Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sworn to uphold the law

From President Bush's press conference yesterday morning, there were some questions on his authorisation of spying on US citizens without judicial oversight:

"Q -- why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?


I think I've got the authority to move forward...

Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously...

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times...

Q What limits do you --

THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country..."

A slanted characterisation of this might read:

Q - Why not work to change the law rather than bypass it?
Ans. - I think it's ok to bypass the law.

Q - With a long war on terror, will there be unlimited expansion of executive powers?
Ans. - I don't like your question. I swore to uphold the law and I talk to Congress and I'll do what I like to protect your civil liberties.

That would be a bit unfair though, wouldn't it?

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