One of UCSB’s newest student organizations wants to impeach President George W. Bush for ordering, without judicial warrants, the placement of wiretaps on the phones of American citizens.
Students for Impeachment is currently gathering signatures to petition local Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-23) for her support in stopping federal investigators from using wiretaps on citizens without court warrants. If the wiretapping continues, however, the group will petition Capps to demand an investigation into the matter and an impeachment hearing for President Bush, said Jake Thorn, one of the group’s organizers.
“I recognized the Constitution was under attack and felt the need to do something about it,” Thorn said of his decision to create the group.
The New York Times originally uncovered the National Security Agency’s use of wiretaps on citizens within U.S. borders in a Dec. 16 article entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”
According to the article, the NSA has monitored international phone calls and emails of thousands of U.S. citizens without warrants since 2002, when Bush signed an order permitting eavesdropping to track “dirty numbers” supposedly linked to Al-Qaeda.
Many members of Congress are questioning the legality of the wiretaps, saying they violate constitutional limits on legal searches.
The Bush Administration, however, responded by saying the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress on September 13, 2001, and the inherent authority of the president as commander in chief provide adequate rationale for the warrantless wiretapping. According to the Times article, defenders of the program said it has been essential in preventing terrorist attacks in the past three years.
Thorn, a third-year political science major, said the president is overstepping his authority under Article II of the Constitution and is violating the amendments protecting free speech and prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures against citizens.
Second-year political science major Patrick Donahoe, another Students for Impeachment organizer, said the White House refuses to give out statistical information about the warrantless wiretapping devices, such as the geographic location of the wiretaps.
The gravity of government wiretapping of citizens without proper legal authorization should offend people of all political affiliations, Donahoe said.
“We don’t see it as Republican or Democrat,” Donahoe said. “Our country is based on the idea that nobody is above the law.”
Thorn said the group circulated 1,000 flyers last week in the Arbor and collected about 90 signatures from students. The group will continue its campaign in the Arbor this week from Monday to Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Students for Impeachment is an unofficial group and is not registered through the Office of Student Life, Thorn said. He said the group is self-funded and hopes to avoid fundraising for now because it would divert focus from the group’s goal.
The group will hold a rally Thursday, March 2 outside of Storke Plaza, Thorn said. It will include speakers and further information about the impeachment procedure and Bush’s use of warrantless wiretapping, he said.
The organization meets on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. outside Nicoletti’s in the UCen.
“There have been very few negative responses,” Donahoe said. “Once people start hearing about it, they immediately want to know what is going on.”