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Ford Assumed He Had “Surveillance” Powers

Guess what? President Gerald Ford and all of his staff knew they had the powers to do foreign surveillance without a warrant. Just like every other President, including Bush.

Of course you have to read between the lines to get that information from those keepers of the faith at the DNC's Associated Press:

U.S. Seretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, right, chats with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. George Brown prior to their testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington in this Jan. 28, 1976 photo.

Papers: Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps

By MARGARET EBRAHIM, Associated Press Writer

Sat Feb 4, 3:49 AM ET

WASHINGTON – The White House was eager to protect its ability to gather foreign intelligence. Congress was eager to rein in executive power. What sounds like a new debate over the president's ability to eavesdrop without warrants occurred 30 years ago.

Documents from the Ford administration reflect a remarkably similar dispute between the White House and Congress a generation before President Bush acknowledged that he authorized wiretaps without warrants on some Americans in terrorism investigations.

"Yogi Berra was right: It's deja vu all over again," said Tom Blanton, executive director for the National Security Archive, a private group at George Washington University that compiles collections of sensitive government documents. "It's the same debate."

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings begin Monday on Bush's authority to approve such wiretaps by the ultra-secretive National Security Agency without a judge's approval. A focus of the hearings is to determine whether the administration's eavesdropping program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law with origins during Ford's presidency.

"We strongly believe it is unwise for the president to concede any lack of constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes," Robert Ingersoll, then-deputy secretary of state, wrote in a 1976 memorandum to President Ford about the proposed bill on electronic surveillance.

The document was among roughly 200 pages of historic records obtained by The Associated Press.

George H.W. Bush, then director of the CIA, wanted to ensure "no unnecessary diminution of collection of important foreign intelligence" occurred under the proposal to require judges to approve terror wiretaps, according to a March 1976 memorandum he wrote to the Justice Department.

Bush also complained that some major communications companies were unwilling to install government wiretaps without a judge's approval. Such a refusal "seriously affects the capabilities of the intelligence community," he wrote.

In another document, Jack Marsh, a White House adviser, outlined options for Ford over the wiretap legislation. Marsh alerted Ford to objections by then-CIA Director Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and White House national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Some experts weren't surprised the cast of characters in this national debate remained largely unchanged over 30 years.

"People don't change their stripes," said Kenneth C. Bass, a former senior Justice Department lawyer who oversaw such wiretap requests during the Carter administration.

Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said comparing the Ford-era debate to the current controversy is "misleading because no matter what Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld may have argued back in 1976, the fact is they lost. When Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, Congress decisively resolved this debate.

"Unlike the current administration, the Ford administration never claimed the right to violate a law requiring judicial oversight of wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations if Congress were to pass such a law."

The National Security Archive separately obtained many of the same documents as the AP and planned to publish them on its Web site Saturday.

The documents include one startling similarity to Washington's current atmosphere over disclosures of classified information by the media.

Notes from a 1975 meeting between then-White House chief of staff Dick Cheney, Attorney General Edward Levi and others cite the "problem" of a New York Times article by Seymour Hersh about U.S. submarines spying inside Soviet waters. Participants considered a formal FBI investigation of Hersh and the Times and searching Hersh's apartment "to go after (his) papers," the document said.

"I was surprised," Hersh said in a telephone interview Friday. "I was surprised that they didn't know I had a house and a mortgage."

One option outlined at the 1975 meeting was to "ignore the Hersh story and hope it doesn't happen again." Participants worried about "will we get hit with violating the First Amendment to the Constitution?"

CIA Director Porter Goss told lawmakers this week that recent disclosures about sensitive programs were severely damaging, and he urged prosecutors to impanel a grand jury to determine "who is leaking this information." The National Security Agency earlier asked the Justice Department to open a formal leaks investigation over press reports of its terrorism wiretaps.

Of course this is the real reason for the AP's article:

Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said comparing the Ford-era debate to the current controversy is "misleading because no matter what Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld may have argued back in 1976, the fact is they lost. When Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, Congress decisively resolved this debate.

This is simply untrue. The Ford papers show that he and his staff assumed they had the power to do warrantless wiretaps, just like every other President has had in matters of exigency.

"Unlike the current administration, the Ford administration never claimed the right to violate a law requiring judicial oversight of wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations if Congress were to pass such a law."

This is equally false, Ms. Graves. The FISA laws did not curb Presidential powers. In fact, Constitutionally, Congress is in no position to limit the powers of the executive, no matter what the ACLU or the AP like to believe.

Isn't there some mass-murdering suicide bomber somewhere that the ACLU should be trying to set free? They need to butt of our this country's business.

Why do we allow an avowed enemy of our country and freedom everywhere to have a say in any of our policy disputes?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, February 4th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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