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February 11, 2006

Jimmy Carter Authorized Wireless Intercepts In 1977

Scrupulous regard for civil liberties for thee, but not for me:

[A]t Mrs. King's high-profile funeral, Mr. Carter evoked a comparison to the Bush policy when referring to the "secret government wiretapping" of civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

But in 1977, Mr. Carter and his attorney general, Griffin B. Bell, authorized warrantless electronic surveillance used in the conviction of two men for spying on behalf of Vietnam.

The men, Truong Dinh Hung and Ronald Louis Humphrey, challenged their espionage convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which unanimously ruled that the warrantless searches did not violate the men's rights.

In its opinion, the court said the executive branch has the "inherent authority" to wiretap enemies such as terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when surveillance is "conducted 'primarily' for foreign intelligence reasons."

That description, some Republicans say, perfectly fits the Bush administration's program to monitor calls from terror-linked people to the U.S.

The Truong case, however, involved surveillance that began in 1977, before the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which established a secret court for granting foreign intelligence warrants.

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress say FISA guidelines, approved in 1978 when Mr. Carter was president, are the only way the president may conduct surveillance on U.S. soil.

But if the President has such "inherent authority" granted him by the Constitution -- recognized by federal courts -- how can Congress presume to limit it?


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posted by Ace at 12:34 PM

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