Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), in his polite manner, stated clearly what the rest of the Senate and most of the American media have not had the courage to say: Gen. Michael Hayden, as head of the National Security Agency, ran "an illegal program that put Americans on American soil under surveillance without the legally required approval of a judge."
What makes Feingold's statement about prospective CIA director Hayden’s criminal behavior--and by logical extension about President Bush's criminal behavior, since this is a program that was sought by and authorized by the president by his own admission--so important is that Feingold, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was belatedly briefed about the program by Hayden himself.
While most Republicans in the Senate just echo President Bush's self-serving mantra about the need to "protect the American people" from terror attacks, and most Democrats stay timidly silent, Sen. Feingold has put the issue clearly, saying, "Our country needs a CIA director who is committed to fighting terrorism aggressively without breaking the law or infringing on the rights of Americans. General Hayden's role in implementing and publicly defending the warrantless surveillance program does not give me confidence that he is capable of fulfilling this most important responsibility."
As Barbara Olshansky and I write in our new book The Case for Impeachment, the argument that the president is free to break the law and violate the Constitution in pursuit of terrorists because the country is in a "war on terror,”" is dangerous nonsense:
The so-called 'War on Terror' is a police-state action against stateless terrorists--and as such it has no beginning and no end. If we were to accept the president's claim that it is a war, and that this justifies making him a de-facto dictator and Congress and the Courts vestigial, we are permanently revoking the Constitution and all the rights and the checks and balances that the Founders so carefully put in place.
The president is dead wrong.
The Constitution was not just conceived as a document for the good times. It was meant to guide the nation through times of conflict, trouble, and stress as well.
General Hayden has forgotten this truth, if he ever believed it in the first place, as well as his oath to "uphold and defend the Constitution." Most of the members of Congress have forgotten too. Sadly, all too many Americans have forgotten it as well.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that the NSA spying, and spying that is being conducted by the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, is not about catching terrorists, but is about the same kinds of things that it was about back during the COINTELPRO days of Richard Nixon: political espionage and the destruction of political dissent.
Sen. Feingold is right: Gen. Hayden, a yes-man to Bush Constitutional abuses and crimes, should not be made director of the CIA.
But Feingold should go a step further and demand Gen. Hayden be put in the dock and forced to testify about those crimes in full.
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