Obama: "Laws should be applied to all of us, from humblest citizen to the president of the United States"

Mike Tashman sent in this oldie but goodie:

From: senator_obama@obama.senate.gov
To: —————–
Sent: Fri, Mar 31, 2006 6:54 pm
Subject: Message from Senator Barack Obama

Dear Michael:

Thank you for writing about Senator Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure President Bush. I understand your strong feelings on this issue. While I share your frustration and anger, I do not think censure is justified at this time.

I agree with Senator Feingold that the Administration’s attitude toward congressional oversight and the FISA law has been cavalier and arrogant. We are a nation of laws, and those laws should be applied to all of us, from humblest citizen to the president of the United States. No president should be allowed to knowingly and willing flout our laws, and I believe the President exceeded his authority with his domestic wiretapping program. The justifications offered – that the president possesses inherent presidential authority under Article II, or was granted that authority in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force — seem to contradict prior precedent and our constitutional design.

But my and Senator Feingold’s view is not unanimous. Some constitutional scholars and lower court opinions support the president’s argument that he has inherent authority to go outside the bounds of the law in monitoring the activities of suspected terrorists. The question is whether the president understood the law and knowingly flaunted it, or whether he and his aides, in good faith, interpreted their authority more broadly than I and others believe the law allows. Ultimately, this debate must be resolved by the courts.

Also, a censure resolution does nothing to deal with the underlying problem of unchecked executive power. It would not force the president to modify his domestic surveillance program or force the Senate Intelligence Committee to do its job. In order to do that, Congress must reassert its constitutional role in overseeing the domestic surveillance program. And it should bring the warrantless wiretapping program back under the authority of the court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Therefore, my focus is on crafting an effective surveillance program that both combats terrorism and contains meaningful judicial review of wiretapping, which is the most effective way to restore balance between the battle against terrorism and the rule of law.

Again, thank you for writing. I will closely follow the hearing on Senator Feingold’s bill taking place in the Judiciary Committee this week to see if any further information surfaces that might impact my decision.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

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