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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Congress, courts should watch over the president

The Bush administration evidently would prefer not to have Congress, the courts or anyone else monitoring its surveillance of suspected terrorists. But those other branches of government need to be involved to protect the rights of American citizens.

Several terrorist surveillance bills are pending in Congress. A Republican bill would give President Bush more time to do secret eavesdropping before consulting a federal court. Democrats want to keep the president from using terrorism as an excuse to make himself too powerful.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Detroit ruled last month that the administration's warrantless surveillance program violated free speech, privacy and the Constitution. The administration is appealing.

The president already has power, under a 1978 law, to do emergency surveillance for three days before getting it approved by a secret federal court. It is unclear why Mr. Bush thinks he can or should bypass that court. That, apparently, is what he has been doing.

The good news is that the other branches of government are challenging his authority. The nation's founders made this possible because such checks and balances protect people's rights and keep the president accountable.

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