The ‘Unitary Executive’ Theory of Presidential Royalism Reappears to Justify Warantless Wiretapping (Purely Theoretical of Course)

Buried deep in today's print edition, nowhere to be found on the front of the web page, is this little jem gem from the New York Times: Administration Pulls Back on Surveillance Agreement:

Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants.

During a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. McConnell was asked by Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, whether he could promise that the administration would no longer sidestep the court when seeking warrants.

“Sir, the president’s authority under Article II is in the Constitution,” Mr. McConnell said. “So if the president chose to exercise Article II authority, that would be the president’s call.”

So I guess the previous promise is now inoperative?

It seems to me that when confronted by this kind of aggressive nonsense, a wise Senator would at least extract a promise from the bureaucrat testifying that he'd resign if it ever happened. That should, at minimum, figure in the confirmation hearings of every Justice Department official from now on.

And we may be having a number of those hearings.

Recall that at the heart of all this is the far-far-right claim that the Constitution gives the President the powers of a King. It's really as extreme as that. I wrote an article about this a long time ago, The Imperial Presidency's New Vestments, 88 Nw. L. Rev. 1346 (1994), if you want to know more.

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