|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
She's a Carter appointee, they said. She's a liberal. What did you expect?
It doesn't take much to see that this is not a refutation of Judge Taylor's ruling. It is misdirection. Constitutional scholar Robert Levy of the libertarian Cato Institute also thinks the wiretapping is illegal. He points out that it is well-established law that the president's power is most circumscribed in areas where Congress has expressly spoken. Well, Congress has spoken on the matter of warrantless wiretaps. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) declares them illegal, with only two exceptions: during the 15 days after a declaration of war and for 72 hours in an emergency. Over the years the special FISA court has been most accommodating of presidents' requests for warrants. President Bush had many opportunities after 9/11 to ask Congress to change the law, but he didn't. Now he claims that the authorization of force in Iraq contained an implied change. But no such congressional intent can be shown. Neither do any "inherent war powers" permit a president to defy an outright congressional ban. Congress too has war-related powers under the Constitution.
Levy can't be dismissed as a Carterite or a "liberal." So those labels do nothing to rebut Judge Taylor's ruling, weakly argued as it may be. Invalidation of the National Security Agency's intrusive program is well grounded in established legal principle. (Her ruling is being appealed.)
Conservatives still don't get the constitutional game. (Not that so-called liberals are much better.) In that game you put your money down and you take your chances. You know going in you can lose. Judge Taylor did not break into a courthouse, steal a judge's robe, and begin issuing rulings. President Jimmy Carter didn't break into the White House and start appointing judges. (Some people still believe that George W. Bush essentially did that.) They got into office by [begin italics]constitutional[end italics] means. Conservatives just don't like the results. They might like to take "their" Constitution and go home, except it's not [begin italics]their[end italics] Constitution. As a political document, it's up for interpretation, and Judge Taylor has been constitutionally empowered to interpret it.
Conservatives pride themselves on being "strict constructionists," the keepers of the one true interpretation of the Constitution. But this claim rests on a weak foundation. There [begin italics]is[end italics] no one true interpretation. The historian Merrill Jensen noted that Alexander Hamilton, a staunch nationalist, and Thomas Jefferson, a staunch decentralist, looked at the same Constitution and saw two contradictory things. Each saw a plan of government consistent with his own predilections.
These days conservatives oppose implied [begin italics]congressional[end italics] powers while seeing implied [begin italics]presidential[end italics] powers everywhere (as long as they like the president). I smell an agenda.
What are they to make of James Madison, one of the architects of the Constitution? He told the public that Congress's powers are "few and defined." But during debate over the Bill of Rights he told his fellow congressmen "it was impossible to confine a government to the exercise of express powers; there must necessarily be admitted [begin itlaics]powers by implication,[end italics] unless the constitution descended to recount every minutiae" (emphasis added).
He had a point. A Constitution can't list everything the government may do. But the alternative, as Madison acknowledged, is to look for implied powers. How do you contain that process?
way conservatives could hope to contain it to their exact liking would
be to make Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, or Ann Coulter the absolute dictator.
Heaven help us.
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Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.