Bench Memos

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Wiretap Roundup


That NSA wiretap story appears to have conservatives somewhat divided. Hyperventilating over at the Washington Times is Bruce Fein, who has concluded, ridiculously, that “President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law,” and who can’t resist the rote incantation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Harry Truman’s seizure of the nation’s steel mills in 1952. At the Washington Post, George Will makes a respectable (though somewhat Panglossian) political argument that the president should have asked for explicit authority from Congress for the wiretaps. On the legal questions, he is is casual and conclusory. For a better constitutional argument, also at today’s Post, see William Kristol and Gary Schmitt. Better still, on the constitutional issue, is today’s unsigned Wall Street Journal editorial. But the prizes for best political and legal analysis, respectively, go to NRO’s own Byron York and James Robbins, who explained it all yesterday (and Byron is back at it today). If Will and Fein in particular had read Robbins first, they might not have joined the chorus blithely proclaiming that President Bush has violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (Will: the president’s wiretap authorization “contravened a statute’s clear language.” Fein: “the eavesdropping clashes with” FISA.) He hasn’t, and Robbins has the goods on that bogus argument.


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