James Bamford, one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU v. NSA case, authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times, talking about how historically, even Presidents were held accountable when they broke the law. As Bamford writes:
Laws are broken, the federal government investigates, and the individuals involved — even if they’re presidents — are tried and, if found guilty, punished. That is the way it is supposed to work under our system of government. But not this time.
Last Aug. 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit issued her ruling in the A.C.L.U. case. The president, she wrote, had “undisputedly violated” not only the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, but also statutory law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Enacted by a bipartisan Congress in 1978, the FISA statute was a response to revelations that the National Security Agency had conducted warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. To deter future administrations from similar actions, the law made a violation a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.
Yet despite this ruling, the Bush Justice Department never opened an F.B.I. investigation, no special prosecutor was named, and there was no talk of impeachment in the Republican-controlled Congress.
I should plug that for those back home in Washington State, Bamford will be giving the keynote at our ACLU of Washington Membership Conference on February 24th – which is open to the public.