Friday, June 20, 2008
Congress' capitulation continues
Friday's House vote to approve a wiretapping bill that includes immunity for telephone companies that obeyed government requests to listen in on conversations without court orders is yet another example of the collapse of the constitutional balance of powers doctrine. Congress and the courts appear determined to plunge the United States into a constitutional crisis of historic proportions by repeatedly refusing to halt the Bush administration's unprecedented assumption of power. This week's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the habeas corpus rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees was a notable exception, however. But Congress has consistently refused to stop the executive power grab when it gets chances to, even though voters threw out the Republican Party majority that controlled the legislature when the Iraq war began. The bill passed Friday includes the hotly debated retroactive immunity the White House is seeking for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the obviously unconstitutional wiretapping program that began after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The court system is well-equipped to sort out liability issues raised by the program, which has spawned hundreds of lawsuits. But we are being led by the Bush administration into destroying our basic laws out of fear. If we are successful in destroying the constitution while we battle the threat and reality of terrorism, what will we have won?