When Barack Obama was running for the United States Senate in 2004, he said that he saw U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, as his legislative role model.
Obama told me five years ago that he wanted to emulate Feingold as a defender of civil liberties and the Constitution, especially when it came to matters of protecting the right to privacy that was so under assault during the Bush-Cheney interregnum.
After his election as the junior senator from Illinois, Obama did work with Feingold on a number of issues and joined the Wisconsin progressive in boldly and unequivocally asserting that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was “illegal”.
But now, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, has asserted in a speech, and restated in a response to a reporter’s question, that Bush-Cheney warrantless wiretapping program “wasn’t illegal.”
Feingold wants to know which side the president is on; that of Senator Obama, who said warrantless wiretapping was “illegal” or that of the Obama administration intelligence director who says it “wasn’t illegal.”
Here’s Feingold’s latest letter to the president:
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to reiterate my request for you to formally and promptly renounce the assertions of executive authority made by the Bush Administration with regard to warrantless wiretapping. As a United States Senator, you stated clearly and correctly that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal. Your Attorney General expressed the same view, both as a private citizen and at his confirmation hearing.
It is my hope that you will formally confirm this position as president, which is why I sent you a letter on April 29, 2009, urging your administration to withdraw the unclassified and highly flawed January 19, 2006, Department of Justice Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President (“NSA Legal Authorities White Paper”), as well as to withdraw and declassify any other memoranda providing legal justifications for the program. Particularly in light of two recent events, I am concerned that failure to take these steps may be construed by those who work for you as an indication that these justifications were and remain valid.