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Mukasey: ‘I Don’t Know’ Whether Bush Has Violated FISA

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"Mukasey: ‘I Don’t Know’ Whether Bush Has Violated FISA"

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In today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Mike Mukasey refused to answer whether Bush had violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Under questioning from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Mukasey said he “can’t contemplate” a situation where President Bush would assert “Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.”

Specter shot back, “Well, he did just that in violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…didn’t he?” Mukasey continued to hedge:

MUKASEY:I think we are now in a situation where [that issue] had been brought within statutes, and that’s the procedure going forward

SPECTER: That’s not the point. The point is that he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he?

MUKASEY: I don’t know whether he acted in violation of statutes.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/01/mukaseyfisa3.320.240.flv]

Specter explained that the question was a no brainer, as FISA “expressly mandates you have to go to a court to get an order for wiretapping. There’s really no dispute about that.”

The New York Times famously revealed in 2005 that Bush has allowed spying “without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.”

As the contentious FISA legislation moves forward in Congress, Mukasey’s flacking for the administration’s illegal surveillance is deeply unsettling.

Transcript:

SPECTER: Is there a legitimate argument that the President has Article II powers to undertake such conduct?

MUKASEY: There are a number of concepts in your question, including whether he has authority to undertake torture. Torture as you know is now unlawful under American law. I can’t contemplate any situation where this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.

SPECTER: Well, he did just that in violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He did just that in disregarding the express mandate of the National Security Act to notify the intelligence committees, didn’t he?

MUKASEY:I think we are now in a situation where [that issue] had been brought within statutes, and that’s the procedure going forward.

SPECTER: That’s not the point. The point is that he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he?

MUKASEY: I don’t know whether he acted in violation of statutes.

SPECTER: Well, didn’t he act in violation of FISA? Expressly mandates you have to go to a court to get an order for wiretapping. There’s really no dispute about that, is there?

MUKASEY: It required an order with regard to wire communications, when that was a surrogate for foreign communications — for domestic communications. When foreign communications became something that traveled by wire.

SPECTER: I’m not talking about foreign communications. I’m talking about wiretapping U.S. citizens in the United States. Terrorist Surveillance Program undertook to do that. Well, not getting very far there, let me move on to…

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