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Making the Case for Impeachment | The Nation

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Making the Case for Impeachment

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Disturbing Questions

About the Author

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Also by the Author

Forty years after Attica, the US prison population is ten times larger.

Shutting down Guantánamo is long overdue. We shouldn't recreate it by another name.

This leads to one of the most disturbing questions about President Bush's spying program. The entire FISA court was designed to defer to presidential authority in emergencies and most areas of national security. Warrants are provided retroactively up to three days after a wiretap is employed. The secret FISA court is leak-proof--far more than the Bush Administration, it turns out--and virtually always grants requests from every Administration. (The court approved every wiretap request in its first twenty-three years of existence; then from 1995 to 2004, it approved 99.9 percent of wiretap requests--allowing 10,613 out of 10,617, it turned down four.)

So why did the Bush Administration circumvent such a friendly, secret venue?

A plausible explanation has never been provided. Of course, it is illegal no matter what. Yet when an Administration with a track record of lies, torture and abuses of power cannot even float a palatable rationale for expanding unsupervised spying on American citizens, it feeds speculation that part of the program's purpose is sinister.

Just last month, government documents disclosed through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the Administration has misused the FBI to infiltrate peaceful American groups, such as the pacifist Thomas Merton Center. We need an impeachment inquiry with subpoena power to find out if the NSA had similar goals, and to get the bottom of the other crimes and scandals of the Bush presidency.

Are there people in Congress who could lead such an inquiry? The resolution to initiate an impeachment investigation is sponsored by Michigan Representative John Conyers. He is next in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee, if the Democrats win in November. As Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Clinton know, the road to impeachment begins in that committee. Where it ends depends on the American people.

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