Halperin slams Bush phonetaps as illegal

Israeli & Global News

Dec. 16, 2005

By Morton H. Halperin -- Served In State Department Under President Clinton

President Bush has demonstrated contempt for American law in ordering the NSA to secretly tap phones, a former Clinton administration official said.
"In secretly authorizing the National Security Agency to wiretap the phones of American citizens, President (George W.) Bush has demonstrated his utter contempt for the laws that have guided presidents before in times of great national peril," Morton H. Halperin, senior vice president of the Center for American Progress and a director of U.S. advocacy for the Open Society Institute, said Friday.

Halperin, who was director of policy planning at the State Department under President Bill Clinton, called the report Friday in the New York Times that Bush had secretly authorized NSA e-mail and phone taps without court authority since 2002, "a sign of the moral bankruptcy of this White House. Even employees of the National Security Agency refused to follow the president's order to break the law.

"This administration has created a culture in Washington in which the president exercises monarchical control over the government and even the Republican Congress is forced to the sidelines," Halperin said. "The president's actions return America to the dark days of the past marked by the arrogance of J. Edgar Hoover and the abuse of power of Richard Nixon."
Halperin said Bush's actions were clearly illegal.

"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act governs surveillance for intelligence purposes in the United States and expressly prohibits surveillance not authorized by law," he said. "At no time during Congress' consideration of the broad anti-terrorism authorities contained in the PATRIOT Act ... has the president requested this new authority for the NSA. We now are faced with the fact that the president's secret and unlawful grant of power to the NSA makes the current debate on the PATRIOT Act almost irrelevant.

"The law and Constitution are clear," Halperin said. "The National Security Agency does not have this authority and the president cannot grant it to them with the stroke of his pen."