If you’ve walked through the arbor during the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen me. I’m the guy in the cowboy hat proclaiming, “Impeach Bush, save the Constitution” at the top of his lungs. I haven’t been doing this just because I like standing in the hot sun and talking to strangers. In fact, it has little to do with ignoring all the advice my kindergarten teacher gave me about talking to strangers – I’m sorry Mrs. Asmussen. I’ve been working to raise awareness on campus about President Bush’s illegal and unconstitutional National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap program and the Students for Impeachment movement.
Today’s a big day for our group; at noon in Storke Plaza we’re having our first rally to continue to raise awareness on campus and in the community. (Hint: you should come.) There’ll be music and speeches by professors and fellow students talking about the issue. (Hint: you should really stop by.)
“Patrick,” you say, “this all sounds amazing, but I don’t actually know what the hell you’re talking about.”
Fair enough, let’s try to fix that now. On Dec. 17, 2005, President Bush admitted to the existence of a classified program of electronic surveillance by the NSA, a program that, several days earlier, had been exposed by the New York Times. While the full extent and specifics of the program remain unknown at this time, what we do know paints a rather frightening picture of a president with little to no respect for the rule of law.
According to statements made by the Attorney General, the program targets calls made between people within the United States – including citizens – people who are suspected members of a terrorist organization, people who are affiliated with a terrorist organization and people who might in some way be supporting a terrorist organization without going through the pesky bother of obtaining a warrant.
“But Patrick, that doesn’t sound so bad, terrorists are evil and what does it matter if he doesn’t get a warrant?”
Well, first it should be remembered that this is an administration that labeled Greenpeace a terrorist organization. A guy I handed a flyer to told me I was helping the terrorists by daring to question President Bush – though he didn’t word it so nicely. So, who knows? It’s possible that they’re listening to my phone calls.
The Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights clearly states that probable cause is needed before a court can issue a warrant describing exactly what it is the government is looking for. President Bush finds this check on his executive power inconvenient.
“But Patrick, national security is at stake, maybe President Bush doesn’t have the time to get a warrant.”
In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to regulate the use of wiretaps for national security. The FISA court has rarely in its 30-year history failed to grant a warrant and in extreme cases has been able to approve a warrant within minutes of one being requested.
“But Patrick, in this modern age of cell phones and dirty bombs, isn’t it conceivable that President Bush might not even have minutes to spare to prevent an attack on American soil?”
Funny enough, FISA covers this scenario as well. In the event that there isn’t time to get a warrant before starting a wiretap, the FISA courts will retroactively grant one for up to 72 hours after it’s placed.
“So Patrick, why doesn’t President Bush just follow the FISA laws like every other president – his father included – for the last 30 years?”
That’s what Students for Impeachment wants to find out. Our “demands” are simple. We want President Bush to stop his illegal and unconstitutional wiretap program, and if he fails to do so, we want Congress to investigate whether high crimes and misdemeanors have been committed. That’s why we’re holding a rally today in Storke Plaza at noon. I hope to see you there.
Patrick Donahoe is a sophomore political science major.