Democrat From Kentucky

Democrat from Kentucky
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Gore Takes Aim At NSA Spying Monday, January 16, 2006

Former Vice-President and 2000 presidential candidate Al Gore gave a speech condemning Bush's usurpation of authority regarding the wire-tapping of various American citizens without the benefit of a warrant. Gore prepared a speech that while a little lengthy, comes down and tells some important points. Something to keep in mind though, as you read the speech. Gore was VP. Chances are he knew when Clinton might have wanted to execise such powers. The question to ask is did Clinton have these same type of operations running and how much did Al Gore know?

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle [of presidential overreach during wartime] may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This is some of the commentary. More to come later.

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posted by Stithmeister @ 11:09 PM

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At 12:14 PM, Blogger David said...
Perhaps Gore forgot that he and Clinton spied on American citizens?

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At 12:24 PM, Blogger Stithmeister said...
Yeah... I think there's no question the Clinton adminstration spied. Every administration tries to expand its power levels. The big question is did Bush break existing law when he authorized the wiretaps. It comes down to interpretation of presidential power in situations like this.

I don't think Gore's any saint either. I know the Clinton administration did thing without people's knowledge. They all do.

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Location: Harrodsburg, Kentucky, United States

I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.

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