Senator Leahy is asking Alberto Gonzalez for an explanation of some legal issues. Admittedly, that’s like asking Donald Rumsfeld about the Iraqi military’s capacity to fight, but you have to give Leahy credit for trying.
Leahy’s most important question:
Which, if any, of the expiring Patriot authorities would continue to be legal even in the absence of specific authorizing legislation? Please explain your response.
It’s a hugely important question. Given the assertion by the President and Gonzalez that the Constitution and the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) justify the President’s decision to circumvent the 1978 FISA law, why in the world would the President need the Patriot Act to be renewed? If domestic spying is an inherent Presidential power in times of war, certainly continuing to rifle through medical and library records would be as well.
It demonstrates just how vacuous the Administration’s policy is. By asserting an almost unfettered power for the executive in times of war, they have absolutely undermined their claim that the Patriot Act is essential for security. What’s more, they’ve let us know in no uncertain terms that they’ll continue to do whatever the President imagines is necessary.
Either we are a nation of laws, or we are not. This President and his clueless Attorney General clearly believe the latter.