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ACLU Wants Bush Impeached Over NSA Wiretaps

Monisha Bansal, | February 22 2006

While White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asserting Monday that the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program was a vital tool in the war against terrorism, a panel assembled by the American Civil Liberties Union was arguing that President Bush should be impeached over the spying program.

"If the political alignment in the country were otherwise, impeachment would be a no-brainer," said Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University.

In December, the New York Times disclosed that President Bush had authorized the NSA to tap international telephone calls that included one party suspected of terrorist activity.

Since that time the program's legality has been debated, especially over whether the president violated the law when he authorized the interception of electronic communications without first obtaining permission from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.

Tribe added that wiretapping is not an inherent power of the presidency. "That free flowing inherent power is the very thing we fought a revolution against."

"It violates the basic rules of the road of how you operate," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "No judge, at any level has signed a warrant for this."

John Dean, a former White House counsel during the Nixon administration, compared the Bush administration's wiretapping to the Watergate scandal. "[Bush] has made such a radical reading of his powers, not unlike Nixon. And those who have operated under his behalf have pursued that policy, so it could well end up where we were at the Nixon White House.

"There is no question in my mind that this president has already committed one or more impeachable offenses. This is pretty serious stuff. It's worse than Watergate."

But the Bush administration has aggressively defended the surveillance program.
"The terrorist surveillance program helps us to connect the dots and save lives and prevent attacks," said McClellan.

"I think most leaders understand that this is not only a necessary tool, but a vital tool in our efforts to disrupt plots and prevent attacks here at home. We will continue to listen to ideas from members of Congress and we will continue to work with them on legislation that would protect this vital program and address some of the issues that have been raised."

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