When I began writing about the Bush administration's violations of FISA, what confounded me at first was the sheer pointlessness of the lawbreaking. It was not merely that the FISA court has always allowed the President -- all presidents -- to do whatever eavesdropping they wanted, and that bypassing it was therefore unnecessary.
That is true. But more significantly, if the President wanted FISA changed, even radically, to vest him with still greater powers, the unprecedentedly compliant post-9/11 Congress was as eager as could be to grant all of his wishes and to give him whatever new powers he wanted. It did so repeatedly, at exactly the time (October, 2001) when he ordered eavesdropping in violation of the law.
The reason Bush violated the law when eavesdropping is the same reason Lithwick cites to explain his other lawless and extremist measures -- because he wanted purposely not to comply with the law in order to establish the general "principle" that he was not bound by the law, to show that he has the power to break the law, that he is more powerful than the law.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007