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Bush administration report defends spying

Bush administration report defends spying, unconstrained executive powers

By Joe Kay – World Socialist Web Site
23 January 2006

The Bush administration is responding to revelations of illegal government spying by mounting a campaign to defend its actions, employing the same arguments that have been used to justify a massive expansion of executive powers on a number of different fronts. Far from retreating in the face of media reports of the secret National Security Agency (NSA) program to spy on US citizens, the administration has declared that it cannot be constrained in carrying out these actions.

The existence of the NSA program was first revealed last month in an article in the New York Times. It was reported at the time that the Bush administration had authorized the NSA to spy on some communications entering or leaving the United States. It has since become clear that the spying agency has gained access to vast databases of telephone calls and e-mails, most of which have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but include communications made by ordinary Americans. During the past several months, there have also been numerous revelations of spying on American citizens because of their antiwar activity.

The pseudo-legal arguments used to defend the NSA program were outlined in a 42-page document issued by the Justice Department on January 19. The memo claims that the spying falls within the framework of the president’s wartime powers as commander in chief of the military, which the Bush administration contends were activated by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Because the country is at war, the Justice Department memo argues, the president has the authority to “conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces.” The NSA activities “are primarily an exercise of the President’s authority as Commander in Chief during an armed conflict that Congress expressly has authorized the President to pursue,” it argues. “The NSA activities, moreover, have been undertaken specifically to prevent a renewed attack at the hands of an enemy that has already inflicted the single deadliest foreign attack in the Nation’s history.”

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