George W. Bush’s Impeachable Offenses: Newsroom: The Independent Institute
George W. Bush’s Impeachable Offenses
By Ivan Eland | Posted: Mon. December 19, 2005
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Several recent presidents could have been impeached for selected unconstitutional or illegal actions during their presidencies. But the sitting president, George W. Bush, may win the prize for committing the most impeachable offenses of any recent president.
Yet when one thinks of bad behavior leading down the road to possible impeachment, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon come to mind first. Although Bill Clinton was impeached for having sex with an intern and then lying about it to a grand jury, a better case could have been made to impeach him for conducting an unconstitutional war over Kosovo without approval by Congress. The articles of Nixon’s impeachment centered on his use of illegal surveillance methods against political opponents and obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress in covering it up. His launching of an unconstitutional war in Cambodia without congressional approval was equally serious, but was left out of the articles. Curiously, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon’s predecessor, also used illegal surveillance activities against political rivals, but was not impeached.
Ronald Reagan, who is now a celebrated past president and icon of conservatives, justifiably feared impeachment for the Iran-Contra affair. He knowingly violated the Arms Export Control Act, a criminal statute, and sold arms to radical supporters of terrorists. His administration also unconstitutionally violated a congressional prohibition on providing money and support to the Nicaraguan Contra fighters. The Reagan administration’s violation of the Boland Amendment stuck a knife in the heart of the checks and balances system in the U.S. Constitution by circumventing Congress’s most important power—the appropriation of public monies.
George W. Bush is following in the footsteps of his predecessors, but may have left more tracks. For starters, invading another country on false pretenses is grounds for impeachment. Also, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution essentially says that the people have the right to be secure against unreasonable government searches and seizures and that no search warrants shall be issued without probable cause that a crime has been committed. And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires that warrants for national security wiretaps be authorized by the secret FISA court. The law says that it is a crime for government officials to conduct electronic surveillance outside the exclusive purviews of that law or the criminal wiretap statute. President Bush’s authorization of the monitoring of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls by the National Security Agency (NSA) without even the minimal protection of FISA court warrants is clearly unconstitutional and illegal. Executive searches without judicial review violate the unique checks and balances that the nation’s founders created in the U.S. government and are a considerable threat to American liberty. Furthermore, surveillance of Americans by the NSA, an intelligence service rather than a law enforcement agency, is a regression to the practices of the Vietnam-era, when intelligence agencies were misused to spy on anti-war protesters—another impeachable violation of peoples’ constitutional rights by LBJ and Nixon.
President Bush defiantly admits initiating such flagrant domestic spying but contends that the Congress implicitly authorized such activities when it approved the use of force against al Qaeda and that such actions fit within his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. But the founders never intended core principles of the Constitution [to be circumvented].