Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Lunacy of Newsweek's Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek wrote an article for Newsweek yesterday where he claimed that President Bush is acting like a dictator, and that he is knowingly breaking the law. His piece opens with this:
Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Atler's article goes on to describe how the president is supposedly breaking the law, specifically the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, based on the rulings in the Keith case and the In Re: Sealed Case, the courts have noted that FISA cannot take away the president's Article II powers. Hugh Hewitt has more on this, and plenty of background in the first five posts in his series on presidential power, which I linked to below.

Hugh also interviewed Alter on his radio program earlier today. The transcript is available at Radio Blogger. I actually listened to the interview, and it became clear that Alter was not only unaware of these two cases, but that he had not even checked into the recent court rulings available on the subject. As Hugh noted, it is simply irresponsible for a journalist to run a piece, especially one that blasts the president so harshly, without even considering all of the relevant information.

Alter insisted that Bush was clearly in violation of the provisions of FISA, and refused to grant that the exclusions provided by the court to the president in Keith and In Re: Sealed Case. The simple fact of the matter is that those two cases do in fact have a great deal of authority in assessing the legality of the president's authorization of the wiretapping program of the NSA.

More on Alter and the NSA's wiretapping program:

John McIntyre writes over at Real Clear Politics about the difference between Nixon’s criminal activity and Bush’s legitimate security concerns, quelling Alter's equation of Bush's authorization of the NSA program with the scandal of Watergate under Nixon.

John Hinderaker has been considering the legality of the NSA's intercept program, as well as the president's authorization of it, and has found both to be legal. He cites the In Re: Sealed Case as well.

Right Wing Nuthouse takes down Alter after comparing him to George Orwell’s Stalinesque pig character in Animal Farm.


UPDATE:

Hugh has more on his interview with Alter, and some more links on the president and the NSA's wiretapping.