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June 07, 2007

Rep. Jerrold Nadler: Bush's Warrantless Wiretapping "Worse Than Watergate"

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Chairmen of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, is holding a series of hearings, starting today, on the Bush administration's NSA wiretapping program, habeas corpus, renditions, etc. He said a lot of encouraging things in a new interview with Josh Marshall—for instance, that the warrentless wiretapping is a "criminal conspiracy" that is "worse than Watergate."

For those who prefer reading to watching, here's a transcript:

MARSHALL: Hi, this is John Marshall from TPM Media. We're here this morning with Congressman Jerrold Nadler of the 8th District of New York, which covers...lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn?

NADLER: And the West Side.

MARSHALL: And the West Side. You are starting a series of hearing later this week about the Constitution, civil liberties, and particularly the Bush administration's abuse of each of these. What are these hearings going to be about?

NADLER: Well, they'll be about a number of things. This week we'll be having a hearing on the NSA and warrantless wiretapping, the abuse of the FISA court and so forth. The rest of the month we'll be having hearings on rendition, we'll be having hearings on habeas corpus, and the Military Commissions Act.

MARSHALL: A lot of our viewers know there was this testimony a few weeks ago by James Comey, the former Deputy Attorney General, this is the thing about this nighttime visit to Attorney General Ashcroft's hospital bed, etc. Substantively that seemed to bring up that there was a lot more disagreement within the Justice Department than we realized about this program. Has that added more --

NADLER: Well, it brought up two things. Number one, what you just said. There was more disagreement than we realized -- three things, really. Number two, they apparently went ahead with an unauthorized program even for a while after they got the advice of the Justice Department that it was illegal. We'd like to know what that was. Third, apparently -- remember the New York Times revealed that they were wiretapping people in the United States whom they believed might be in contact with a foreign agent abroad, without getting wiretaps as required by the law. The Justice Department deemed that okay. But apparently they were doing something else, which the Justice Department deemed not okay, which they continued doing after the Justice Department said it was not okay, and only when Comey and others threatened to resign did they allegedly stop doing this or modify it. We'd like to know what that was.

Now of course they have testified that, Comey said it was classified. We're going to ask him. We may have to go into executive session. Because we can't legislate, Congress can't legislate, if they hide it from us. The President admits that on forty-five different occasions he granted authorization for wiretapping without a FISA court warrant -- what I call warrantless wiretapping, outside the law. This is a felony. This is punishable by five years in jail. The President, the Attorney General, and anybody else -- there's a prima facie case they engaged in a criminal conspiracy. And in effect what they're saying is they have a right to classify, and thus hold themselves harmless, from a criminal conspiracy.

From my point of view, if the executive branch is contemptuous of the power of Congress, and is going to go above the law, and ignore the law, you have to use whatever weapons the Constitution gives Congress.

MARSHALL: We've been following very closely this attorney general firing story, going back a few months now. In the course of that, sort of a sub-part of that story is the purging of civil rights division, voting rights division, you've got all these career people who've left, kind of pushed out. You're going to look at how the Attorney General run those divisions of the Justice Department. What are you going to be looking at?

NADLER: Well, we've already had one oversight hearing on that. We'll have more. It's a separate issue. It's the politicization, the ideologicalization, if you will, of the Justice Department. You have a situation with the disregarding, humiliating and in effect expelling of the professionals, the career people of the Justice Department, having the political people overrule them for political reasons, not justice reasons, and now we know through Monica Goodling that the career people were being replaced on a political basis -- even though the law says they're supposed to be non-political.

MARSHALL: How do these accusations of voter fraud, attempts to push accusations of voter fraud, what's the tie-in between that and voting rights around the country?

NADLER: Well, the tie-in is that by all objective measurements there's been very little voter fraud. The Justice Department has gone all out to try to find it, and they've found very very little of it. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but almost none of the type they're talking about of voter fraud where one person votes for another person, a person votes where they're not supposed to vote, etc. But what they've been doing is using the excuse, and the Republican party has been doing this -- this all came out of Karl Rove's shop -- the Republican party's been using the excuse of allegedly rampant voter fraud to push procedures, and laws in various states, in Congress, to require more and more restrictive identifications and other things, allegedly to prevent voter fraud but really it has the effect of voter suppression. Now, if you're a US Attorney -- these US Attorneys are all Republicans, they're all appointed by the President, they have no motive to ignore legitimate voting fraud -- but a number of them, we know, started looking into allegations of voter fraud because some Republican party official would say, hey, there's voting fraud in this place or that place. And they'd look into it and they'd find nothing there, and they said so! And they got fired. So they were fired in effect for not pursuing cases against innocent people. Which is a subversion of justice.

MARSHALL: Is there one issue that really hasn't gotten a lot of press attention that should, that you're going to be looking at?

NADLER: I think the one issue that hasn't gotten enough attention is the overwhelming obviousness of the fact that this entire warrantless wiretapping is illegal and the President and Attorney General are engaged in a criminal conspiracy. I mean, to me this is worse than Watergate. I don't understand why -- yes, it got in the press a little...yes, this is illegal, no it's not, because we have this power. Well, the Supreme Court says you don't have that power. There is no shadow of a claim at this point. And it's incredible.

MARSHALL: And this is even separate from, I mean James Comey, comes in and says, you've got to bring it back, you're saying even at that level it's still illegal, even what he approved?

NADLER: Yes, that's right. Clearly.

MARSHALL: Thank you very much for your time.

Posted at June 7, 2007 11:56 AM | TrackBack

surely it's not too late to impeach old boy, but I dare say a group impeachment of Gonzalez n Cheney n GWB would expedidite matters.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at June 7, 2007 12:33 PM

Look around you, I don't see any Articles of Impeachment, do you? (I supose we dearly LOVE OUR CORRUPTION, to pay such a high price for it and virtually DO NOTHING about it.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 7, 2007 02:41 PM

Why does this interview fail to impress me? Why is it that congress has waited all this time to start hearings on the wire tapping?

Also this statement by Nadler is a bit much:

“Well, the tie-in is that by all objective measurements there's been very little voter fraud. The Justice Department has gone all out to try to find it, and they've found very very little of it.”

The Justice Department has found very little of it? Then they did not try very hard.

Watch this HBO documentary and then tell me there has been very little evidence of voter fraud.

My best guess is this is just a little showmanship and that nothing will come of it. I look at it like this, if the system allows this to happen then the system needs reform. Even if they were serious about this what will come of it, send Bush to jail? Come on, and the same broken system would still be in place allowing the next in line to continue the wire tapping. I would love to be wrong about this but I feel very cynical at this point.

Posted by: rob payne at June 7, 2007 06:01 PM

rob payne:

The voter fraud they are looking for is not hacking Diebold machines, it's local Democratic Party stooges paying busloads of undocumented migrants to vote Democrat.

Willful blindness, to be sure.

Posted by: James Cape at June 7, 2007 07:45 PM

James Cape,

Thanks for clarifying the voter fraud issue and after rereading that part I see they are talking about a different voting fraud issue than the Diebold hacking. My mistake.

Posted by: rob payne at June 7, 2007 08:32 PM

Rob, the Republican use of the term 'voter fraud' does confuse people. One helpful distinction in terms is to refer to things like voting machine hacking, unaccountable vote counting, etc. as election fraud.

The Republican accusation is a bogus charge which covers for their ongoing campaign of voter suppression (the front end of the election-stealing; election fraud is the back end).

Posted by: Nell at June 7, 2007 10:03 PM


An excellent point about terms, the rhetoric used by politicians in general is designed to confuse issues and I should know better. By the way Tom Englehardt posted this column not too long ago about rhetoric.

“Not long ago, the Bush administration's words outstripped reality every time. Never, after all, has an administration reached for its dictionaries more regularly to redefine reality to its own benefit; and yet, somehow, almost six years after the 9/11 attacks, we find ourselves in a world in which reality, sometimes absurdly, sometimes grimly beyond comprehension, outraces any words the Bush administration may propose for it. Who could, for instance, have imagined an Iraq thrumming with daily car bombs delivered by an organization labeling itself al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia? Yet that is Iraq today. Recently, at his Informed Comment blog the estimable Juan Cole noticed a new leap forward (or backward) in that country. Southern Iraqi rice farmers are evidently reportedly taking Bush-inspired reality yet another horrific (as well as logical) step into a hopeless future. They are beginning to experiment with turning in their rice shoots for a potentially far more valuable crop -- poppies. Next thing we know, someone will rename the country "Afghanistan II" and we'll have a second chaotic narco-kingdom on our hands. Even in the Bush administration's wildest dreams, it could never have topped that potential reality.”

Posted by: rob payne at June 7, 2007 10:35 PM

it's local Democratic Party stooges paying busloads of undocumented migrants to vote Democrat.

Whee! I don't see a lot of wingnuttery in the comments here, but DAMN that's a good one! A question, though - why the "undocumented migrants" phrasing? Why not good ol' "illegal aliens," or "disease-infested dark people"? Are you trying to travel incognito?

Posted by: Lame Man at June 8, 2007 11:15 AM