The American Civil Liberties Union called newly released Bush-era legal memos "deeply disturbing" Friday night, after obtaining the documents from the Department of Justice through an open records request.
The decade-old memos offer the fullest public account of the Bush administration's legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the Washington Post reported. The Justice Department released the documents to the ACLU Friday night.
“What these memos show is that nearly three years after President Bush authorized the warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls, government lawyers were still struggling to put the program on sound legal footing,” Patrick Toomey, staff attorney for the ACLU, told the Post.
Former US President George W. Bush arrives to speak at a panel discussion 'Investing in Our Future' at the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the Kennedy Center August 6, 2014 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
“Their conclusions are deeply disturbing,” he added. “They suggest that the president’s power to monitor the communications of Americans is virtually unlimited — by the Constitution, or by Congress — when it comes to foreign intelligence."
[sharequote align="center"]“Their conclusions are deeply disturbing."[/sharequote]
Memos authored by then-Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who headed President George W. Bush's legal counsel, contend the president has "inherent constitutional authority" to order the wiretapping.
“We conclude only that when the nation has been thrust into an armed conflict by a foreign attack on the United States and the president determines in his role as commander in chief . . . that it is essential for defense against a further foreign attack to use the [wiretapping] capabilities of the [National Security Agency] within the United States, he has inherent constitutional authority," a 108-page 2004 memo said.
According to the Post, Goldsmith also argued in the memos that the president has the ability to "provide specific authority ... that overrides the limitations" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires a court order to legally wiretap an individual in the U.S.
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