punch, in my opinion -- on the release of documents proving that the administration was fully and accurately briefed on the risks Hurricane Katrina posed to the Gulf Coast:

How is it that the White House Situation Room received detailed warnings 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, that the National Hurricane Center was warning CNN and the world that Katrina could be The Big One, that FEMA reported two days before landfall that Katrina’s surge ‘could greatly overtop levees and protective systems,’ destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, require ‘incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus),’ and displace more than a million people – and the President days later still insisted on national television, ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees’ that left 1,300 dead and thousands more homeless?

Where’s the accountability? Where’s the compassion?


Monday, January 23, 2006

John Kerry Nails Bush: President Fails to Explain Why He’s Above the Law

In a statement responding to Bush's speech today, which he used to defend his domestic spying program, John Kerry nailed Bush (again) saying Bush "spoke for nearly two hours, but failed to explain why he considers himself above the law"...

“One of the few things I enjoyed hearing in Judge Alito’s confirmation hearings was his statement that no one, not even the President, is above the law. If only the man who nominated him for the Supreme Court took those words to heart. Today the president spoke for nearly two hours, but failed to explain why he considers himself above the law. The president has yet explain why the secret FISA courts are not good enough or fast enough, or tell Congress what changes need to be made in the law. It’s time for a real investigation to get to the truth.

“What we know beyond any doubt is that Osama bin Laden was wanted ‘dead or alive’ four years ago, but he’s still alive and threatening America. The President says keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists is our top priority, but the independent 9-11 Commission gave his Administration a D for their efforts. He says he will treat countries who harbor terrorists like terrorists, but Iran has been the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism every year of his presidency and he has done virtually nothing about it. When it comes to our national security, hollow rhetoric will not make America safe.”

Bush called the domestic spying program a "terrorist surveillance program" today, and said with his usual snide smirk and trademark chuckle...

"You know, it's amazing that people say to me, 'Well, he was just breaking the law.' If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?" Bush said with a chuckle.

More on The Democratic Daily.

Kerry To Deliver UU Peace Lecture

From the Press Release: US Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party candidate at the most recent US Presidential elections, is to visit Northern Ireland later this week to deliver a lecture at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

The invitation-only event, which forms part of the Tip O’Neill series of peace lectures, will be on the topic of “ Security in the 21st Century”, and takes place on Sunday 29 January at 7.30pm.

Senator Kerry visits at the invitation of Professor John Hume, holder of the Tip O’Neill Chair in Peace Studies at the University.

The Tip O’ Neill Chair, funded by the Ireland Funds, commemorates the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who was well known for his support of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Among others to have delivered lectures in the series are former US President Bill Clinton, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern , President of the European Commission Romano Prodi, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald

Kerry To Deliver UU Peace Lecture

From the Press Release: US Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party candidate at the most recent US Presidential elections, is to visit Northern Ireland later this week to deliver a lecture at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

The invitation-only event, which forms part of the Tip O’Neill series of peace lectures, will be on the topic of “ Security in the 21st Century”, and takes place on Sunday 29 January at 7.30pm.

Senator Kerry visits at the invitation of Professor John Hume, holder of the Tip O’Neill Chair in Peace Studies at the University.

The Tip O’ Neill Chair, funded by the Ireland Funds, commemorates the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who was well known for his support of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Among others to have delivered lectures in the series are former US President Bill Clinton, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern , President of the European Commission Romano Prodi, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald

Sunday, January 22, 2006

John Kerry Calls for Independent Counsel to Investigate Bush Warrentless Wiretaps

John Kerry was on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, this morning. He spoke against Bush's warrantless wiretaps, calling them "a clear violation of the law."

Kerry said "that the administration has made no effort to consult Congress about any possible alteration to the law that he says restricts the wiretaps — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA," and called for a special counsel and independent investigation into the matter.

In the interview John Kerry announced his intent to vote against Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. when the vote goes to the Senate floor this week. Kerry missed most of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings during an overseas tour of India, Pakistan, Iraq and Kuwait. He told Stephanopoulos that Alito would take the country "backwards."

When asked about "outside criticism that his Democratic colleagues may have focused on relatively inconsequential issues during the hearings," Kerry said, "That is certainly the criticism I have heard."

The discussion moved on to Osama bin Laden and Kerry repeated his belief that "the White House failed to commit the proper resources to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in Afghanistan." He also chastised Karl Rove for "continuing to make the war on terror a priority political issue" in his
recent speech to fire up the GOP base for the 2006 elections.

Speaking of the Bush administration's efforts in the war on terror and the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, Kerry said, "Osama Bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he's killed by Karl Rove and his crowd."


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chris Matthews Jumps the Shark

Chris Matthews said that Osama bin Laden sounds like Michael Moore (video at Crooks and Liars). Peter Daou responded by saying, “This has NOTHING to do with Michael Moore and everything to do with how far media figures can go slandering the left. And last I checked, Michael Moore didn’t massacre thousands of innocent Americans.”

And then there’s John Kerry’s response:

“You’d think the only focus tonight would be on destroying Osama Bin Laden, not comparing him to an American who opposes the war whether you like him or not. You want a real debate that America needs? Here goes: If the administration had done the job right in Tora Bora we might not be having discussions on Hardball about a new Bin Laden tape. How dare Scott McClellan tell America that this Administration puts terrorists out of business when had they put Osama Bin Laden out of business in Afghanistan when our troops wanted to, we wouldn’t have to hear this barbarian’s voice on tape. That’s what we should be talking about in America.” — John Kerry

John Kerry on The Situation Room from Baghdad

John Kerry was on CNN’s The Situation Room again today in an interview taped earlier in the day from Baghdad. Kerry is winding down his trip to the Middle East and is expected back in the U.S. tomorrow.

If you missed the interview on CNN you can watch it here in 2 parts (QT only), no commercials: Part 1 of “Kerry in Iraq” and Part 2 of “Kerry in Iraq”.

The interviewed touched on various issues happening on the ground now in Iraq, including the kidnapping of CSM reporter Jill Carroll (see my post here for Kerry’s comments), more suicide bombings and more deaths today and Blitzer asked Kerry if he felt the situation there is “getting better or is it getting worse?”

Blitzer tried to pin Kerry into saying that the Al Qaida was the problem in Iraq, the BS Bush administration meme. Kerry was not buying it…

“The fact is that Al Qaida is not the principal problem of Iraq. The principal problem of Iraq is a larger group of people who reject the current direction because of the shape of the constitution, because of a history of cultural confrontation, and because of their current fears that they are not going to be protected.”


An Unhappy New Year for Seniors on Medicare

The Chicago Defender has an OP/ED today on the Medicare crisis, written by Teresa Heinz Kerry and Jeffrey R. Lewis (president of the Heinz Family Philanthropies). This will be an unhappy new year for seniors, they predict...

KERRY & LEWIS: An unhappy new year for seniors on Medicare
by Teresa Heinz Kerry and Jeffrey Lewis
January 19, 2006

The New Year should bring hope and joy to everyone, but unfortunately, 2006 is proving to be unhappy for many African American seniors who hoped to receive the prescription-drug benefits of the new Medicare Part D law on Jan. 1.


John Kerry: “This is Crunch Time for Iraq”

Speaking to reporters today at a press conference in Baghdad's Green Zone, John Kerry said "2006 will be "crunch time" for Iraq's new government.

"This is crunch time for everything we've invested and for everything they've invested," Kerry told reporters in Baghdad's Green Zone, adding later: "I'm confident that, providing the government makes the choices that are available to it, provided we continue to leverage that, that we will be in a position to see very significant numbers of forces return [home] over the course of this year."


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Vatican backs Evolution over Intelligent Design

The New York Times reports that the Vatican has taken the side of science over intelligent design:

The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as “correct” the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

“If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another,” Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L’Osservatore Romano.

“But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science,” he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. “It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

John Kerry on The Situation Room from Jerusalem

A while ago, I posted that John Kerry would be doing a live interview with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room. Kerry is in the midst of a tour of the Middle East and held a press conference earlier today in Jerusalem.

I've just received a copy of the transcript of the CNN interview and a video (QuickTime) is on the way...

BLITZER: Senator Kerry, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "The Situation Room," this time from Jerusalem. We've got a lot of ground to cover right now.

Let's talk, first of all, about your trip over the weekend to Pakistan. What did officials there tell you about this U.S. air strike that targeted the number two Al Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri?

KERRY: Well, obviously, they were very concerned about the loss of life, as are we, of any innocent civilian. But on the other hand, they were also clear that it was their belief there were foreign intruders in that particular target area. So they understood what we were trying to accomplish, and I think they were trying very hard to make the best out of a bad situation.

BLITZER: Do you have any problem with the U.S. government targeting Al Qaida leaders for assassination in third countries?

KERRY: Well, first of all, assassination is a questionable term when you consider that we have been chasing these people and fundamentally at war with them since they attacked us in New York City on September 11th. And we have a joint agreement with the Pakistanis, thanks to their cooperation in that war which is at some risk to them and to President Musharraf, for the ability to do what -- you know, hot pursuit, if you want to call it that.

There's a lot of thought that goes into that kind of targeting. There's a lot of intelligence work that is done by both sides as to what's happening. And I think that the record shows that it has not been indiscriminate.

Does it have its risks? Of course it has its risks.

But nobody should underestimate the degree to which, in every country that I've been in the last week or so -- from India to Pakistan to Afghanistan to here in Israel, and I'm about to go to Jordan and into Iraq -- that the leaders of those countries are permitted to eliminate the threats to not just their governments, but to all innocent people by those who have decided to kill innocent bystanders.


John Kerry Visits Jerusalem and West Bank City of Jericho

We've been following the news reports on John Kerry's trip to the Middle East for the past week. Today Kerry visited West Bank City of Jericho and Jerusalem, where he held a press conference.

At the press conference in Jerusalem today, John Kerry said that next week's election for a new Palestinian parliament could mark a turning point, but he warned that participation by the militant Hamas could cause complications.

"The Palestinian Authority has an opportunity, hopefully, to set a new course for itself," he said. "All of us are going to look forward to the results of these elections and pursue with interest the opportunities they may or may not provide."


Interview with John Kerry from Rediff.com

While visiting India last week, John Kerry gave an exclusive interview with Rediff.com. Here's the interview:

'This is a big step we are taking with respect to India'

Had he won three million more votes than he did 14 months ago, he would not have been sitting in the Bell Tower suite at Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel last Friday, taking questions on the India-United States nuclear accord which he surprisingly endorsed during his visit to New Delhi.

It is uncertain if indeed such an accord would have been signed had President John F Kerry -- not George W Bush -- had been in the White House. The United States senator has been one of America's aggressive champions of non-proliferation -- the campaign against the spread of nuclear weapons -- and some Indian strategic analysts had predicted rough times for India had he been elected President in November 2004.

In the event he did not become President and the man who defeated him -- as National Security Adviser M K Narayanan told us last August -- has made it his personal mission to take the India-US relationship to a new high.

With the nuclear accord -- which has unfortunately become a symbol for the transformed India-US relationship -- confronting rough passage in the American parliament -- the US Congress, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate -- the Manmohan Singh government was no doubt anxious to win an influential Senator like Kerry over to its side to enhance India's case before Congress.

Senator Kerry may have backed the accord at a press conference in New Delhi last Thursday, but as he told Nikhil Lakshman India needs to do much more before Congress ratifies the nuclear agreement. A frank, exclusive interview with rediff India Abroad. Photographs: Dominic Xavier.

'India has behaved better than some countries that have signed the NPT '

Senator Kerry, as one of the Senate's most vocal voices against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, your support for the India-US nuclear accord came as a surprise. Could you spell out the reasons for your support?

Let me make it clear. What I said at the press conference, what I have said every time, what I said to the prime minister, to everybody else, that I support the basic direction of the agreement, but the t's have to be crossed, the i's have to be dotted, the agreement has to be put in full language and in that regard Secretary Burns (Under Secretary Nicholas R Burns, who is supervising the progress of the agreement for the Bush administration) is coming here to discuss the separation of civilian and military (nuclear) facilities.

That is important. I want to see that and see that is clearly done. I want the final structure and language of the agreement to make certain that we are strengthening the non proliferation agreement. Let me give you an example. Non proliferation is not just passing fissile material or technology to another country, it is also building additional nuclear weapons, it is not growing your nuclear arsenal. So it is important for India to make very clear where we are headed in the long run here.

Does that mean that you can't have an agreement? No. But I think it is important to have a framework where we understand where we are going.

In principle, this agreement is good because it takes a State that has a nuclear programme, that is outside of the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency) and brings a majority of it (nuclear programme) inside the IAEA. On the face of it, that is a positive step.

Secondly, by doing so, it encourages, I think, other countries to recognize that there is a respect for the IAEA process.

India has, in fact, behaved better than some countries that have signed the NPT (Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty). It seems to me that it would be irrational for us not to recognize that kind of good behaviour and to turn our backs on bad behaviour by people who signed the NPT. That just doesn't make sense in my book.

I think there is a way to make this (the nuclear agreement) positive with respect to the non proliferation effort I care about but positive also for the India-America relationship.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Domestic Spying Led to Dead Ends; Civil Liberties Groups Plan Suits

The New York Times reports that the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights plan to file lawsuits Tuesday against the Bush administration over its domestic spying program. The Times also reports that the information obtained by this illegal surveillance program led to dead ends, contrary to the claims of Bush and Cheney:

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a “vital tool” against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved “thousands of lives.”

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

Al Gore On the Limits of Executive Power

Full text, and link to video, of Al Gore's speech to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is posted at The Democratic Daily.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Frank Rich Compares Abramoff to Monica

Frank Rich thinks that Abramoff will be to George Bush what Monica was to Bill Clinton. He also won’t let Bush and the GOP get away with claiming that this is not a Republican scandal:

Abramoff & Company pursued a “careful cultivation of relations with Bush’s political team as far back as 1997,” according to The Associated Press. One contact was J. Steven Griles, a mining industry lobbyist who, topically enough, tried to weaken mine regulation during his government tenure as No. 2 in Mr. Bush’s Interior Department. The department also handles Indian affairs, but Mr. Griles has said he does not “recall intervening on behalf of Mr. Abramoff’s clients ever” when in government.

Mr. Abramoff himself served on the Interior Department’s transition team after the 2000 election. Perhaps it’s this steady drip of revelations, including those about his White House access as a “Pioneer” delivering at least $100,000 to the Bush campaign, that has frightened the administration into suddenly speaking out about the scandal. Scott McClellan is now also using that helpful verb recall - as in the president does not “recall” ever meeting Mr. Abramoff (an artful dodge if photos surface). Mr. Bush has disingenuously explained that the lobbyist had been an “equal money dispenser” to those “in both political parties.” (To both, yes, but never equally.)

If this all sounds a little familiar, that’s because it replays the White House game plan after the Enron meltdown. Mr. Bush then suggested that he had inherited his relationship with Ken Lay from Ann Richards, his Democratic predecessor as Texas governor, and suddenly took to referring to the backer he had once nicknamed Kenny Boy as Mr. Lay. You’d never guess that Enron brass had helped pay Mr. Bush’s campaign expenses for the Florida recount, contributed $300,000 to the inaugural gala and attended four meetings of Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force.

As fate would have it, the court appearances of Mr. Lay, Mr. DeLay, Jeff Skilling, Mr. Safavian and Mr. Abramoff could all overlap on 24/7 cable in the months ahead. There will surely be much talk of God along the way. Mr. DeLay’s pastor, Mr. Buckham, and Mr. Reed were not the only prayerful players in the Abramoff casino. So were the Rev. “Lucky Louie” Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition and the right-wing Rabbi Daniel Lapin, whose Toward Tradition organization received a $25,000 check (in all innocence, we’re told) from the Abramoff client eLottery. In 2002, the good rabbi welcomed the lobbyist onto the board of his American Alliance of Jews and Christians, along with Jerry Falwell and the man who loves Israel literally to death, Pat Robertson.

Related Stories:

Abramoff Not Equal Money Dispenser; Even Donated to Swift Boat Liars
Abramoff: The Repubican Scandal
National Review Agrees Abramoff is a Republican Scandal
FactCheck.org Verifies Accuracy of DeLay Ad

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Distributing School Uniforms for Children, John Kerry Tours Quake Ravaged Region of Pakistan

John Kerry visited the earthquake ravaged region of Pakistan today, meeting with leaders and survivors of the quake, and distributing school uniforms to children. The tent village Kerry visited is funded partly by both the U.S. and Cuba.

Kerry’s visit came in the midst of warnings that “heavy snow would blanket the quake zone over the next four to five days, possibly triggering avalanches along the jagged peaks and promising more misery for the 3.5 million people left homeless by the Oct. 8 quake.”

Kerry toured a camp housing some 18,000 people who survived the 7.6-magnitude quake. Expressing compassion to survivor’s Kerry said, “We’re sorry you have to go through this.”


John Kerry Lauds Free Power for Farmers in India

The Hindu, India's National Newspaper reports that John Kerry praised the Indian government's "innovative initiatives in providing free power to farmers, besides creating infrastructure and irrigation facilities."

He also lauded their programs to promote health and education and enquired about their disabled and old-age pensions. There's more from The Hindu here.


Friday, January 13, 2006

John Kerry Stands Up to Administration Efforts to Weaken Public Right To Know

The Bush administration has proposed serious changes annual Toxic Release Inventory put out by the EPA. I posted a piece about the proposed changes on Monday.

Today, while traveling in India (Mumbai), John Kerry praised New England Attorneys General for vowing to fight against the Bush Administration’s proposed changes to the annual Toxic Release Inventory that will eviscerate the public’s right to know about toxins in their environment:

States need to fight back against a Bush Administration that seems to believe that Americans don’t have a right to know about poisons being pumped into our air and water and wants to give polluters a free pass.

“Congress passed the Community Right-to-Know Act after a chemical spill that killed more than 15,000 people. We’re better off as a country because that reform created a publicly accessible annual report on poisonous substances being pumped into the air, water and ground by refineries and chemical plants. By spotlighting where dangerous pollutants come from, it’s helped reduce toxic chemical releases in our communities by almost 65% over the past two decades.

But now, the Bush EPA wants to give corporate polluters a free pass -- a pass that would allow polluters to withhold information on potentially deadly poisons such as lead and mercury that build up in people's bodies. That’s dead wrong. We all have a right to know what is in our environment. The Administration falsely claims they’re acting in the name of small business but small firms account for less than 1% of the nation's toxic emissions. The truth is the Administration is just helping big corporate polluters avoid public scrutiny.

George Clooney Says He Ruined Kerry's Chances



Movie star GEORGE CLOONEY is convinced he ruined JOHN KERRY's chances in the race for US president in 2004 - by snubbing an invitation and hurting his feelings.

The OCEAN'S TWELVE actor was one of several screen stars invited to ride on Kerry's election train, but it all went downhill for the Democrat when Clooney stayed away.

He recalls, "Kerry asked me to ride on his train - he had a train going cross-country after he was nominated and some actors went on board.

"I called him and explained that I couldn't do it.

"I'd hurt him. I'd actually caused him harm at the polls."

Truthout Reports Bush Authorized Pre-9/11 Domestic Surveillance

Truthout is reporting that Bush authorized domestic surveillance prior to 9/11:

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA’s vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

Gore to Speak on Constitutional Crisis Created by Bush

The Nation reports that Al Gore will be delivering a speech on Monday which is being described as a “call to arms” in defense of the Bill of Rights:

In a major address slated for delivery Monday in Washington, the former Vice President is expected to argue that the Bush administration has created a “Constitutional crisis” by acting without the authorization of the Congress and the courts to spy on Americans and otherwise abuse basic liberties.

Aides who are familiar with the preparations for the address say that Gore will frame his remarks in Constitutional language. The Democrat who beat Bush by more than 500,000 votes in the 2000 presidential election has agreed to deliver his remarks in a symbolically powerful location: the historic Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution. But this will not be the sort of cautious, bureacratic speech for which Gore was frequently criticized during his years in the Senate and the White House.

Indeed, his aides and allies are framing it as a “call to arms” in defense of the Bill of Rights and the rule of law in a time of executive excess.

The vice president will, according to the groups that have arranged for his appearance — the bipartisan Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy — address “the threat posed by policies of the Bush Administration to the Constitution and the checks and balances it created. The speech will specifically point to domestic wiretapping and torture as examples of the administration’s efforts to extend executive power beyond Congressional direction and judicial review.”

Bon Jovi Campaigns for Matt Santos

Santos McGarry

Kerry Bon Jovi

Television imitates reality here. Bon Jovi, who appeared locally to campaign for both Al Gore in 2000 and John Edwards in 2004 (and also campaigned with John Kerry) will be campaigning with Matt Santos. Variety reports that Bon Jovi has begun filming an episode of The West Wing in which he plays himself.

FactCheck.org Verifies Accuracy of DeLay Ad

FactCheck.org has reviewed the ad which we reported on earlier on Tom DeLay. DeLay’s attorneys kept television stations from airing it by threatening to sue. FactCheck.org reviewed the ad in detail and found that DeLay’s attorney mischaracterized the ad and that it contains nothing false, but did not the possibility for misinterpretation. From their summary:

Two liberal groups released an ad calling on former House Republican leader Tom DeLay to resign, but Houston TV stations pulled it off the air after a lawyer for DeLay wrote a letter calling the ad “reckless, malicious and false” and threatening to sue.

DeLay’s primary complaint is that the ad refers to “one million dollars from Russian tycoons to allegedly influence his vote.” In fact, The Washington Post has reported just such an allegation. It quoted the former president of an advocacy group as saying DeLay’s former chief of staff told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay’s vote on legislation.

It is true there’s no evidence DeLay received the money personally, but it is also true that DeLay had multiple political connections to the advocacy group, and that his wife received a salary from the group’s founder.

We find that DeLay’s lawyer mischaracterized what the ad said, and that the ad contains nothing that is strictly false. The worst we can say of the ad is that its ambiguous wording could give casual viewers the impression that DeLay took $1 million directly, which isn’t the case.

Clinton Didn't Use Warrantless Wiretaps

Bill Clinton did not order wiretaps without a warrant as George Bush has:

Former President Clinton said Thursday that he never ordered wiretaps of American citizens without obtaining a court order, as President Bush has acknowledged he has done.

Clinton, in an interview broadcast Thursday on the ABC News program ‘’Nightline,'’ said his administration either received court approval before authorizing a wiretap or went to court within three days after to get permission, as required by law.

‘’We either went there and asked for the approval or, if there was an emergency and we had to do it beforehand, then we filed within three days afterward and gave them a chance to second guess it,'’ Clinton told ABC.

Dick Morris: American Shifting To The Left

Dick Morris believes the country is moving towards the left:

It is always dangerous to generalize about ideological trends among the American electorate, since it will always lean right on certain issues (like defense, terrorism and taxes) and hew to the left on others (like healthcare, education, poverty and the environment). But the data are becoming overwhelming that the nation is moving left and is likely to stay that way through at least the 2006 election — and, if President Bush doesn’t adjust, for a lot longer.

The evidence is clear: The generic party ballot for Congress, for example, has now swollen to a 13-point Democratic edge while Bush’s job approval hangs in the 40s and his advisers are relieved that it is no longer a lot lower.

To a certain degree Morris is correct. The one factor he overlooks is that the country was never as far right as the conservative pundits claimed. The Republicans would not have won the White House in 2000 if there was a fair count in Florida. They would not have held the White House if not for the advantages of incumbency, pandering to fear (including misuse of terror alerts), voter suppression, and perhaps outright fraud. Even Republican gains in the House were a consequence of a shady redistricting scheme rather than a choice of the voters. Although the Republicans control the Senate, this is largely due to the increased weight given to voters in smaller states, as more people have voted for Democratic than Republican Senators. Even when people have voted for Bush for President, a majority supported Democratic positions in polls. It was unlikely that the Republicans would hold onto their narrow leads indefinitely while pursuing policies opposed by the majority of voters.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

David Brooks and False Choices

David Brooks manages to sneak false right wing talking points into virtually every discussion. When writing about the Alito hearings he included numerous distorted views of what liberals think. For example:

Then there was the old hawk-dove divide. If you listened to Lindsey Graham, a Republican, you heard a man alarmed by the threats posed by anti-American terrorists. If you listened to Leahy or Russ Feingold, you heard men alarmed by the threats posed by American counterterrorists. The Democratic questions implied that American counterterrorists are guilty until proved innocent, that a police state is being born.

If forced to choose, most Americans want a party that will fight aggressively against the terrorists, not the N.S.A.

The fallacy here is that Americans should not be forced to make such a choice. There is only the perception of a choice between fighting terrorists aggressively versus defending civil liberties because we have an administration which has neither fought terrorism effectively or respected civil liberties.

In contrast, NPR’s Morning Edition had a story about German Prime Minister Merkel today in which Merkel discussed the differences between European and Bush’s view of fighting terrorism. She noted that while Bush describes this as a war on terrorism, Germany sees the problem as one of fighting terrorism while using methods consistent with democracy.

If the conservatives really believe their overly simplistic talking point that the terrorists attacked because they hate us for our freedom, it makes no sense to fail to respect our freedoms in response to their attack. It is not necessary to surrender our liberties, or to allow the President to violate the law and the Constitution, in order to fight terrorism.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

John Kerry in India for Nuke Talks, Weeks Ahead of Bush

Weeks ahead of Bush’s scheduled visit to India, John Kerry met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss "the ongoing bilateral talks on civilian nuclear cooperation among various facets of bilateral relations."

The two leaders are also believed to have shared views on various regional and international issues of mutual concern, official sources said.

The regional issues included those related to Pakistan, Afganistan, Nepal and Iran, they said.

(John Kerry talks to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh)

Kerry's visit, "assumes significance as it takes place as the Bush Administration is preparing to approach the American Congress for ratification of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Washington visit" in July of last year.

Outlook India reports that "Kerry has been a votary of stronger Indo-US relations" and during his 2004 Presidential campaign he "had emphasised the need for making "genuine improvement" in Next Step in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) besides the whole range of economic and technological issues."

Kerry's visit to India is considered to be "a positive pointer to the Indo-US nuclear deal."

It is believed that in spite of opposition and unanswered questions vis-à-vis the agreement, both governments are making slow and steady progress in implementing the deal. Attempts are being made by both sides to clinch the deal before President George Bush visits India in February.

Meanwhile Indian news sources report today also, protestors in India are already gearing up for demonstrations against Bush when he visits India next month.

John Edwards on Medicare Prescription Drug Program

(Following is an email from John Edwards on the Medicare drug program. I agree with Edwards as to the problems, and his solutions would be a step in the right direction, but there is a better overall solution. The current program should be eliminated and replaced by a program within Medicare to provide prescription drug coverage without providing huge government benefits to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.)

Medicare Corruption Taking a Toll on Our Seniors

Dear Friend,

We all know somebody — a parent, a grandparent, an older friend we talk to around the neighborhood — who is struggling to make heads or tails of the Republican Medicare prescription drug law. It’s just completely confusing, and I know it’s not the best that we can do for our seniors. It may, however, be the best we can do for the pharmaceutical industry, which should be no surprise since it was practically written by the big drug companies.

There’s a lesson to be learned: bad policy that puts special interests before the American people is the cost of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican Congress and the White House. It is a lesson we see played out in the newspapers each morning and on the television news each night.

Democrats fought against this Medicare sham at the time, and now we’re offering three important solutions that could be implemented NOW: 1) Extend enrollment by six months to allow America’s seniors to make sense of the confusing options before they have to select the option that works best for them, 2) Allow re-importation of safe FDA approved drugs from Canada, which should bring down the costs of drugs in this country, and 3) Allow Medicare to bargain for lower prices on behalf of all Americans. It is particularly offensive that the drug company-written Medicare prescription drug law actually prohibits the government from negotiating with those companies for lower prices.

Today, I am asking you to please join my friends at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) by signing their petition to Congress:

http://ga3.org/ct/BdAsoqY1omv1 /

Whether it’s you, your family, or just an elderly friend, seniors across America are wondering why providing health care cannot be simpler. The reason is clear: the bill was not made for them. It was made for the Republican special interests and, in fact, much of it was even written by the pharmaceutical industry and its legions of lobbyists. It’s particularly troubling that this program doesn’t do more for the millions of seniors who struggle with poverty every day. Instead of looking out for the people who need our help the most, the Republicans sided with the people they always look out for — the powerful special interests.

Let’s look at a few numbers compiled at the time the bill was passed:

* Estimated increase in Drug Industry Profits: $182 billion
* Washington lobbyists employed by the Drug and HMO Industries: 952
* Amount spent by drug and HMO industries on lobbying in 2003: $141 million
* Political contributions from the drug industry to Republicans in 2002: $21.7 million (74% of total)
* Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor (the drug most frequently prescribed to seniors) with a Medicare Discount Card in 2003 survey: $67.07
* Price of a one-month supply of Lipitor on www.drugstore.com : $62.99

And that doesn’t even get to the confusing mess caused by the dozens and dozens of plans. It doesn’t mention the fact that while seniors are locked into a plan for a year, the providers have free rein to raise their rates at any time, which is particularly troubling for the seniors who are living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, re-importation of drugs from Canada — which even a top executive with Pfizer has said is perfectly safe — has been kept illegal to ensure pharmaceutical industry profits. And if that wasn’t enough, Medicare is barred from bargaining for lower prices like the VA does for veterans.

The bill was disgraceful when it was passed, but now the seniors among us are about to start paying the price. We have one last chance to get it right.


John Edwards

P.S. — This is about what kind of country we want to live in — do we want to stand together to make sure our seniors don’t have to choose between medicine and food, or will we instead allow the pharmaceutical companies to pad their wallets and to pay their lobbyists to keep Congress in their pockets?

I hope you’ll stand with me and the DCCC in telling Congress to do the right thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

John Kerry Credits Failed Leadership by Bush and Rumsfeld for Troops Not Having Body Armor That Can Save Lives

This weekend a secret Pentagon report was released by the NY Times that showed that "as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor."

While traveling on a 12 day tour of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Senator John Kerry issued a statement on that report today, calling for an investigation and immediate delivery of new body armor:

“There is simply no excuse for our troops not having the body armor that can save their lives. It’s a tragic and stark reminder of the very real human cost being paid for this administration’s mistakes. Failed leadership by the President and Secretary of Defense is no excuse and no solace.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those families whose hearts are breaking again with this news.

“Congress has appropriated billions of dollars for this very need—the failure is the administration’s. It’s time for them to hold people accountable and deliver. No more rhetoric, no more lip service. Our troops deserve no less.”

John Kerry’s Trip to the Mid East Focuses on War in Iraq, War on Terror, Global Health Crises, America’s Competitiveness in the Global Economy

As I reported late yesterday, John Kerry is beginning a 12-day trip throughout the Mid East and Asia. Kerry’s trip will focus on the ongoing war in Iraq, the war on terror, global health crises, and America’s competitiveness in the global economy.

He will travel to several countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, Israel and India.

John Kerry is traveling to the Middle East to focus on the steps that must be taken in Iraq and hear from experts in the region about the war in Iraq, the war on terror and the Middle East peace process. On the trip, he will meet with troops, American military commanders, American officials working in these countries, foreign government and embassy officials, as well as civil society leaders and democracy advocates.

There's more including Kerry's itinerary on The Democratic Daily.

Legal Experts Argue Bush Spying Was Illegal

Legal opinion on the illegality of Bush’s domestic surveillance (hat tip to Geoffrey R. Stone at Huffington Post):

Dear Members of Congress:

We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush Administration’s National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in the New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department’s December 22, 2005 letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration’s defense of the program. Although the program’s secrecy prevents us from being privy to all of its details, the Justice Department’s defense of what it concedes was secret and warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States fails to identify any plausible legal authority for such surveillance. Accordingly the program appears on its face to violate existing law.

The basic legal question here is not new. In 1978, after an extensive investigation of the privacy violations associated with foreign intelligence surveillance programs, Congress and the President enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Pub. L. 95-511, 92 Stat. 1783. FISA comprehensively regulates electronic surveillance within the United States, striking a careful balance between protecting civil liberties and preserving the “vitally important government purpose” of obtaining valuable intelligence in order to safeguard national security. S. Rep. No. 95-604, pt. 1, at 9 (1977).

With minor exceptions, FISA authorizes electronic surveillance only upon certain specified showings, and only if approved by a court. The statute specifically allows for warrantless wartime domestic electronic surveillance–but only for the first fifteen days of a war. 50 U.S.C. § 1811. It makes criminal any electronic surveillance not authorized by statute, id. § 1809; and it expressly establishes FISA and specified provisions of the federal criminal code (which govern wiretaps for criminal investigation) as the “exclusive means by which electronic surveillance … may be conducted,” 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f) (emphasis added).

The Department of Justice concedes that the NSA program was not authorized by any of the above provisions. It maintains, however, that the program did not violate existing law because Congress implicitly authorized the NSA program when it enacted the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001). But the AUMF cannot reasonably be construed to implicitly authorize warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during wartime, where Congress has expressly and specifically addressed that precise question in FISA and limited any such warrantless surveillance to the first fifteen days of war.

The DOJ also invokes the President’s inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief to collect “signals intelligence” targeted at the enemy, and maintains that construing FISA to prohibit the President’s actions would raise constitutional questions. But even conceding that the President in his role as Commander in Chief may generally collect signals intelligence on the enemy abroad, Congress indisputably has authority to regulate electronic surveillance within the United States, as it has done in FISA. Where Congress has so regulated, the President can act in contravention of statute only if his authority is exclusive, and not subject to the check of statutory regulation. The DOJ letter pointedly does not make that extraordinary claim.

Moreover, to construe the AUMF as the DOJ suggests would itself raise serious constitutional questions under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court has never upheld warrantless wiretapping within the United States. Accordingly, the principle that statutes should be construed to avoid serious constitutional questions provides an additional reason for concluding that the AUMF does not authorize the President’s actions here.


The DOJ concedes (Letter at 4) that the NSA program involves “electronic surveillance,” which is defined in FISA to mean the interception of the contents of telephone, wire, or email communications that occur, at least in part, in the United States. 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801(f)(1)-(2), 1801(n). NSA engages in such surveillance without judicial approval, and apparently without the substantive showings that FISA requires–e.g., that the subject is an “agent of a foreign power.” Id. § 1805(a). The DOJ does not argue that FISA itself authorizes such electronic surveillance; and, as the DOJ letter acknowledges, 18 U.S.C. § 1809 makes criminal any electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.

The DOJ nevertheless contends that the surveillance is authorized by the AUMF, signed on September 18, 2001, which empowers the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force against” al Qaeda. According to the DOJ, collecting “signals intelligence” on the enemy, even if it involves tapping U.S. phones without court approval or probable cause, is a “fundamental incident of war” authorized by the AUMF. This argument fails for four reasons.

First, and most importantly, the DOJ’s argument rests on an unstated general “implication” from the AUMF that directly contradicts express and specific language in FISA. Specific and “carefully drawn” statutes prevail over general statutes where there is a conflict. Morales v. TWA, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 384-85 (1992) (quoting International Paper Co. v. Ouelette, 479 U.S. 481, 494 (1987)). In FISA, Congress has directly and specifically spoken on the question of domestic warrantless wiretapping, including during wartime, and it could not have spoken more clearly.

As noted above, Congress has comprehensively regulated all electronic surveillance in the United States, and authorizes such surveillance only pursuant to specific statutes designated as the “exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.” 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f) (emphasis added). Moreover, FISA specifically addresses the question of domestic wiretapping during wartime. In a provision entitled “Authorization during time of war,” FISA dictates that “[n]otwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.” 50 U.S.C. § 1811 (emphasis added). Thus, even where Congress has declared war–a more formal step than an authorization such as the AUMF–the law limits warrantless wiretapping to the first fifteen days of the conflict. Congress explained that if the President needed further warrantless surveillance during wartime, the fifteen days would be sufficient for Congress to consider and enact further authorization. Rather than follow this course, the President acted unilaterally and secretly in contravention of FISA’s terms. The DOJ letter remarkably does not even mention FISA’s fifteen-day war provision, which directly refutes the President’s asserted “implied” authority.

In light of the specific and comprehensive regulation of FISA, especially the fifteen-day war provision, there is no basis for finding in the AUMF’s general language implicit authority for unchecked warrantless domestic wiretapping. As Justice Frankfurter stated in rejecting a similar argument by President Truman when he sought to defend the seizure of the steel mills during the Korean War on the basis of implied congressional authorization: “It is one thing to draw an intention of Congress from general language and to say that Congress would have explicitly written what is inferred, where Congress has not addressed itself to a specific situation. It is quite impossible, however, when Congress did specifically address itself to a problem, as Congress did to that of seizure, to find secreted in the interstices of legislation the very grant of power which Congress consciously withheld. To find authority so explicitly withheld is … to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.” Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 609 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).

Second, the DOJ’s argument would require the conclusion that Congress implicitly and sub silentio repealed 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f), the provision that identifies FISA and specific criminal code provisions as “the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted.” Repeals by implication are strongly disfavored; they can be established only by “overwhelming evidence,” J.E.M. Ag. Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred Int’l, Inc., 534 U.S. 124, 137 (2001), and “‘the only permissible justification for a repeal by implication is when the earlier and later statutes are irreconcilable,’” id. at 141-142 (quoting Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 550 (1974)). The AUMF and § 2511(2)(f) are not irreconcilable, and there is no evidence, let alone overwhelming evidence, that Congress intended to repeal § 2511(2)(f).

Third, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has admitted that the administration did not seek to amend FISA to authorize the NSA spying program because it was advised that Congress would reject such an amendment. The administration cannot argue on the one hand that Congress authorized the NSA program in the AUMF, and at the same time that it did not ask Congress for such authorization because it feared Congress would say no.

Finally, the DOJ’s reliance upon Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), to support its reading of the AUMF, see DOJ Letter at 3, is misplaced. A plurality of the Court in Hamdi held that the AUMF authorized military detention of enemy combatants captured on the battlefield abroad as a “fundamental incident of waging war.” Id. at 519. The plurality expressly limited this holding to individuals who were “part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners in Afghanistan and who engaged in an armed conflict against the United States there.” Id. at 516 (emphasis added). It is one thing, however, to say that foreign battlefield capture of enemy combatants is an incident of waging war that Congress intended to authorize. It is another matter entirely to treat unchecked warrantless domestic spying as included in that authorization, especially where an existing statute specifies that other laws are the “exclusive means” by which electronic surveillance may be conducted and provides that even a declaration of war authorizes such spying only for a fifteen-day emergency period.


The DOJ argues that FISA and the AUMF should be construed to permit the NSA program’s domestic surveillance because otherwise there might be a “conflict between FISA and the President’s Article II authority as Commander-in-Chief.” DOJ Letter at 4. The statutory scheme described above is not ambiguous, and therefore the constitutional avoidance doctrine is not even implicated. See United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Coop., 532 U.S. 483, 494 (2001) (the “canon of constitutional avoidance has no application in the absence of statutory ambiguity”). But were it implicated, it would work against the President, not in his favor. Construing FISA and the AUMF according to their plain meanings raises no serious constitutional questions regarding the President’s duties under Article II. Construing the AUMF to permit unchecked warrantless wiretapping without probable cause, however, would raise serious questions under the Fourth Amendment.

A. FISA’s Limitations Are Consistent with the President’s Article II Role

We do not dispute that, absent congressional action, the President might have inherent constitutional authority to collect “signals intelligence” about the enemy abroad. Nor do we dispute that, had Congress taken no action in this area, the President might well be constitutionally empowered to conduct domestic surveillance directly tied and narrowly confined to that goal–subject, of course, to Fourth Amendment limits. Indeed, in the years before FISA was enacted, the federal law involving wiretapping specifically provided that “[n]othing contained in this chapter or in section 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 shall limit the constitutional power of the President . . . to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 2511(3) (1976).

But FISA specifically repealed that provision. FISA § 201(c), 92 Stat. 1797, and replaced it with language dictating that FISA and the criminal code are the “exclusive means” of conducting electronic surveillance. In doing so, Congress did not deny that the President has constitutional power to conduct electronic surveillance for national security purposes; rather, Congress properly concluded that “even if the President has the inherent authority in the absence of legislation to authorize warrantless electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes, Congress has the power to regulate the conduct of such surveillance by legislating a reasonable procedure, which then becomes the exclusive means by which such surveillance may be conducted.” H.R. Rep. No. 95-1283, pt. 1, at 24 (1978) (emphasis added). This analysis, Congress noted, was “supported by two successive Attorneys General.” Id.

To say that the President has inherent authority does not mean that his authority is exclusive, or that his conduct is not subject to statutory regulations enacted (as FISA was) pursuant to Congress’s Article I powers. As Justice Jackson famously explained in his influential opinion in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. at 635 (Jackson, J., concurring), the Constitution “enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity. Presidential powers are not fixed but fluctuate, depending upon their disjunction or conjunction with those of Congress.” For example, the President in his role as Commander in Chief directs military operations. But the Framers gave Congress the power to prescribe rules for the regulation of the armed and naval forces, Art. I, § 8, cl. 14, and if a duly enacted statute prohibits the military from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the President must follow that dictate. As Justice Jackson wrote, when the President acts in defiance of “the expressed or implied will of Congress,” his power is “at its lowest ebb.” 343 U.S. at 637. In this setting, Jackson wrote, “Presidential power [is] most vulnerable to attack and in the least favorable of possible constitutional postures.” Id. at 640.

Congress plainly has authority to regulate domestic wiretapping by federal agencies under its Article I powers, and the DOJ does not suggest otherwise. Indeed, when FISA was enacted, the Justice Department agreed that Congress had power to regulate such conduct, and could require judicial approval of foreign intelligence surveillance. FISA does not prohibit foreign intelligence surveillance, but merely imposes reasonable regulation to protect legitimate privacy rights. (For example, although FISA generally requires judicial approval for electronic surveillance of persons within the United States, it permits the executive branch to install a wiretap immediately so long as it obtains judicial approval within 72 hours. 50 U.S.C. § 1805(f).)

Just as the President is bound by the statutory prohibition on torture, he is bound by the statutory dictates of FISA. The DOJ once infamously argued that the President as Commander in Chief could ignore even the criminal prohibition on torture, and, more broadly still, that statutes may not “place any limits on the President’s determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response.” But the administration withdrew the August 2002 torture memo after it was disclosed, and for good reason the DOJ does not advance these extreme arguments here. Absent a serious question about FISA’s constitutionality, there is no reason even to consider construing the AUMF to have implicitly overturned the carefully designed regulatory regime that FISA establishes. See, e.g., Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 314 n.9 (1993) (constitutional avoidance canon applicable only if the constitutional question to be avoided is a serious one, “not to eliminate all possible contentions that the statute might be unconstitutional”) (emphasis in original; citation omitted).

B. Construing the AUMF to Authorize Warrantless Domestic Wiretapping Would Raise Serious Constitutional Questions

The principle that ambiguous statutes should be construed to avoid serious constitutional questions works against the administration, not in its favor. Interpreting the AUMF and FISA to permit unchecked domestic wiretapping for the duration of the conflict with al Qaeda would certainly raise serious constitutional questions. The Supreme Court has never upheld such a sweeping power to invade the privacy of Americans at home without individualized suspicion or judicial oversight.

The NSA surveillance program permits wiretapping within the United States without either of the safeguards presumptively required by the Fourth Amendment for electronic surveillance–individualized probable cause and a warrant or other order issued by a judge or magistrate. The Court has long held that wiretaps generally require a warrant and probable cause. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). And the only time the Court considered the question of national security wiretaps, it held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits domestic security wiretaps without those safeguards. United States v. United States Dist. Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). Although the Court in that case left open the question of the Fourth Amendment validity of warrantless wiretaps for foreign intelligence purposes, its precedents raise serious constitutional questions about the kind of open-ended authority the President has asserted with respect to the NSA program. See id. at 316-18 (explaining difficulty of guaranteeing Fourth Amendment freedoms if domestic surveillance can be conducted solely in the discretion of the executive branch).

Indeed, serious Fourth Amendment questions about the validity of warrantless wiretapping led Congress to enact FISA, in order to “provide the secure framework by which the executive branch may conduct legitimate electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes within the context of this nation’s commitment to privacy and individual rights.” S. Rep. No. 95-604, pt. 1, at 15 (1977) (citing, inter alia, Zweibon v, Mitchell, 516 F.2d 594 (D.C. Cir. 1975), in which “the court of appeals held that a warrant must be obtained before a wiretap is installed on a domestic organization that is neither the agent of, nor acting in collaboration with, a foreign power”).

Relying on In re Sealed Case No. 02-001, the DOJ argues that the NSA program falls within an exception to the warrant and probable cause requirement for reasonable searches that serve “special needs” above and beyond ordinary law enforcement. But the existence of “special needs” has never been found to permit warrantless wiretapping. “Special needs” generally excuse the warrant and individualized suspicion requirements only where those requirements are impracticable and the intrusion on privacy is minimal. See, e.g., Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 873 (1987). Wiretapping is not a minimal intrusion on privacy, and the experience of FISA shows that foreign intelligence surveillance can be carried out through warrants based on individualized suspicion..

The court in Sealed Case upheld FISA itself, which requires warrants issued by Article III federal judges upon an individualized showing of probable cause that the subject is an “agent of a foreign power.” The NSA domestic spying program, by contrast, includes none of these safeguards. It does not require individualized judicial approval, and it does not require a showing that the target is an “agent of a foreign power.” According to Attorney General Gonzales, the NSA may wiretap any person in the United States who so much as receives a communication from anyone abroad, if the administration deems either of the parties to be affiliated with al Qaeda, a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, “working in support of al Qaeda,” or “part of” an organization or group “that is supportive of al Qaeda.” Under this reasoning, a U.S. citizen living here who received a phone call from another U.S. citizen who attends a mosque that the administration believes is “supportive” of al Qaeda could be wiretapped without a warrant. The absence of meaningful safeguards on the NSA program at a minimum raises serious questions about the validity of the program under the Fourth Amendment, and therefore supports an interpretation of the AUMF that does not undercut FISA’s regulation of such conduct.
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In conclusion, the DOJ letter fails to offer a plausible legal defense of the NSA domestic spying program. If the Administration felt that FISA was insufficient, the proper course was to seek legislative amendment, as it did with other aspects of FISA in the Patriot Act, and as Congress expressly contemplated when it enacted the wartime wiretap provision in FISA. One of the crucial features of a constitutional democracy is that it is always open to the President–or anyone else–to seek to change the law. But it is also beyond dispute that, in such a democracy, the President cannot simply violate criminal laws behind closed doors because he deems them obsolete or impracticable.

We hope you find these views helpful to your consideration of the legality of the NSA domestic spying program.


Curtis A. Bradley
Richard and Marcy Horvitz Professor of Law, Duke University*
Former Counselor on International Law in the State Department Legal Adviser’s Office, 2004

David Cole
Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Walter Dellinger
Douglas Blount Maggs Professor of Law, Duke University
Former Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel,1993-1996
Former Acting Solicitor General of the United States, 1996-97

Ronald Dworkin
Frank Henry Sommer Professor, New York University Law School

Richard Epstein
James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago Law School
Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Harold Hongju Koh
Dean and Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law, Yale Law School
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 1998-2001
Former Attorney-Adviser, Office of Legal Counsel, DOJ, 1983-85

Philip B. Heymann
James Barr Ames Professor, Harvard Law School
Former Deputy Attorney General, 1993-94

Martin S. Lederman
Visiting Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
Former Attorney Advisor, Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, 1994-2002

Beth Nolan
Former Counsel to the President, 1999-2001; Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, 1996-1999; Associate Counsel to the President, 1993-1995; Attorney Advisor, Office of Legal Counsel, 1981-1985

William S. Sessions
Former Director, FBI
Former Chief United States District Judge, Western District of Texas

Geoffrey R. Stone
Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago
Former Dean of the University of Chicago Law School and Provost of the University of Chicago

Kathleen M. Sullivan
Stanley Morrison Professor, Stanford Law School
Former Dean, Stanford Law School

Laurence H. Tribe
Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law
Harvard Law School

William W. Van Alstyne
Lee Professor, William and Mary Law School
Former Attorney, Department of Justice, 1958