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George W Bush Made Retroactive NSA 'Fix' After Hospital Room Showdown 258

circletimessquare writes: New details have emerged about the 2004 conflict between George W. Bush and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized when he forcefully disagreed with the president's authorization of the NSA's sweeping new collection powers after 9/11. The New York Times has discovered that the conflict was about a retroactive alteration of the President's wording on the legal theory by which the NSA is allowed to siphon up metadata on all Americans, not just certain targets or classes of targets, such as suspected terrorists. 'Mr. Bush, for the first time, explicitly said that his authorizations were "displacing" specific federal statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and criminal wiretapping laws... the president had "made an interpretation of law concerning his authorities" and that the Justice Department could not act in contradiction of Mr. Bush's determinations.' The president faced a severe backlash from the Justice Department, including a threat of mass resignation.
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George W Bush Made Retroactive NSA 'Fix' After Hospital Room Showdown

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:12PM (#50569613)

    A discussion of constitutional limits of power ten years ago? How quaint. In 2015 we pretty much expect the president to do whatever he/she wants without regard to law of any kind.

    • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:22PM (#50569707) Journal

      There is no 10th Amendment. "Commerce" clause overrules everything.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Sigh. Is this about Obamacare? (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/28/explaining-the-supreme-court-ruling-on-obamacare.html). If it is that big of a headache, let's make healthcare universal and remove every aspect of "commerce" from it's implementation in the US. Let's be like the rest of the civilized world.
        • What that article fails to explain is that before it was found to be a tax after it was found to not be a tax within the same ruling mere moments before. I say it was a shitty ruling because it contradicts it self. There were 3 parts, the first was to decide if there was standing and that hinged on weather the penality/tax of the individual mandate was actually a tax. If it was a tax then the plaintiffs didn't have standing, if it wasn't the plaintiffs did have standing. So the court ruled that it wasn't a
      • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @06:10PM (#50570117)

        Regarding the Commerce Clause.

        To paraphrase the fictional character, Dr. Alan Grant, "Tyranny Finds a Way."

      • "Commerce" clause overrules everything.

        Either Madison was a fool or Hamilton was a genius.

        Or both.

    • Funny how Americans still think of King George III as a tyrant, when in fact his powers were far more constrained by law and parliament than those of Bush II or any other recent president.
            While a hostile congress makes it harder for the President to pass new laws, they are getting better and better at finding ways around the law.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Pick a decade, any decade, the two-party duopoly has always been interested in collect it all.
      Main Core https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] from the 1980's
      Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate. (Jul 23, 2008)
      http://www.salon.com/2008/07/2... [salon.com]
      1960's Project MINARET https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Grog6 ( 85859 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:16PM (#50569661)

    So, Bush actually went full Gestapo, and the Justice Department and Ashcroft Backed it Down a bit?

    That's fucking amazing, really. I'm sure this is Bullshit, but I'm not sure which parts, or how much.

    Since Cheney isn't implicated as the originator of the Full Gestapo move, I'd be more willing to bet He's the one now trying to throw Bush under a bus for some reason.

    I dunno, but, like Obama found out: You can't vote out the Gestapo.

    Once they're here, it takes lives to go back.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:41PM (#50569861)

      So, Bush actually went full Gestapo, and the Justice Department and Ashcroft Backed it Down a bit?

      Pretty much, yeah. John "No boobs on the statue of Lady Justice" Ashcroft, and even James "No secure crypto for anybody" Comey, for all their faults, still believe(d) in the rule of law.

      When it comes to eliminating the rule of law by neutralizing both the legislative and judicial branches in favor of the executive, the same names always come up - Yoo and Addington - as the real powers behind the throne. Were they working for President Cheney, or did it go one level deeper than that -- they were merely Cheney's keepers (in the B5:Shadows sense of the word) whose job it was to whisper the right words into the ears of the powerful, and working constantly to find ways to legalize what was previously illegal? I'm not one for conspiracy theories, and there's insufficient data to speculate about who the real power behind the throne is/was/will be. We don't know and we'll probably never know.

      The most interesting revelation is that it made the NSA/Snowden testimony, in which Clapper and Hayden tried to argue that getting all the metadata but not looking at it somehow qualified as not having the metadata in the first place... now makes a lot more sense, from a legalistic point of view. Their bosses really did manage to make, in a twist of Orwellian blackwhite/doublethink, that "obtaining and retaining" was not the same thing as "acquiring." I kinda feel sorry for those goons during the Snowden hearings. They weren't technically lying, and they really couldn't explain that distinction without committing crimes themselves.

      Now, for better or worse, we know the legalistic reasoning behind the distinction. Thank you, Edward Snowden.

      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @08:49PM (#50571149)

        Pretty much, yeah. John "No boobs on the statue of Lady Justice" Ashcroft, and even James "No secure crypto for anybody" Comey, for all their faults, still believe(d) in the rule of law.

        The memos that authorized torture came from the Justice Department on John Ashcroft's watch, so I'm not so sure about the "believing in the rule of law". Once you decided that you're ok with torturing people, you've already completely forgotten what the rule of law is.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rainbow Nerds ( 4224689 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:50PM (#50569905)

      I don't think this is nonsense, and it's actually been reported before. See this Bill Moyers transcript [pbs.org] for another, much older, source. Here are a couple more sources from 2007: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/15/AR2007051500864.html [washingtonpost.com] and http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/16/AR2007081601358.html [washingtonpost.com]. Basically, the White House was so desperate to have DoJ authorization for the program, they visited a man in the hospital who was very ill, almost certainly very medicated, and in no condition to make decisions about the legality of domestic surveillance. It seems like they were trying to take advantage of Ashcroft's state and trick him into signing the papers. Notably, Alberto Gonzales, an attorney general later in the Bush administration, was among those visiting from the White House. Also, Ashcroft wasn't even the Attorney General at the time; because of his illness, he had transferred the power to Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey. Bush went around Comey to try to take advantage of a very ill man to try to get the surveillance authorized.

      • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

        Reported yes.

        Not complete and total Bullshit; ehhh, odds are low. :)

        I'd say the truth in that story is more along the lines of "These people and places actually existed", than anything profound or revealing. rofl.

        IMHO, Cheney is the one likely to be holding the defib paddles on someone's balls, "convincing" them to sign something, in that twosome. :)

  • More Proof (Score:2, Troll)

    by LVSlushdat ( 854194 )

    So...More proof that Bush was just as slimy as Obama.. I used to be an (R) but once I learned that both parties are spawn of the devil, I changed my party affiliation... I'M A FUCKIN' AMERICAN......

  • PBS Frontline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:45PM (#50569883)

    Will PBS re-make "Spying On The Home Front" in the light of subsequent revelations? The Ashcroft hospital incident is documented.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/... [pbs.org]

    It's still worth watching.

  • Above the law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcollins117 ( 1267462 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @07:28PM (#50570649)

    From TFS:

    'Mr. Bush, for the first time, explicitly said that his authorizations were "displacing" specific federal statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and criminal wiretapping laws... the president had "made an interpretation of law concerning his authorities"...

    That's the heart of the issue right there. President Bush wrongly believed the threat of terrorism gave him authority to break constitutional law. It actually doesn't, but no one has thus far found a way to correct this mistake. It's absolutely stunning to me after 14 years. The Orwellian-named Patriot Act was supposed to be a temporary measure and yet it's still in place.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )

      That's the heart of the issue right there. President Bush wrongly believed the threat of terrorism gave him authority to break constitutional law.

      Except the courts have ruled now on multiple occasions his interpretation wasn't actually unconstitutional. Bush only authorized wiretaps on international calls to suspected terrorists, something that had been done on a smaller scale by presidents as far back as Carter.

  • My understanding of the package of laws designed to 'defend' against ter ror ism is they have essentially nullified due process in America and a good portion, if not all of the Bill of rights under the constitution have been wound back by the passage of these bills. So who's defending the Constitution against the domestic enemies that seeks to take America over from the inside?

    W.Bush passed the laws however Obama hasn't restored due process, so one can only conclude that the American government is no longe

    • Continuing on after I accidentally posted:

      The 6th amendment was obliterated by the anti democrac^h^h^h^htewworism laws: 6th: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process

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