In the four-plus years since, everything changed. The President exploited the climate of anxiety, misusing the trust he was given in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 to, among other things, grab intrusive powers in the Patriot Act, and take us into a war in Iraq that has been a diversion from the critical fight against terrorism.
That was not the case with the illegal domestic wiretapping program authorized by the President shortly after September 11th. The President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and two branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded. No one questions whether the government should wiretap terrorists -- of course we should, and we can under current law. But the President is refusing to follow that law, which includes safeguards to protect innocent Americans, and instead he's making up his own law. It's time that he is held accountable for breaking the law.
Congress may consider a range of other actions, including investigations, an independent counsel, or even impeachment. But at a minimum, and as a first step, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.
Today I will introduce a Senate resolution censuring the President.
The facts and the case for censure are clear. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, makes it a crime to wiretap American citizens without a court warrant - which is what the President has admitted doing. Before the program was revealed, he also misled Congress and the American people about the wiretapping that was being done. For example, at a 2004 speech in Buffalo, he said, "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires, a wiretap requires a court order." And at a 2004 speech in my home state of Wisconsin, he said that "the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."
When the domestic spying story first broke, the President went from saying he wouldn't be able to talk about it, to suggesting there was no other way to wiretap terrorists, to implying that the FISA law is out of date. He went on to claim that sweeping inherent powers of the presidency or the authorization of force back in 2001 gave him such authority -- neither of which is legally or factually correct. While the President has cherry-picked information before, he cannot do the same with the laws of our land.
Censuring the President is not something that should be taken lightly. But the President has BROKEN the law and there needs to be action and accountability.