Congressman John Lewis calls for Bush impeachment

John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District (and by extension a good number of us who blog here), is open to the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

“Its a very serious charge, but he violated the law,” said Lewis, a former civil rights leader. “The president should abide by the law. He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not King, he is president.”

If this makes you happy, sad, elated, enraged or indifferent, you should probably let Mr. Lewis know.

For those not keeping up with current U.S. news, the President has admitted to wire-tapping citizens without first obtaining search warrants through the FISA court (Reuters story).

Interesting times indeed. The President is claiming he has the authority to spy on anyone whom he believes may have connections to terrorism without the need for a warrant or any kind of judicial or congressional oversight whatsoever.

Did he miss this part Social Studies class about checks and balances?

Anyone else making a FOIA request to see if you’ve been spied upon?


17 Comments so far

  1. Daniel (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

    – begin soapbox (sorry readers) –

    Though it is still an unclear issue, probably a couple things should be cleared up about the program before people go in to a panic about whether or not they were wire-tapped. First, the lines were tapped outside of the U.S. – so the calls either had to leave the U.S. before they were tapped or they were tapped before the call came in. So, only international calls are even candidates for tapping in this case.

    Second, because of the actual wording of the FISA law, it probably wasn’t broken at all (see here for a fair analysis, though admittedly from a biased source). But we probably don’t know anything because the report in the NYTimes was actually pretty vague about details.

    Third, as for impeachment, or anything really, coming from any sort of investigation that may take place, I think it’s pretty clear that Bush and his administration thinks that the administration is pretty safe. If they had anything to hide, they wouldn’t have been supporting the policy decision so vigorously in the last couple of days. And, since they did inform the members of select committees of the taps many times and none of them (Dem or GOP) said anything at the time, it probably isn’t all that egregious.

    Of course, none of this excuses (in an ethical, not legal, sense) general violations of privacy, something I support wholeheartedly. But, frankly, if Americans cared so much about their privacy being violated (as it constantly is), we would write an amendment to our Constitution about it. Because, as it stands now, the Constitution provides extremely little protection of privacy.

    – end soapbox –

  2. Seth (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

    At least one member of a select committee, Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), who sits on the senate intelligence committee, just made public his letter to the Vice President from July of 2003: Letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Vice President Cheney regarding NSA domestic wiretapping, July 17th 2003.

    It appears that those who knew were told explicitly not to mention anything, even to members of their own committee. FYI.

  3. Daniel (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 6:18 pm

    Ah! I was looking for this when I was writing that earlier – Echelon. The name of a similar spying program that has been going on for some time. Mid-90s at least. Here’s a 60 Minutes transcript from Mar 2000.

    And I suspect that they were told not to mention anything. It is not unusual for some members of the Senate or Congress to get some classified information that others don’t get – especially when they sit on the Select Intelligence Committees. Especially when Rockefeller is not just a member of the committee, he’s the ranking Democrat and is therefore briefed (with Sen. Roberts) before other members and about more things.

    I’m not saying that the program is okay, or anything like that. But not all that is wrong is illegal or unconstitutional. And I’m not even sure it’s so wrong… There’s just not enough information out there for us to determine this. And there probably will never be – this stuff is way to classified to be letting out. And I suspect that the things that have come out probably should never have come out.

  4. Seth (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

    You may be right. I merely posted to the Metroblog since John Lewis represents a good many of the folks writing and reading this blog.

    And isn’t vigorous, open debate supposedly what blogging AND our democracy are all about? (rhetorical)

  5. Daniel (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 6:29 pm

    Oh! I agree completely (on both points!). I think it’s a great post for the Metroblog – I wasn’t trying to challenge that. I was just adding my comments in the spirit of the vigorous debate that our republic is about!

    I guess I’ve just had some pent up thoughts on it… heh. sorry…

  6. Seth (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

    No worries. I think the whole thing brings up some interesting issues regarding personal rights to privacy (such as they exist) in this country as well as issues of judicial and/or congression oversight of the Executive.

    I hope we’re going to really examine all of the ramifications this new information presents for our Republic. I’d hate to see it boil down to an argument simply over Impeach or Allow.

    Now is the time to push for that constitutional ammendment guaranteeing our freedom of privacy. Now is the time to codify what war powers were given to the President. Now is the time to be existential since the issue is out in the open.

    Crying “foul” and trying to say that the fault lies not in the program, but those that revealed it seem disingenuous. To borrow a phrase from those is favor of this kind of wiretapping, “if you (the President) have nothing to hide, why should you worry?”

  7. anon (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

    Congressman Lewis has brain damage.

  8. Seth (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 8:22 pm

    Thanks for contributing to the level of discourse, Anon. I’m dumbstruck by your rapier wit.

    Seriously, if you’d like to expand upon your thoughts concerning Lewis, the President or the other issues at hand we’re willing to listen. We promise not to judge you too harshly. :-)

  9. Daniel (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 9:37 pm

    Seth, you and I completely agree over it being a good time for a really good discussion about privacy, war powers, and all those sorts of issues. And on the need for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing privacy.

    We’re also in agreement over “Anon’s” idiocy.

  10. Seth (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 11:05 pm

    Perhaps I was a bit flip in the language of my posting, but I think this is a very serious issue, impeachment, and that the facts we know (and don’t know) surrounding the wiretapping provide the necessary framework for an open and honest exchange about a variety of issues I’ve enumerated in my other comments.

    Yes, the post concerns John Lewis, but only as a jumping off point because of his connection to the Atlanta area. I’ve asked for opinions and only really gotten my one (echo chamber) and Daniel’s (whom I think raises some good points).

    Does anyone else care about John Lewis or the larger issue? Would you contact his office based merely on one statement or article? Do you have a horse in this race.

  11. STEVE BEVILLE (unregistered) on December 19th, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

    I just love reading and watching the comics everyday

  12. Daniel (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 8:42 am

    Oh, I thought of another “larger issue” that’s been bugging me for a while. Every time any news report comes out about, oh, anything, people in Congress start talking about the need for an independent investigator for it. You saw this with Clinton, too – that’s why Ken Starr’s investigation was allowed to expand soooo much. Related is how we always need an independent “commission” to help us examine what changes need to be made to laws – um, isn’t that what we elected the Congree to do?

    It frustrates me, I tell you, when all the politicians try to do is pass the buck and pass the responsibility. But I guess that’s what politicians do.

    Steve – I like your “who is the replacement” thing. It’s like in the Clinton impeachment – did Republicans really want Gore instead of Clinton? Heh. No, my big thing is that we need to get back to a place where when something goes wrong in the government or something happens that we don’t like or some law is passed that we don’t think is good or constitutional that it isn’t a sign that we need to impeach or that the other side is pure evil or something like that. The problem is, I don’t think we ever had that. Certainly not in my memory (Reagen, Bush, Clinton, and Bush have all been pretty hated by their opponents). And I think that Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc. were all hated as well.

    William Safire wrote a book called Scandalmonger which was a historical fiction based on the whole Jefferson vs. Adams rivalry (factual facts, but dialog was made up, of course). You know what? There was just as much hatred then as now. But maybe somethings different with internet and cable tv and whatever…

    Anyway, I’m all over the place, of course. Sorry about that.

  13. Seth (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    This is the kind of civic discussion we can have here.

    *off topic*
    The best posts of the year, IMHO, involved the talk of free WiFi downtown. Great thoughts on the nature of city government and the way that business, individuals and the city of Atlanta can move forward. Awesome stuff. The perfect reason why the metblogs exist and they stirred some wonderful comments.

    *further off topic*
    Let’s make 2006 the year of the comment. I bet we can get twice the number of comments and commenters. If you don’t blog here (or even if you do) join the conversation!

  14. gwinnettlib (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 10:53 am

    First, the law. Other than nebulous invasion of privacy grounds, this NSA scandal wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the law. This law (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) says that for the NSA to conduct a wiretap on an American citizen (who is protected by the Fourth Admendment of the Bill of Rights), it has to obtain a warrant from the FISA court (whose proceedings are kept secret for security reasons). The warrants can be obtained up to 72 hours after the fact. The FISA court issues roughly 1000 warrants each year and is only known to have denied a warrant application one time.

    The President has basically admitted to ordering wiretap surveillance without obtaining the required court orders and without apologies says he intends to keep doing it. Given that the President is virtually assured his warrants, why would he not apply for them? The only answer I can think of is that he doesn’t want the FISA court to know who he is spying on.

    Second, impeachment. Rep. Lewis is not the only person openly discussing the possibility. John Dean, Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel during Watergate and several other presidential scholars agree that the President has admitted to an impeachable offense. Senator Boxer of California is also openly discussing impeachment proceedings.

    What this means is that impeachment is not a far-flung fantasy anymore. Yeah, the replacement would be Cheney (unless he were impeached as well. Then President Hastert… HA!). Shining the harsh light of public attention on Cheney might actually be a good thing; he would have to adopt a much more public persona and his approval ratings have been consistantly lower than the President’s. But that is beside the point. If the President committed a crime, some punitive measures must be taken. Despite what Alberto Gonzalez and John Yoo may tell him, he is not above the law.

    Third. Divisiveness. With no disrespect to you Steve, but your statement about the political divide is naive. This divide was brought to the country part and parcel by the Republican leadership. Ten years of trying to make nice with the Republicans’ increasingly anti-American agenda is what has brought the United States to where it is today. Logic and reason have left Washington because the Republicans have been in charge and it is the Republican leadership who have no respect for logic and reason.

    The only response left is to throw the bums out and the impeachment issue will be a godsend to the Democrats during the 2006 election cycle. It will force every representative to either publicly affirm or rebuke the President (approval rating below 40%) and the idea of a Big Brother executive branch spying on American citizens.

  15. STEVE BEVILLE (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

    Naive, me? Never. I don’t disagree with you on your point Gwinnettlib. Your statement is sound.

  16. Daniel (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

    GwinnettLib – before you go asserting that divisiveness in politics started 10 years ago and is caused by the GOP, I suggest you actually take a look at history. Reagen, 20 years ago, was demonized by the left when he took on the Soviet Union. Truman endured scathing criticism constantly from the right. Eisenhower was attacked constantly from the left. FDR was called a traitor to his class. Lincoln was constantly demonized for dividing the union (and not just by the South, he had many many detractors in the North – it was not a popular war). Adams (the father) was hated by the Jeffersonians and Jefferson was hated by the Hamiltonians.

    Divisiveness in American politics is a part of the game. There has never really been this mythical time when we all got along on our politics and didn’t demonize each other.

  17. gwinnettlib (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 6:20 pm

    Daniel, i never asserted that political divisiveness started a decade ago, just the current acerbic partisanship by the GOP. It really began to pick up steam after the Republican Party took control of the House. To say that the current divide is politics-as-usual is to whitewash the arrogance, abuses of power, negligence and borderline criminal indifference to the welfare of the Union of a party ruled more loyalty to itself and its power than any set of beliefs it may once have espoused.

    Certainly every administration has had its opponents and each congress has had its minority. But the fundamental difference is that those minorities and opponents were able to air their differences and register their dissent without being labeled weak or un-American or even as traitors (except for maybe the civil war).

    The Republicans have spent 10 years debasing the political debate and now they’re starting to whine when it’s thrown in their face.

    And Steve, I trust you’re not really naive. Statement withdrawn.

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