Confronting the White House’s “Monarchical Doctrine”

02.16.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

More and more Americans of all political stripes are concerned that the Bush Administration has exceeded its legal authority by conducting intelligence surveillance outside of what the law permits.

Anxiety over illegal surveillance is heightened by the prospect that an ideologically subservient Congress may not insist on the primacy of law, but will simply defer to the Administration, or authorize whatever the White House wishes.

“The administration’s stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president’s inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” is a “monarchical doctrine,” wrote columnist George Will today.

“Monarchical” is a curse word in conservative thought, and for an American conservative monarchy is a provocation to revolutionary opposition.

“We cannot continue to claim we are a nation of laws and not of men if our laws, and indeed even the Constitution of the United States itself, may be summarily breached because of some determination of expediency or because the President says, ‘Trust me’,” said Sen. Robert Byrd in a Senate floor statement yesterday.

“I plead with the American public to tune in to what is happening in this country. Please forget the political party with which you may usually be associated and, instead, think about the right of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a private life.”

“This President, in my judgment, may have broken the law and most certainly has violated the spirit of the Constitution and the public trust,” Sen. Byrd said.

In an unusual rebuke, the American Bar Association this week found it necessary to urge President Bush to comply with the law.

“The American Bar Association calls upon the President to abide by the limitations which the Constitution imposes on a president under our system of checks and balances and respect the essential roles of the Congress and the judicial branch in ensuring that our national security is protected in a manner consistent with constitutional guarantees.”

See the report of the American Bar Association Task Force on Domestic Surveillance in the Fight Against Terrorism.