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Another Church Committee?

Bill Moyers' guests this week debated the need for greater oversight of executive wiretapping programs. Fritz Schwarz was lead counsel on the Church Committee, which lead to the passing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, representing one of the first major checks, aside from the Constitution itself, on an Administration's ability to eavesdrop on Americans suspected of consorting with foreign enemies.

As Schwarz explains to Bill Moyers:

You can have something that starts in a benign way. And then it spreads to the unbenign and that always happened. It was true with NSA, the National Security Agency, as proven by our investigation. They got every single cable that left the United States for 30 years, but they started only wanting those because they wanted to get information from encrypted cables that were sent by foreign embassies to their home governments… They then went to getting the cables of civil rights leaders, all of them, and any Vietnam War protestors, all of them… Secrecy plus lack of oversight leads to mission creep. And that leads to the move to the indefensible.

But Charles Fried, former U.S. Solicitor General in the Reagan administration, says:

The warrantless eavesdropping that I think was going on under the NSA and perhaps still is going on is absolutely necessary… The cop on the beat, he notices that this person looks a little uncomfortable as he’s walking. That door shouldn’t be ajar. All kinds of things like that. Well, this is the electronic version of that. And to shut that down makes no sense. And you can’t, of course, get a warrant for it. Warrants in that context are completely inept.

With whom do you agree?

  • Is FISA, and it's recent amendments, an unnecessary limitation on the executive branch's ability to conduct comprehensive intelligence programs?

  • Or do you think we need a modern-day Church Committee?

    Photos: Robin Holland

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    I could not have remained a gentleman as did Fritz Schwarz after Charles Fried stated that being satirized by Jay Leno on late night TV is a sufficient check on governmental abuses. Fried's attitude was insulting and I think he deserved a bitch slapping.

    The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks are painted as George Bush's attack on Fort Sumter, his Pearl Harbor, more than enough to justify extreme expansions of Presidential power. Really?

    The 1860 Sumter attack began a mass insurrection of half the country against the Federal government. Within days of the 1941 Japanese attack, Germany declared war on us. Their combined strength and readiness was significantly greater than ours at the time.

    The World Trade Center was not Sumter or Pearl. It was inhuman and horrific, but it was 19 guys with knives backed by ten thousand yahoos sitting ten thousand miles away without even a row boat or a Piper Cub to get here in. Their enormous success was not so much about their power as it was about our poor airline security. This was not the Confederacy springing into action, all but ready in a few months to overrun Washington, D.C. It was not the Japanese Empire wiping out the Pacific Fleet and a Nazi Germany pile-on. We were not in danger of being conquered on September 11, 2001, and we are in no such danger now.

    I read predictions that unless we go to every possible extreme, Al Qaeda has the means to emerge from its mountain retreat, unify the entire Muslim world, attack us, defeat us, and “replace the Constitution with the Koran.” I used to think that this was merely delusional. Then I learned that a fair portion of the U.S. population believes it without question. Never mind that the combined military of the entire Muslim world is about the size of Scandanavia's.

    Needless to say President Bush does absolutely nothing to discourage this kind of hysterical thinking. But if your real aim is absolute power, you need a dire wolf at the door to justify it. Even if it’s mythical, this one will do.

    The unitary executive sounds more in the direction of the aspirations belonging to one Charles I of England. As I recall, things didn't go so well for him.

    What ever the noise is about the gov needing to listen in on conversations is so stupid. Pass a law saying yes the gov can do it until the war on terror is over then it is no longer allowed. Whats the problem?

    I agree to a certain extent with Charles Fried - leaders sometimes have to take actions which would in normal circumstances be considered beyond the law. But I would suggest that the proper stance to take would be that of the non-violent protesters from South Africa to India to the US South - take a decision in full view of the public, and be ready to take the consequences provided by the law.

    Many have made the argument for the people to act - but it must be done by All of the people. The current government - all 3 branches and the Supreme Court loaded by Bush has betrayed the American People. I am careful who I speak honestly with, opinions must be stated carefully - on-line in forums, in emails, with friends. Is this not the thing that we declared was so terrible by the Communists? We lose face, faith and support world-wide every time Bush or Cheney or their puppets open their mouths.

    Torture works? Torture me and you'd be surprised what I'd say to have it stopped - who do you want me to implicate? The Inquisition believed in torture as well as did Hitler. Doesn't work, never worked and still petty dictatorships do it. Now I see the path the German people were led down when Hitler took control. But what as an average loyal (to the constitution and the principles our country was founded on) American do? Who amongst our politicians and presidental candidates has the courage to stand up against the corruption and goverment controlled mainstream media??

    Are we totally lost as a country? :(

    In the '50's and '60's the most frequent signage you would find in a bar was a ban on discussing Religion and Politics. I suppose it meant that adding either of the two and booze provoked a breach of the peace. Now K-Street has control of the Legislative branch. We have an Executive branch at the far end of a trend started by the fear of nuclear war happening so fast that Congress then decided that it was no longer a coequal branch and the Executive was all too willing to oblige. Church Commitee? It didn't stop those who decided in the '80's it was too large an infringement namely Reagan, Fried, Roberts, Alito, Negroponte, Cheney and Rumsfeld and the rest. You can't prevent an insane bunch from highjacking the means with which control of the people through fear and coersion occur by a New and Improved Church Commitee. It will get you similar results 35 years later and only if you have a Congress that has the balls the original did and they do not. Do we redesign the system? Do a Constitutional Amendment? I'm not sure how that can work when people are so willing and able to kill each other over religion and politics no booze necessary. Charles Fried may look the harmless Uncle today so mild in manner but lurking behind Reagan were the True Believers who wanted to bring about just what we have today and they were willing to take us to the brink hoping the Soviets would strike first giving them the chance. Instead we got Osama. I lost count of how many times I heard after 9/11 on PBS NewsHour and every other news outlet how the Church Commitee gutted our intelligence capability that caused 9/11 failure and I heard not one journalist challenge that lie. So what Congress does will only happen when enough of We The People make them get off their fence sitting ass.

    If Charles Fried was right that being satirized by Jay Leno on late night TV is a sufficient check on governmental abuses, then Charlie Chaplin would have prevented WWII by making the Great Dictator. Maybe Fried should turn off the late night TV and read some history - or stop with the patronizing.

    This was one of the finest exchanges on TV in recent memory. As one comment succinctly stated above, these "opponents" listened to each other, giving virtually ever point a chance to be heard and thoughtfully considered before a counterpoint was offered. The program was a rare and valuable example of some of the best uses of free speech and free press our consitution grants we poor and huddled masses (even if Harvard educated). Moyers has reminded us how few places there are that give us anything but platitudes, propaganda, and one sided caricatures of opposing views. It reminds us that freedom of speech and of the press are fundametally more important than self-serving and self-aggrandizing control of the media. They are about helping us make good judgments in the face of ignorance, fear, and indifference, and about making common cause out disparate voices and experience. Their sad misuse in our everyday lives was as poignantly aired implicitly as were the other constitutional issues debated explicitly. Bravo Bill Moyers Journal for showing us what political discourse can aspire to be.

    Absolutely we need another Church committee; perhaps an inverse to the earlier HUAC; we can call it "The House Committee on UN-American Executives".I never cease to be amazed at the outrages and tragedies this administration has and continues to foment upon the American public. What's even sadder than all this is that its actions are essentially unchecked by a compliant media and supine congress. Unfortunately too, we can look for just a little less of the same when any of the current leading candidates gets in next time. Thanks so much for the truely great work Bill Moyers does; he's a light in the wilderness.

    Despite the seriousness of the issue, the current debate over the nature of torture, what constitutes torture and whether such measures should be employed by US interrogators is rather pointless because the opposing viewpoints acn never be reconciled. I say this as a believer that torture or even extremely "harsh" interrogation techniques should be unequivocally condemned by United States government officials -- the president included. Nonetheless, the unfortunate reality is that torture may be necessary under unusual circumstances. For example, if American interrogators are reasonably certain that a particular individual possesses specific information concerning an imminent attack on the USA, then the use of torture would, unfortunately, be justified should other methods prove unsuccessful. Having said that, the president and all other elected and appointed government officials should absolutely reject the use of torture. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where one stands at a particular moment, there will always be persons willing to carry out secret and illegal presidential orders to employ whatever means necessary to obtain critical information necessary to protect America against imminent threats. No one who is unable to live with this unpleasant but necessary hypocrisy should aspire to hold the office of the president.

    My apologies if my comments repeat others above. While I read many I did not read them all.

    The Constitution has always offered a way to settle confrontations between congress and the president in the Supreme Court. The problem I see is an ability in both congress and the executive to block such a review when one or the other finds it inconvenient. But the court has previously accepted even moot cases where the interest of the country is great. Why hasn't anyone been able to get a hearing in the Supreme Court on the question of the president's use of Article II to override other prohibitions in the Constitution? And why should a hearing on such an important issue be so hard to get, if not by either congress or the president, then citizens as a class whose rights are being challenged?

    Charles Fried argued that the President may ignore a law that impinges on his power as Commander in Chief to defend the country, and thus he is not acting unconstitutionally but in accord with the Constitution's design. What if Congress passed a law that prescribed rules for quartering soldiers in American houses, in time of war, that gave citizens certain protections (time limits, compensation, etc.)? The President might feel his power as Commander in Chief was being limited in the most desperate situation imaginable--a war being fought on American soil. Yet if he were to ignore those rules "to better defend the country," he would be violating the express words of the Third Amendment. Would Mr. Fried concede that at least in that case the President would be acting unconstitionally? If the answer is no, then the even the express language of the Constitution is meaningless: the President is King. If the answer is yes, then Mr. Fried is simply giving the benefit of HIS doubt in all other cases to the President despite all the words in Article I of the Constitution giving to Congress the power over the military, "captures," and international law, not to mention the protections of the Bill of the Rights.

    Charles Fried argued that the President may ignore a law that impinges on his power as Commander in Chief to defend the country, and thus he is not acting unconstitutionally but in accord with the Constitution's design. What if Congress passed a law that prescribed rules for quartering soldiers in American houses, in time of war, that gave citizens certain protections (time limits, compensation, etc.)? The President might feel his power as Commander in Chief was being limited in the most desperate situation imaginable--a war being fought on American soil. Yet if he were to ignore those rules "to better defend the country," he would be violating the express words of the Third Amendment. Would Mr. Fried concede that at least in that case the President would be acting unconstitionally? If the answer is no, then the even the express language of the Constitution is meaningless: the President is King. If the answer is yes, then Mr. Fried is simply giving the benefit of HIS doubt in all other cases to the President despite all the words in Article I of the Constitution giving to Congress the power over the military, "captures," and international law, not to mention the protections of the Bill of the Rights.

    I guess that the cult of hate bush is stonger then even I thought. I posted an hour ago and still it is not up, even though another one posted a half hour AFTER mine was listed.
    How about equal, balance debate?

    Congratulations on another excellent episode of The Bill Moyers Journal. What is unfortunate is that the issue that you examined so well in The Secret Government back in the 1980s after the Iran-Contra debacle is still with us and in an even more virulent form.
    As a now retired U.S. History instructor of over 36 years, I used a video tape of that show in my classroom to stimulate discussion on the issues of checks and balances,the arrogance of power, etc.
    I find it most distressing that apparently we have not learned the lessons presented in your earlier documentary. That fact is most distressing.
    When the Chaney's wife was interview on several cable news shows obstensibly on her recent memoire, she passed off the recent Frontline expose of her husband and his campaign to keep the U.S. in a perpetual state of war as something like know another slanted anti-Cheney, anti-Bush tyrade.
    Personally I think that your original documentary should be updated and then rebroadcast for more people to view it. Actually I think that etc should schedule viewings throughout this country ASAP or at the earliest before the 2008 election.
    Keep up the excellent work...join me in holding my breathe!

    We need more than a commitee. This Congress has shown it's self to be unreliable & unable to act to curb the illegal & immoral actions of a corrupt Executive branch. Sad to say, I think nothing short of armed revolution will bring this Once Great Nation back to it's rightful place as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

    We are no longer a representative democracy - our elected leaders are completely ignoring the wishes of the majority of the citizens, thousands of our nations finest youngsters have died in the illegal & immoral invasion and occupation of a nation that had NOTHING to do do w/ the events of 9/11. The recently elected Democrats are just as guilty as BushCo of ignoring the wishes of We The People and allowing the corrupt criminals of BushCo to continue the rape of The Constitution and The Bill Of Rights. They were elected for ONE reason only, & that was to curb the abuse of power by BushCo - they have failed miserably in that & ALL incumbents need to be voted out ASAP.

    Hilary has already made clear she will continue the BushCo interventionist/imperialistic policies - we are offered no choice by the elections, it makes no difference who we vote for, any one with enough $$$ to run a viable campaign is owned by the corprate interests who are responsible for the destruction of The Constitution and The Bill Of Rights & the blatant power grab for oil in the mid-east.

    As Jefferson said, sometimes the tree of liberty requires the blood of tyrants - & surely Bush, Cheney, et al are tyrants whose blood should run. They are guilty of numerous treasonable offenses - the illegal invasion & occupation of Iraq, the lying to Congress, the un-constitutional domestic spying, the use of torture, the outing of an active U.S. covert agent, the refusal to abide by any laws they choose to ignore.

    They deserve nothing less than trial, conviction, & execution for the High Crime of Treason against the people of The United States Of America.

    Congress should live up to it's responsibilities of oversight of the Executive Branch & impeach the criminals who now occupy the Executive Branch, but since they refuse, We The People should do what we must & rise up in arms against thy tyrants who are destroying the most basic principles that once made this nation Great & force them from office and into prison cells, to be executed once convicted of the numerous charges of treason of which they're so obviously (& gleefully) guilty.

    the constitutional crisis is arguably the most critical issue to ever face the united states... it has been under continuous assault for many years, going back to richard nixon, but the continuous barrage since the scotus decision of 12 december 2000 is both unprecedented and extremely dangerous...

    the latest mind-boggler, H.R. 1955: "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism" [PDF], introduced by a democrat, no less (jane harman), is just the latest in a truly horrifying parade of legislation and executive orders designed to completely nullify the nation's founding document and the bill of rights... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to draw the connections between H.R. 1955 and the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Protect America Act, Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directives NSPD-51 and HSPD-20, and, of course, the quickly disappearing story du jour, the heinous FISA bill with its provision for granting telecom immunity...

    the very foundations of our democratic republic are under attack on a daily basis... when are we going to wake up and smell the coffee...?

    Waterboarding Justifies Crucifixion

    We have all heard that waterboarding protects us from terrorists. The Romans believed the same thing about crucifixion. They feared an insurgency, and crucified Jesus to stop it. No doubt their leaders told the people that they got valuable information, suppressed rebellions, and kept order by crucifying enemy combatants. Did it work?

    There are frightening parallels between waterboarding and crucifixion. Both fasten a person to a board in a helpless position with the fear of imminent death. Waterboarding can be extremely painful and result in broken bones, swelling, and death. (See wikipedia) It would not be hard to imagine Christ being lashed to a cross and being waterboarded to the point of broken bones, bloated features, and death.

    I have read of the fourteen second claims by the administration, but we don't know because the waterboarding is done in secret. It is highly implausible that secret prisons in foreign countries would be necessary for a fourteen second operation. The administration's track record on telling the truth does not reinforce the fourteen second theory.

    Waterboarding will not keep America safe anymore than crucifixion kept the Roman Empire safe. When confronted by a moral force, it will create such a crisis in political consumer confidence that the ensuing guilt complex will lead Americans to believe they should be punished. It will be the crash heard round the world.

    Justifying waterboarding justifies crucifixion. Americans don't know who they are any more. The world doesn't know who we are any more.

    “Harm done by professional and elected official can be considerable,
    who impose their will and views on others”. Once elected, “the officials
    believe that the god has died and they took his place”. Frederick Douglass
    stated, “Find out to what the people will submit and you will find the
    exact measure of injustice that will be impose upon them”.
    “To remain silent is to end life” - M.L. King
    “The truth as always it hurts”. To Autocrats, Rulers, Dictators etc. “the truth”
    is irrelevant. The Senate and Congress had breached their duty, obligation and
    responsibility! To change direction is to amend the articles of the Constitution.
    To Place ALL the Issues- Laws on a referendum for “the people to express
    their WILL”. Amend the elections law for all elected official to two year terms.

    Moyer's is on a roll, providing better public conversations and discussions of the Constitution's violations than either Congress or the sycophants in media who claim to "report but you decide".

    We do not need "another Church committee" to document the absolute clear violations of the Constitution by this "unitary" Executive usurper of power currently residing in the White-washed house. What we need is impeachment hearings, something we won't obtain apparently from the (as Bruce Fein called them in another program) "invertebrate Congress". Partisanship has trumped the Constitution, and the people have lost their government under the "despots plea of necessity". Congress is not helping us to recover it, they are in the way.

    Immediately, the people should--

    1) vote every incumbent who refuses to impeach, regardless of party, out of office for "obstructing justice"--i.e. the Constitution,

    2) restore the Constitution, especially all 10 Bill of Rights, as the litmus test for office to the 2008 Candidates, based upon their own records, which will limit the field quickly,

    3) write opinions and vents in their local papers, and write their representatives of their intentions and ultimatum.

    The present government would make George Washington blush, and Patrick Henry wax militant again, saying "Give me liberty or.........".

    I will vote for any congressional hearing that attempts to reveal the truth to the American Public, not the hearings we have been subjected to lately, whereby those in the 'hotseat' are proficient in responding to the questions but avoiding answering them.. These hearings are a circus and are disgusting to watch. Not much appears to be accomplished in these hearings and very little information or 'truth' revealed.

    Unequivocally yes, there should be another Church Committee! We the people must take back our government. This is one little step in that direction. Voting against the political cannibals in the next election is a giant step.

    If the PEOPLE of this nation cannot convince the Congress to move ahead with impeachment hearings, we are doomed to witness another war--perhaps the WWIII Bush claims will occur. A Church Committee is only as good as the Congress who supports it, and if this Congress won't even table the notion of Impeachment when it is needed most, I doubt any Committee investigating this Administration will be effective.

    The major issue that everyone ignored in the discussion was the fact that impeachment may take too long in today's environment of instant destruction. In the days when The Constitution was being framed, the impeachment process clearly allowed Congress to exercise its power or restraint over an imperial presidency running rampid with power. Today we must rely on the Vice-President to declare the President unable to carry out the duties of his office. Clearly, in the case of Bush/Cheney this simply isn't going to happen since much of the Bush policy (and action) is being driven by Cheney.

    I watched the show and I wish Bill had asked the question.

    Terrific interview. Great choices of participants.

    One aspect of all this that was NOT brought up by Moyers, Fried, or Schwarz is that the Cheney plan to fundamentally alter the power balance between the three branches, making the executive branch the winner, began well before 9/11.

    Their argument that "9/11 changed everything" is bogus. What were their reasons for wanting to wiretap Americans sans FISA prior to 9/11?

    Also, the sheer number of serious and far-reaching lies that this administration has told the American people shows without any doubt that they do not have our best interests at heart. To give them more powers, when they are showing themselves to be an incompetent, lawbreaking administration is frankly unbelievable.

    This weeks show brings up a very important question. How can you constrain a president from asserting monarchical powers, as Cheney seems to promote? Does the president have unlimited power to do anything in the name of protecting the nation, without risk of reprisal. Certainly the main constitutional limit is the presidential election every four years. Sometimes that may be too slow of an action to protect the country from an out-of-control ego-maniacal president (or vice-president). There is one congressional power that can constrain the presidency from becoming a semi-monarchy. That is the power of impeachment. It also has the power to be swift in comparison to the election cycle.

    The president may claim the right to ignore the law, but if congress feels the infraction is unjustified or serious enough, they may impeach the president. Certainly if the congress agrees with the presidents justification for breaking the law, and is successful in whatever endeavor prompted the action (as with the example of Lincoln in this weeks show), they may choose to ratify or just ignore the actions. If the action fails and/or congress disagrees strongly enough with the justifications given by the president for breaking the law, they can use impeachment.

    Certainly when you compare 1) the current administrations lies, distortions and deceptions in promoting the Iraq war, the warrant-less wiretapping, the torture and abuse of prisoners and the billions of dollars it has cost the country (along with our reputation) with 2) lying to a federal grand jury about a blow-job - which president should be/have been impeached?

    The country is very rapidly approaching the edge of an abyss and Bush and Cheney are not acting cautiously, but are trying to "put the pedal to the metal". I see only one way to prevent them from driving us right off the cliff by attacking Iran and thus escalating this "terrorist" war to a level that may very well have global catastrophic results. And that is to immediately start impeachment proceedings against both Bush and Cheney, with the priority of removing Cheney first. I believe he is the most dangerous person to ever occupy either White House position, and that Bush has just become a moronic puppet on Cheneys strings. They both need to go, and quickly.

    9/11 really has changed my thinking on a number of things. One of these is the role of religion in the "war on terror". Certainly Al Queda and other extreme Islamic groups are a major problem that must be combated, but the Christian extremists are also a significant problem in this battle as well. Many people continue to claim that this is not a religious war, but I seriously doubt that the other side sees it that way. With this administrations coziness with the Christian right and close relations with folks like Robertson, Falwell, Haggard etc, and the conservative press and the right more and more making the claim of this being a Christian nation, we are just furiously waving a red flag in front of a charging bull. The only way to calm this frenzy is for the country to most emphatically reaffirm its secular roots and rebuild the highest possible wall of separation between church and state. We can not hope to defeat extremist Muslim with extremist Christian. We must defeat both together and show that a secular approach is the only way we can live in anything that even approaches a peaceful coexistence in this world of global cultural interaction.

    A Very Concerned Rationalist

    While another Church Committee is appealing, I am not convinced that we can find enough qualified members in the current Congress.

    I was also interested in the discussion of the Presidential pardon as the exclusive power of the President. I would love to hear at least one of the current Presidential contenders offer to pardon any military personnel who refuse an order to carry out a first strike against Iran - particularly with nuclear weapons.

    A new Church Committee is needed to discredit the cult of Bush.

    What exactly is the "fear" here all about when it comes to investigating the abuses of Presidential power? If the Administration doesn't have anything to hide, they shouldn't be worried, right? That is the same reasoning that has been used to cow their opposition into submission, so they too, must believe in it. It's time to have a genuine investigation!

    Powerful interview...enlightening and engaging...thought provoking...V.P. Cheney refused to answer questions re Col. North. War in Iraq under the guise of fighting Al-Qaeda...Osama Bin Laden. War in Iran? 45 year Sanctions against Cuba. COINTELPRO.

    Anti-Republican protesters in New York investigated.

    Enemy torture? Morally wrong; but the least of things when American sergeants kill their own soldiers at war.

    Yes, President Bush is a real cowboy...making his own rules...Dead or Alive.

    Why are we sleeping?

    If you do evil to fight evil, you become evil. The Bush Administration has made our country an evil presence in the world.

    First,it has been seven years since the 2000 elections. Haven't you sore losers gotten over it yet?
    Second:This panel of "intellects" said they were against torture even if it saved lives. We are at war. If it takes hurting more than just someones feelings to get information from them to keep America safe, then so be it.

    My problem with the mass screening of email is that the methods used to select emails are just as likely to be abused as any other government power. What if, for instance, all persons of interest often used the words peace, love and rutabaga? For argument, say that NSA statisticians find that the use of such words by terrorists is very, very high. However, everyone using those words innocently would come into the government's investigation. While the methods used to select suspicious emails may be more sophisticated, the problem is the same. Many innocent, legal activities will be investigated. That is the problem.

    As always, I come away watching Bill Moyers segment with a sense that 'I will have to think about this for a while.

    Still, after watching this episode what stuck is a burning question. That is, how many people in Germany (on Hitlers rise to absolute power) discussed this in terms of legality vs morality and in so doing lost their humanity.

    I understand Fried's outlook. In other times I might agree with him. But the stakes are too great here, and I would hope that a look outside that box of the legal world they live in, would allow and bring back the humanity to the US.

    I already find myself editing my thoughts to you in this post should they be misconstrued.

    First, I have to express my deepest gratitude for Bill Moyers and his team of associates who continually enlighten the American public when almost no other mainstream media does. Thank you.

    Second, this program inspired me to write a rare letter to each of my state's Congressional delegation to ask them, in no uncertain terms, "What does it take to get the Congress to act on behalf of the American people?"

    I eagerly await their carefully considered responses....

    William Hays

    I found a great deal in this segment to inform me as to the choices of so many people as this issue has come to light.
    charles fried has the more common attitude I have found concerning this issue. Charles speaks of the destructive native of these choices but there is also a part of him that sees the law as arbitrary and seems to put these behaviors in the catagory of the ends justify the means. I feel like he is not seeing the forest for the grass. The means are who we are in the end if you will look at long term results and not just the short term loosely defined success.
    fritz schwarz thinks closer to my own ideas, so naturally I respect him more. He isn't so easily caught up in seeing this as a game between the governmental administrations and the people they think they know better than, the people they don't trust, the people who are in essence supposed to be the government and In the end, the people who are most hurt by these choices. WE fail ourselves when we allow our leaders to deny and manipulate the law which is put into place to guide our society in an egalitarian respect that should bind us as a people and should not seperate us. This administration is using all in its' disposal in seperating us.

    Thanks Bill Moyer and PBS for discussing really important issues.

    I used to trust our government leaders to do the right thing for we the people of the United States. The Bush administration has changed my view completely. To put it directly - I think they used the 9/11 incident to perpetrate a con on the congress and the people for the benefit of the rich and powerful military/industrial complex. I think they knowingly used unreliable and unsubstantiated intelligence to send our military into a war in order to gain control over the oil in Iraq and in the process gain huge profits for not just oil companies but for all the other major companies making big money on this war. I think this administration are using a war on terror as a con. Big business are using money and direct influence of members of congress to insure they get what they want. I think congress has brought into the con and the big business influence. I think the administration has put key people in place in the justice department to insure that any laws that may get trampled are interpreted in a way that gives the president whatever he wants. I also think that big business has taken control of the news media to insure that support for the administration's policies are presented and dissent is buried. In short, I think that the Republican idea that what is good for big business is good for the country has come to the point that those with vast economic power have taken complete control of our country. Our constitution was a noble idea and may have worked for awhile; but it has been discarded by those now in power as simply irrelevant and an minor inconvenience to their desire for more power and profit.

    I believe the majority of US citizens (and the rest of the World's citizens) see what is happening but are helpless to do anything to stop it. Both the major political parties have been bought by the big business influence peddlers; so I have little hope that elections will make any change.

    The people want us to get out of Iraq. The people want universal health coverage. The people want to end dependence on foreign oil. The people want to solve global warming. The people do not want the US to use torture.

    If we had a government of the people, if we had representatives that work together to do those things that we the people have asked for then I would believe that our Constitution was working as intended. The facts support my view that our government is not operating as intended by our constitution. The will of the people is ignored by the government. Under the policies and ideology that now control our lives we will be in a perpetual state of war, the media will be nothing but a propaganda machine, our elected representatives will continue to be wined and dined by those who continue to reap the spoils of war.

    Our country used to be looked up to as a light of hope for freedom and individual liberty. Now our government has been shown to be immoral and corrupt. Individual rights have been trampled, secret prisons and torture are used, the rule of law have been ignored, and we the people have no influence on what our government does.

    My vote is for another Church committee. Thanks, Bill, for another powerful program that helps the rest of us connect the dots.

    This administration continues to abuse the trust of the American people and destroy our country’s credibility in the rest of the world. I will add this request to my weekly correspondence with Senators and Representative saying “no to war with Iran” and “yes to Middle East peace.”

    The folks doing the eavesdropping are far more of a threat to our supposed "democratic way of life" than any of us possibly could be. To make the pretense of protecting values that they don't believe in the first place, is a rather flimsy justification for both their actions and intent. They protect money, investment, power,and little else. Was George Bush so interested in the democratic process in the 2000 election that he insisted on a completely accurate counting of all votes in Florida? I think we all know the answer to that one.

    A short list of comments regarding this highly useful program.

    1. I have taken time to read the Federalists and the whole of Madison's minutes from the constitutional convention, and the anti-federalist writings. While the words "unitary executive" are used in the Federalist Papers the extrapolation that this document, written as the sales brochure to convince people to ratify the constitution, can be considered an authoritative interpretation of intent is mistaken.

    2. During Mr. Fried's comments on results matter when discussing Lincoln and F. Roosevelt vs. G. Bush, I found myself remembering Machievelli's advice no one will care if you lied so long as you delivered results. There is regretable truth in this point.

    3. The above having been said, the counterpoint that Lincoln and Roosevelt made their constitutional limit tests in the open is THE point. They didn't hide it. They permitted our system to work, even when they felt the need to take extreme measures. Mr. Fried's acknowledgement of this difference was refreshing.

    4. Yes, there should be another Church committee. There also should be a dual impeachment. It's vital that consequences be attached to this behavior to inhibit future executives.

    If we the people want to take our country back and put it back on the course intended by the founding fathers, then we need to end the 24 year dynasty of two ruling families. The Clinton and the Bush families have shaped both sides of the political discussion. Both are culpable for the state of democracy we face today.

    We need a fresh perspective and a change. Since it is doubtful we will prevail in IMPEACHMENT. Americans must take back the government by our vote. And we must not allow the media and pollsters to make the decision for us. Do your homework, with the internet has never been more easy to dig beneath the sound bites of a candidate’s words.

    Charles Fried's role as an apologist for the fascists currently occupying the White House would reinforce the concept established in the Declaration of Independence that the time has come to throw off the despots and tyrants.

    I fully understand the concept and would agree that the Constitution does allow the authority of the executive to trump extra-constitutional efforts to restrict the valid authority, such as in the case of the pardon perogatives. However his attempt to define any criticism of the self-annointed "unitary executive" as simple partisanship is insulting and shows his true support of fascism. Justified criticism is not partisanship and relegating it to simple politics vastly under-estimates the severity of the situation our nation finds itself to be in at present.

    I strongly question Mr. Moyers reluctance to ask the question that if these excesses of power, as openly condoned and pooh-pooh'ed by Fried, were simply in response to the terror attacks of 9/11, why didn't he ask how Mr. Fried could condone the illegal gathering of electronic surveillance many months in advance of September 2001 as has been openly discussed in the Senate hearings.

    Actions taken in secret are actions intended to intimidate and harass, not provide better "security."

    Seeing through Fried's parsing and slicing of fine hairs is still easy and does not justify the efforts of the Bush administation to overthrow our government and replace it with the style of authoritarianism so recently practiced in East Germany.

    Fried should be ashamed to call himself a Constitutional scholar and Moyers certainly has had better days that he would not have allowed this type of deceit and obfuscation to pass unchallenged.

    Michael Cutting

    Upon reviewing the comments of Professor Fried, “The cop on the beat, he notices that this person looks a little uncomfortable as he’s walking. That door shouldn’t be ajar. All kinds of things like that. Well, this is the electronic version of that. And to shut that down makes no sense. And you can’t, of course, get a warrant for it. Warrants in that context are completely inept.” One is given the false impression that urgency drives the policeman, executive officer, to investigate this potential commission of a crime by suspending the Fourth Amendment rights of a potential suspect at the executive officer’s discretion. However, establishing probable cause through the subjective discretion of the executive, as opposed to the reasoned judgment of the judiciary inherently sets the stage for a slippery political slope that leads directly to the abuse of power by an unchecked executive which was deeply feared by the framers of our constitution. Revealing his disdain for unchecked executive powers, and a pessimistic view of human nature, John Adams wrote, “A Legislative, an Executive and a judicial power comprehend the whole of what is meant and understood by Government. It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two, that the Effort in human Nature toward Tyranny can alone be checked and restrained and any degree of Freedom preserved in the constitution.”

    Although Professor Fried also goes on to tacitly assert that the Bush administration’s position is that the Legislative branch must also be checked by the Executive branch in order to prevent any powers granted to it by the constitution from being unlawfully encroached upon, he fails to clearly define these powers as spelled out in the constitution by the framers. Additionally, this position usurps the interpretational powers of the courts by inherently claiming that the executive branch has the constitutionally given authority and right to interpret the constitution and the scope of its executive powers for itself. In this instance, even though our government of separate institutions which was design by our framers to share the power of decision in making public policy fails to do so, neither congress nor the courts have to accept the idea that the President’s decisions are in the best interest of the public.

    Reacting out of fear, the threat of war, and political party conflicts about it, in 1789 the United States Congress was prompted to pass four laws to suppress disorderly dissent: the Alien and Sedition Acts. Two of the Alien Acts gave the President the power to deport noncitizens whom he believed were dangerous to the country’s welfare. Although the Supreme Court had not yet established the Court’s power of judicial review, Republican Party leaders, future Democrats, appealed to the people and their state governments to state publicly the unconstitutionality of the law and render it null and void. These suspensions of Civil Rights bore out of unfounded private fears, all of which where unconstitutional, for James Madison had to be resisted by the people. Madison writes of the people's need to protect their hard won rights, “the people are the best keepers of the people’s liberties.” In short, in order to enjoy your rights, you must be ready and willing to defend them from unrestrained government.

    Yes, America needs another Church committee, but in order to have that we also need another Senator Church. Is there a senator of that stature and ability now serving who is courageous enough to get the ball rolling? The reason Congress' polling numbers are so low is because the people are tired of waiting for that senator (or group of senators) to act.

    If that senator is reading these posts I want him or her to know the time to do something is NOW! Don't wait for the mad man who is acting as our leader to open another front in his war. Impeach Bush and Cheney now!

    No more

    Bill and all,

    As the Bush junta turns the world on its head, alert citizens must cut through their doublespeak with straight talk. As Jim Hightower posted, "The Constitution is being trampled, the very form of our government is being perverted, and nothing less than American democracy itself is endangered--a presidential coup is taking place." And I would add the last two elections are part of this creeping coup. Even the traditional conservatives, like Jerome Corsi in this interview:
    are seeing the immense dangers we face. We ARE in the dictionary definitions of COUP, OVERTHROW, TREASONOUS GOVT., even managed TERRORISM. These are not new challenges to our Constitution, as the Church hearings and Barbara Jordan's speech then, reflect. This is all happening in plain sight, as we protest or do nothing. Why is the House doing virtually nothing to stop the power-grab? What is being held over the heads of our Congress members for them to allow the undoing of our rights and protections? Like others posting here, I simply don't know what alert citizens can do to turn this fascist tide. This board and the Journal are precious. Thank you.

    Yes, we do need a Church committee to investigate what is going on about "security vs illegal wiretapping", Presidential signing statements, accumulation of powers, illegal elections, torture, lying to go to war, 9-11, Katrina, Martial Law, etc.

    I very much appreciate Bill Moyers news journals. He is one of the very few good news journalists left. In listening to the right wing views of Charles Fried, I was shocked and saddened to learn that Fried does not care what happens to those people who are tortured, many of whom are innocent. His only problem with torture was that it dehumanizes the torturer. Fried's lack of feeling towards others--those who are not Americans--shows a blatant disregard for the lives of people who are not Americans. I would like to remind him and others like Fried that people are human beings no matter whether they are red, yellow, black or matter whether they are from the USA, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, or Syria. And as human beings all are equal under God. And as human beings have equal rights.

    Also, I wanted to share this information with you...Naomi Wolf has written a book, "The End of America" in which she reveals through research of past despots that the Bush Administration is following a pattern or blueprint to disable democracy and allow the presidential leader to gain dictatorial power. Naomi Wolf is also cofounder of the American Freedom Campaign:

    "The Constitution protects American Freedom. With checks and balances, and basic legal rights, it has prevented tyranny and safeguarded our liberty. Yet today, under the pretense of the "war on terror," the White House is dismantling the Constitution, concentrating power in the President and undermining the rule of law. THIS IS UN-AMERICAN. The American Freedom Campaign is dedicated to confronting and correcting these abuses of our America."
    May the true America and the world community be saved from the abusive power of the wealthy elitists. End tyranny. Impeach Bush and Cheney now.

    Mr. Moyers,
    I was entertaining the notion that You Are Fabulous, and then I remembered that We All Are. But what I like so miuch about you is that you live your Fabulousness. Thank you for being yourself, despite and because of what it might have cost you over time; but especially because of what it must have done to make your life a very solid one.
    Constance Finley

    The two questions I have not heard asked, that I yell out over and over:

    1) is it legal for anyone to waterboard the Bush twins or Cheney's kids?

    If not, why not?

    Why can't some foreign government cooperate in rendering them to Syria for torture to obtain confessions to terrorism? So, what if they are illegally picked up in the US by part of a diplomatic corp, swept into the foreign territory of an embassy in the US until they can be secretly shipped out of the US, perhaps in a contain covered by diplomatic protection?

    2) Will it be legal for President Hillary to order Bush and Cheney arrested and held without access to courts by Hillary suspending habeas corpus as Lincoln did in order to detain his political enemies?

    I see their statements as being treasonous in the same way as those of Clement Vallandigham, who was detained, denied habeas corpus, convicted by a military tribunal, with his conviction as a civilian in a military court upheld.

    [Curiously, Lincoln rendered Vallandigham to the Confederacy, and he then found his way to Canada where he became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Ohio.]

    If only I could have asked Charles Fried in response to his references to Lincoln about taking and holding Bush and Cheney and trying them by military tribunal....

    The behavior of the Amish should be embraced. The virtue of grace played out as forgiveness and everyone watching ought to adopt this public lesson in humility for it indeed shows us precisely what it means to be humane.

    Thank you for bringing the truth to us each week.

    J.Bee, before you speak for God you might want to go read his words of love and compassion especially for one’s enemy. I believe he reserves the right of judgment and vengeance for himself. I don’t read any indication that he request or desires our help in applying justice “I will repay.” You, Bush, Chaney and Mr. Price need to Go Play God in some other country.

    But let me not be diverted from the topic of this discussion.

    Former President Jimmy Carter, in his book Our Endangered Values eloquently, rationally and knowledgably points out that the most disturbing shift in policy this Administration has initiated is the abandonment of the historical stance of using military force as a last resort, a policy instituted by George Washington, to one of Preemptive use of force to democratize the world.

    I have read Mr. Carter’s book, which was successfully marginalized by the so-called “leftist liberal press” and brushed off by Mr. Bush as being irrelevant. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.
    Learn more about the book and listen to Mr. Carter’s comments at:

    I found it to be indication of the seriousness of the situation for a former US President to be so profoundly disturbed that he feels compelled to speak out about a current President. And, that he spoke to the very issues that I was seeing was shocking.

    Also, an interesting historical article in the September 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine discusses the relationship between Washington and Lafayette including their disagreement over using military force to spread democracy. “Washington, who exhorted his country never to "unsheath the sword except in self-defense," was furious with France's military adventurism,” Read the article at:

    This fundamental shift in policy is at the heart of all the issues of this discussion. The Audacity of this administration is reason enough to demand that they be held accountable for their actions. Will someone please end this nightmare!

    Unfortunately, I didn't get to see this program, but as to the question posed above and based on the quoted material, I don't understand how Professor Fried can equate a police officer walking a beat to a wire tap. The Fourth Amendment deals with the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The courts have long recognized that this covers conversations made in situations where one had a reasonable expectation of privacy. One could hardly expect that a door which can be viewed from the street where the police officer is walking would be within the purview of a "reasonable expectation of privacy." As to whether the police officer might have probable cause to stop someone who "looks a little uncomfortable as he's walking", well I can only say that I'm sure glad the professor isn't on the Supreme Court.



    I've been thinking along the same lines as Ted Bucklin. Fried posits some mission or obligation of the presidency that can not be abridged by an act of Congress, but I thought it was well established that opposition to divine (or divined) rights was the basic premise of the country. The only things noted in Article II of the Constitution are that the President is vested with executive power, the President is commander-in-chief, and the President must vow to ". . .faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Nothing I have found in the Constitution mentions presidential authority to violate personal privacy, condone torture, ignore laws passed by Congress and otherwise approved by the President. As noted by others, Articles 9 and 10 of the Bill of Rights seem to put the people and the states ahead of the President in terms of anything else not specifically enumerated in the original articles of the Constitution.

    While we might applaud the initiative of the neighborhood cop, he still requires (probable) cause to begin to investigate and that is subject to oversight. Common knowledge of the offense, "driving while black," indicates the need for oversight with respect to even probable cause.

    The Bush-Cheney rationalization is often, "Well, if Osama bin Laden were talking to someone in the United States, wouldn't you want the U.S government to be listening in?" I'm not contending that the U.S. does not know when Osama is on the line, but getting a warrant in that case should be--as they say--a cake-walk, a slam dunk, mission accomplished? Electronically scanning the content of all messages without warrant is literally without warrant. If clever and careful and legal searches cannot be conducted by this Administration, then their incompetence is proved again. If it came to telling the truth, would Bush really want to claim that he needs to cheat (spy) on U.S. citizens because their guys are smarter than our guys? There seems to be considerable evidence that he'll stay with the dull blades even when he's hungry for steak. That's no good reason to spoil every other American citizen's appreciation of his or her individual choices of cuisine.

    neither the republicans or the democrats represent the opinions of the people

    To those participants who (a) criticize PBS/Bill Moyers for exposing the Bush administration’s power grab, or (b) present an ‘alternative’ point of view in support of Bush/Cheney:

    It may be worth keeping in mind that the founders of American Democracy recognized the importance of the Fourth Estate – a free press that works in the public interest. Democracy can only work if the public is informed, and the role of the press (ideally) is to provide a window into the goings-on of government. It follows that a press that does its job will occasionally be antagonistic to power, especially when the government is secretive, incompetent, or is engaging in practices contrary to the public good. Relative to the injustices currently being perpetrated on the American people by the Bush administration, Bill Moyers’ coverage is relatively tame. In any case, those who claim that PBS is somehow partisan or left-leaning are implicitly rejecting a basic tenet of democracy. You should know better – or, if you do know what you are saying, you should have the moral rectitude to come out and say it: “I support fascism, not public television.”

    As for the handful of you who argue that Bush and Cheney are ‘great men’ doing a great service to the country, you are woefully ignorant of history, human nature, and current policy. There is no moral or political legitimacy to the point of view you profess, and dressing up comments in the political rhetoric of “good versus evil” only betrays the lunacy of your position. It is perhaps worth reminding everybody else – i.e. the rational majority – that blogs such as these are monitored by party hacks on the right who post opposing views in the interest of undercutting the discussion. Campus Watch has being doing something comparable in college classrooms around the country for a generation: plant an operative, disrupt discussion, and create the impression that consensus is impossible. It is happening online as well, and the few “hard right” comments posted here smell of that kind of tactic (just another way to promote ‘fair and balanced coverage’).

    I suspect that there is a great deal more unanimity among Americans today that Bush/Cheney would like us to believe. If we go into Iran, that unanimity will become much more obvious, and it may not be so accommodating to those in power. Let us not forget the other great document that informs our sense of political agency in this country, the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    Bruce W. Fraser
    Americans for Moral Government

    We know that by 9/20/01 the Pentagon was acting on plans to take out 7 countries in 5 years. Capitolizing on the national PTSD of 9/11 and a conviently found pssport leading to the list of 19 9/11 hijackers, the Neo-Con artists put their Project for a New American Century plans (circa Sept 2000) into action.

    We know that John Yoo, advocate of the unitary execuative (and worse), and elimination of the, "obsolete Geneva's [convention] strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners". As front man for this promotional dehumanization he has gone on to state, during a December 1, 2005, debate in Chicago, Illinois, with Notre Dame Law School Professor Doug Cassel:

    "Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

    Yoo: No treaty.

    Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.

    Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that."

    To say that we need at least another Church Committee is a massive understatement and should start with a real investigation of the events leading up to and including 9/11.

    Professor Fried argued that the Constitution gives the president powers that cannot be abridged by Congress, but he never explained which passages in the Constitution grant such power. I think had he tried to reference his argument to specific passages, he would have failed to convince anyone of his point, for there is no such passage.

    In fact, the Constitution clearly vests all essential governmental powers with Congress. Section 8 from Article 1, which outlines the legislative branch of our government, concludes by saying that Congress shall "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers [Referring to Section 7, a long list of areas of legislative responsibilities for Congress], and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." The key here being: "all other powers vested by this Constitution.... in any officer thereof," which would obviously include the president.

    For the president, on the other hand, there is but one curt phrase (Article II, Section 1) detailing the extent of the president's power: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." The question of what exactly is meant by "executive power" is open to discussion, though if one is to remain faithful to a dictionary definition of "executive" as "having the power to put... laws into effect," the president is responsible for putting laws passed by Congress into effect, plus a few other ancillary chores outlined in subsequent sections of Article II.

    Professor Fried may be a Harvard law professor, but does he have a leg to stand on? I challenge him to cite the actual text of the Constitution to support his claim that the president has powers over law that are not subject to Congressional mandates.

    Professor, please respond to:

    Or do you think we need a modern-day Church committee?
    ”My faith in the constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total and I am not going
    to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction
    of the Constitution”!
    It was very good stated. It went in one ear and out the other.
    My faith in the Constitution as a whole and complete has evaporated! The elected official
    in Congress and Senate “sit idle did nothing to the diminution, subversion and destruction
    of the constitution”! “The corruption has been ramped”!
    I have lost faith in any elected officials, justice system or any modern-day committee!
    The Congress and Senate have breached their duties and responsibilities.
    “The Pentagon list 702 overseas bases in 130 foreign countries. To reduce spending
    you must dismantle the overseas empire”! I have no wish that our country be a police
    force of the world and to expend the empire. “To survive with some sense of securities”
    is to be a part of the process. To participate and be be a part of the process is to
    amend the articles in the Constitution and place “ALL ISSUES [i. e. war, projects, laws,
    authorities, debt, development..... etc.] on the ballot – referendum for the people
    to express their will”!

    To J.Bee: what comes around, goes around -- you want violence? You just may get it, on your own soil by some of those "milktoast" neighbors who've just about had it with your cowardly, racist, war-mongering, xenophobic fanaticism. You and Limbaugh and Coulter may just discover that the power of patriotism runs both ways and, just like the patriots of the revolutionary war, you neo-Torys could very well find yourself paying for your tough talk.

    Bring it on, indeed!

    Yes, we need a new Church committee.

    It was very disturbing to hear Professor Fried go unchallenged with his above the law legitimization of the crimes which are currently being committed by our political leaders. It was far to gentle an assessment of the hell these people are putting us through. And I don't agree that in general the American people are not being asked to sacrifice for this war. We are being made to sacrifice the most important aspect of our citizenship, our honor as Americans. I don't think we will gain it back in my lifetime, even if we belatedly do the necessary and try and convict the criminals responsible.

    I realize Professor Fried was being subtle in refining his view to exclude torture from the mix, but I think he doesn't realize the dangers of judgments after the fact, especially to the megalomaniacs lurking in the shadows of the White House. When I was a college freshman, I wrote a paper on aspects of the Peloponnesian Wars and was sharply questioned by my professor - "Do you then believe the ends justify the means?" It threw me; I had not thought I was doing that, but I was. Professor Fried apparently believes that in special cases the end DOES justify the means. He would have flunked my Greek class essay oral too.

    The "monarchical presidency" is treason to what the Founders wanted. It is anathema to why they fought a Revolution. If Bush, Cheney, Addleton, et. al. wish if for themselves, they can go live in Russia under Putin and try to rise through their established structure rather than working to overthrow the American government from within. Addleton has been spoken of as "smart", but this is why the words "smart" and "wise" have different definitions.

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for your honest and knowledgeable work. It gives me hope to see someone like yourself reach the upper echelons of power and remain morally intact. Thank you for putting the light of truth and honesty on ourselves.


    j.bee is typical of the religious fanatics that support Bush/Cheney - they assert that might makes right and smear those that oppose their position without addressing any facts. These people have dominated political discourse in this country for too long. Since they won't listen to reason, it's up to responsible citizens to shout them down, and expose their lunacy for what it is. We need to take the country back from these idiots.

    The responses to this rather well thought out discussion on the powers of the presidency in time of crisis and war is disheartening to all loyal U.S. citizens. It sounds like a bunch of leftist, cup is half empty, 1960's crybabies! Thank God Almighty for strong-willed men like our president and vice-president during this time of decision. The hammer is about to fall on another viper in the axis-of-evil trilogy, and so be it. Our only true partner in the region-Israel-cannot be allowed to go it alone and our president will see to it in the coming weeks. A limited draft may be necessary before this fight is successfully concluded, but the USA will prevail-despite the blatherings of the milktoast liberal fringe we witness here in these pathetic posts. "God is on the side of the big battalions who are first to strike; w/ the most firepower!" said Westmoreland.

    "Early Warning Signs of FASCISM !
    Posted by: Barbara Warren, October 27, 2007"

    Barbara, go to the following website:

    This website has been up for a few years now and it mirrors the same points that you read on the card you found. The website's creator occasionally updates the material as the current administration commits further assaults on our freedoms as they continue to go down the path toward the Unitary Presidency, essentially a dictatorship.

    unfortunately, this sets a precedent that could be continued by future office holders, after all, unregulated power has no party affiliation !

    I am continuously proclaiming the virtues of Bill Moyers. I am compelled to state yet again how absolutely marvelous his interviews are. Tonight's interview with Justice Charles Fried and Attorney Frederick Swartz regarding the overextension of the power of the presidency is no exception.

    I do not think the usurpation of unbridled power that has been the hallmark of the Bush II administration is really about lofty ideals. I think it rather is really about entrenching the Republican party and its corporate allies within the power base for decades to come. How convenient for Cheney that 9/11 happened on his watch because it gave him the perfect rationale for the retention of unparalleled power which he has wanted since the Nixon impeachment hearings. What Cheney, Bush, et al did not, it seems to me, predict is the Iraq war going sour resulting in the takeover by Democrats of Congress and the possibility of a Democrat occupying the oval office in 2008. I am quite sure all their talk about the presidency having ultimate Constitutional power eclipsing the Legislative branch even if it means the president commits illegalities will go out the window when and if the Republican party is out of office. All of a sudden then they will talk about the Founders meaning for a balance of power and that the presidency is simply one branch among three. When it is politically expedient and they are in power they will advocate an ultra strong presidency. When they no longer have power they will scream for a more balanced approach. I believe Cheney/Bush opinion has NOTHING to do with ideals and everything to do with the maintenance of their power and the accumulation of great wealth that comes from its base at all costs.

    Those of us who really do care about the security of this country while maintaining checks on those who would abuse power sometimes do not know what to believe. Will government's extensive data mining include only those who would possibly commit egregious horrendous acts against this country possibly killing thousands or even millions if they could or will government unnecessarily snoop even into an email from Professor Fried wasting precious time and taxpayer money? Worse, could government detain utterly innocent people, picking them up in the dead of night, and ship them off to places unknown? What if they came for someone like Professor Fried simply because someone somewhere in government did not like what he said or a criticism he levied.

    I believe government power does not give up that power easily and, more often, extends its power even more. I also do not trust all of my fellow men. Does Justice Fried worry about the trustworthiness of all men in government? Conversely, does Mr. Swartz worry about a dirty bomb? If data mining and a little warrantless wiretapping could uncover a plot to detonate such a bomb would it be worth it even if it means the extension ad infinitum of the power of the presidency? Those are, it seems to me, the epic questions of our time which have yet to be sufficiently addressed.

    Fried frightened me last night. The idea that he could accept and excuse Bush's many violations of the law was upsetting. I don't know whether you'd call it an attempt at a monarchy or a dictatorship but there is no acceptable excuse in a (theoretically, at least) free society for what Bush has done. None.

    I'm very disappointed in Bill Moyers shoddy reporting, clearly and completely neglecting to bring up relevant facts to counter his guests.

    1) The illegal spying ("warrantless wiretaps") began before September 11, 2001. And Michael Hayden lied to Congress about it.

    2) The FBI and the CIA were tripping over each other to NOT stop the 9/11 terrorists they were following around the country in the weeks and months prior to September 11, 2001.

    General Hayden:

    "Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11," ... "it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.", May 18, 2006 · Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday that he believed the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program was legal when it began shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that it remains legal.

    According to the online magazine Slate, an unnamed official in the telecom industry said NSA's "efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a 'data-mining' operation, which might eventually cull 'millions' of individual calls and e-mails."

    James Risen, author of the book State of War and credited with first breaking the story about the NSA's domestic surveillance operations, said President Bush personally authorized a change in the agency's long-standing policies shortly after he was sworn in in 2001.

    "The president personally and directly authorized new operations, like the NSA's domestic surveillance program, that almost certainly would never have been approved under normal circumstances and that raised serious legal or political questions," Risen wrote in the book. "Because of the fevered climate created throughout the government by the president and his senior advisers, Bush sent signals of what he wanted done, without explicit presidential orders" and "the most ambitious got the message."

    A quote from "Transition 2001", a report written in December 2000 by The National Security Agency (lead at the time by none other than Michael Hayden):

    "[the] NSA will be a legal but also a powerful and permanent presence on a global telecommunications infrastructure where protected American communications and targeted adversary communications will coexist." p. 31

    2) "many bureaucratic breakdowns that plagued the Federal Bureau of Investigation before the attacks"

    "By building our intelligence capabilities, improving our technology, and working together, we have and will continue to develop the capabilities we need to succeed against all threats"

    "An article published in Newsweek magazine on Monday claims that the Central Intelligence Agency knew that two men suspected of links to al-Qaeda were in the United States months before they took part in the suicide attacks of 11 September...

    Some US counterterrorism officials say [this] may have been the most puzzling, an devastating, intelligence failure...

    Under the headline, 'The terrorists the CIA should have caught', the report argues that the CIA tracked one of the men, Nawaf al-Hazmi, shortly after he attended an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, but failed to alert other US law enforcement agencies."

    "Three of the hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks obtained visas in Saudi Arabia through a brand-new program designed to make it easier for qualified visa applicants to visit the United States, an American government official said tonight."

    Why are Americans being violated for the second time (the first was 9/11) by the very organizations who are the real "culprits of neglect" for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks? Leave the American people alone. Wiretap the FBI and the CIA.

    Daniel in NY

    Great programme, but s-o-o- damned serious....

    How about a little levity on the rendition/torture subject?

    Move over Jay Leno...

    Just click on the link below or cut and paste it in your browser for Political Cartoonist: Mark Fiore's classic animation:

    "The Adventures of Knuckles"

    This week's show on presidential powers was thoughtful and intriguing.

    Article I Section 8 of the constitution enumerates the powers of Congress. The last paragraph of this section states, "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."

    Congress clearly has the Constitutional authority to make laws for the proper execution of government power for all departments and officers of the government. The chief executive and members of the executive branch are not above the law.

    Charles Fried tried to make the argument that Congress could not make, "unconstitutional restraints", on executive power. This is a dangerous assertion that subverts our constitutional liberties by creating unchecked power in the executive. Any restraint made by Congress is constitutional unless it is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme court.

    If the Bush Administration did not like the FISA laws regarding domestic surveillance they should have gone through the courts. The fact that he disregarded these laws (and others) means that Bush is guilty of, "high crimes and misdemeanors", and should be impeached.



    This week's show on presidential powers was thoughtful and intriguing.

    Article I Section 8 of the constitution enumerates the powers of Congress. The last paragraph of this section states, "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."

    Congress clearly has the Constitutional authority to make laws for the proper execution of government power for all departments and officers of the government. The chief executive and members of the executive branch are not above the law.

    Charles Fried tried to make the argument that Congress could not make, "unconstitutional restraints", on executive power. This is a dangerous assertion that subverts our constitutional liberties by creating unchecked power in the executive. Any restraint made by Congress is constitutional unless it is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme court.

    If the Bush Administration did not like the FISA laws regarding domestic surveillance they should have gone through the courts. The fact that he disregarded these laws (and others) mans that Bush is guilty of, "high crimes and misdemeanors", and should be impeached.



    Prof. Fried argued that a president or his military has done alarming things under Constitutional war powers, which [the Supreme Court] shouldn't judge for fear of making bad law. He could have cited as a precedent the case of Korematsu vs. United States, 323 U.S. 214(1944), in the opinions of Justices Black & Frankfurter for the majority.
    [Justices Roberts, Murphy, & Jackson wrote cogent dissenting opinions.]
    Source: ""

    Prof. Fried argued that a president or his military has done alarming things under Constitutional war powers, which [the Supreme Court] shouldn't judge for fear of making bad law. He could have cited as a precedent the case of Korematsu vs. United States, 323 U.S. 214(1944), in the opinions of Justices Black & Frankfurter for the majority.
    [Justices Roberts, Murphy, & Jackson wrote cogent dissenting opinions.]
    Source: ""

    My husband and I are devotees of the Moyers journal because it is intelligent, provocative and bold. Tonight's program sent me to for the 1st time. After reading the postings I recalled a postcard I found in a rock shop in Nederland, CO last summer. It was titled
    "Early Warning Signs of FASCISM" ... and read:
    Powerful and continuing nationalism
    Disdain for Human Rights
    Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
    Supremacy of the military
    Rampant Sexism
    Controlled Mass Media
    Obession with National Security
    Religion and Government Intertwined
    Corporate Power Protected
    Labor Power Suppressed
    Disdain for Intellectuals & the Arts
    Obsession with Crime & Punishment

    It really got me thinking. Perhaps it will strike you too!

    Torture is just WRONG - ineffective and yields compromised information.

    Telephone customer call record collecting and warrentless wiretapping began LONG BEFORE 9/11 as clearly noted in Joe Nacchio's (CEO of Qwest) court documents. Nacchio was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2007 after being found guilty of illegally selling shares based on insider information. Nacchio meet with the NSA at Fort Mead on February 27, 2001, at the meeting Nacchio declined to participate or give over customer calling records until served with a proper legal order.

    This was long before the 9/11 justification.

    Thank you Bill Moyers for your Journal program this evening. It's a shame you have to have these views on Public Television; and that they are not being viewed on the other major networks! I usually hear the "news" from the Canadian station (Channel 99)or from the BBC! PBS is a major blessing to us all! I was totally put-out with Dick Cheney this week; as I grew up in CA. I saw Dick Cheney nodding off at the meeting he was at, while Pres. Bush was discussing the massive fire situation in So. CA. A short time later, Bush was speaking in So. CA and congratulating all the firefighters, etc. Bush said that they were all praying for the victims of the fires; and that everyone in Washington cared about them! Did Bush wake up Cheney and let him know what was going on? RE: Iran, since the talk has been that we have been depleting our troops by having them murdered in Iraq, where does Bush think he's going to get enough troops to invade Iran? I don't believe that will be a ground war; if they don't have a nuclear weapon, why would they need one? Look what China has done to our country, just in mistakes shall we say; like putting plastics into food that was supposed to be destined for our dogs and cats; by using lead paint to paint or toys with that potentially poison or children! Not to mention other food products and shipments that are not even searched! I loved the discussion by Fried and Schwarz this evening; I enjoy seeing how "big brains" think. I wish Bush had a big brain; personally, I think he acts like he has Alzheimer's disease. He must miss Mrs. Bush not being at home to tell him what to say and how to pronounce his words! Mr. Cheney probably loves Bush being puppet-like; he reminds me of Howdy Doody time!

    Thanks to Bill for once again hosting an insightful discussion that is sorely lacking in the US media at present. Both participants had good points, but in general I would agree more I would more with Fritz Schwartz' view that all these delicate issues of national security should not be held secret, that it is in fact a "position of weakness" to do so. Executive powers without oversight and transparency will always lead to abuse. The discussion frequently mentioned Nixon and Watergate, but J.Edgar Hoover's FBI was much worse than that. Anyone remember COINTELPRO? Sounds like an acronym the NSA would come up with today.

    "Unitary executive theory" as defined by the Bush/Cheney gang is garbage, and should be exposed, defined and destroyed as such. Charles Fried makes a good argument for the President's constitutional rights in the abstract, but it does not hold water in this case. The President's powers in "wartime" are from another era. The constitution did not conceive of declaring war on a concept -"terror" and then trying to define the "enemy" willi-nilli for political purposes, that's what kings or dictators do. I would not want any President to have this kind of power, Democrat or Republican.

    The public and the media seem to be bamboozled by the calm, steady voices of the likes of Dick Cheney and John Yoo, who very demurely say the most insanely stupid things, in pursuit of a fixed ideology of expanding US executive power at whatever cost.

    Like many Americans, I love my country but feel it's on the wrong path. What do you do when you're the switchman faced with the Bush/Cheney run-away train? Stop it in its tracks or send it to the place it does least harm.

    Tell Congress to do their job - the hearings for Attorney General should be a forum for this travesty, and tell Nancy and Harry to stop petty pandering and put impeachment back on the table.

    From the beginning America has created laws, rules and beliefs to benefit the innocent, not the guilty. However, the guilty often benefit from these protections because of things like due process in our system of laws to establish guilt.

    Protection from unreasonable search and seizure is for the benefit of the innocent, not the guilty. But note it does not read that Americans will be free from all scrutiny as it is presently preached. Impersonal listening should not require "permission from a judge" beforehand and while I would not relish an FBI agent sitting in a neighbors attic recording my phone conversations as in days of old, it would not pose a problem to me because I am not acting unlawfully. The laws regarding such should not be about "before the listening," but how the info is handled once it is obtained. FISA only benefited those in the country who wanted to operate without scrutiny, such as the communists, other socialists and other subversives. It does not benefit the innocent from prosecution, other laws & and the innocent acts of the innocent do that. It only grants everyone freedom from any sort of scrutiny even to the detriment of the country and that was not the intent of the writers of the Constitution. Funny thing, those who gripe the most like the NY Times and others I won't mention on this blog have socialist roots and leanings and let us remember socialism is not the government form given us by the founders of this country or the Constitution. And, I don't appreciate their attitude as the only people qualified to interpret our Constitution

    What is being called torture these days is any unpleasantness. Here again our war presently is with willing volunteers in our enemy's cause, not a conscripted army and like I said America's values are for the protection of the innocent not the guilty. Still I would not like to see us treat people with excessive cruelty. But now we cannot sit them "in time out" as we even advocate for our children, or we cannot deprive them of things they desire, like we do our teenagers when they misbehave. These things are called torture. Or, we cannot embarrass them. Remember the guy standing on a box with wires hooked to him in Abu Grab. I don't think they actually used the wires on him, like that man may have done to others under Saddam's rule. I do not consider these things torture. Today torture is anything that causes discomfort of some sort. The word torture is being misused for these things. It is not even close to the torture of previous days ie like Saddam did in lowering people slowly into vats of acid to be slowly and painfully consumed. Or lowering them slowly into wood chippers. Others have used bamboo under the finger nails stretching on a rack, hot coals on the feet, peeling of skin, starvation, being fed vermin & bugs, staked out on an ant hill, incessant beating,slave labor, hard labor under harsh climate conditions without proper food, drink or rest, etc. etc.

    When it comes to known members of Al qaeda, I don't care if they "think "they are going to drown. These are people who cut off others facial features with a piano wire, or behead them, etc. or burn them alive in a "twin tower" where people actually jumped from the inferno, landing on the atrium windows. That's torture.

    I guess I have a weak stomach for such things as presidential criminality, the inhumanity of US approved torture, the loss of personal privacy, the ineptness or weakness of our Justice Department and Congress to check or stop it, and the blatant ignorance and terribleness of Harvard Professor Fried's defense. I had to turn your program off before its conclusion Mr. Moyers, because it made me that sick.

    Does anyone actually really all these comments? Sorry, but I didn't read EVERYTHING before writing this.
    I address my message to Bill Moyers:

    My comment, that guy Fried, how could you allow him to compare the Bush position on torture with Lincoln's emancipation proclamation, and Roosevelt's sending ships to England? Schwartz had just made a point about how Bush's position on torture was going beyond the constitution. Then Fried made the comparisons, as if he were responding to Schwartz's words. In truth he was changing the subject to talk about domestic spying, but his words came just after Schwartz's charge of torture, so technically, it was a response. Fried should have been laughed at to imply that Bush's secret torture policy is worthy to be compared with noble and brave acts of former presidents. Instead, you just followed his lead and kept going. Fried kept trying to hide from and ignore the torture issue, and kept trying to uphold the privacy invasion issue, as a subterfuge. And even in that, he wasn't listening to the arguments from Schwartz, but just kept his postion without answering the charges.

    anyhow, that is enough of a comment here, I don't have time to write a book that no one would read.

    Okay, okay we get it already, Bill hates the Bush administration and can find others who agree with him to be on his show. Wow, big surprise! How about a little balance/fairness? I suppose donating to PBS is now the same as contributing to the DNC.

    Bush/Chehey; Investigate, impeach and imprison. Let the world know that we still have a soul. Let the world know that we are still Human Beings.

    When I left my home in Iran for the US in 1975, I also left a government that tortured its opponents. It was a government that could freely eavesdrop on me, open my mail, check my reading list, and keep a check on me.

    For the first time in many years since I have become a US citizen, I find my old feelings are back. Each time I send an e-mail, surf the net, check a book on the Middle East from my local library, call my family back in Iran, or attend a peace rally I wonder who might be watching - an American Savak?

    A great comment was made in tonight's program to the effect that once the system of checks and balances have fallen apart, the informed citizenry must come to the rescue. The sad truth is that the most chilling effect of the Bush Administration's domestic surveillance program has been stifling freedom of speech and the suppression of dissent.

    Be respectful with your comments online! My 13 year old nephew was interrogated by the secret service for posting anti-war and anti-Bush statements on his "my-space" page. I've heard of other minors across the country who have experienced the same. Is our President paranoid? And who decides what to survey...Bush?

    The conversation was terrific except it missed the main point about warrentless wiretaps. What happens when the opposition party members are tapped by the party in power. Then that information can be released at the appropiate time to affect elections.

    As a Marine, who served in combat in Desert Storm, I know that in order to defend myself and therefore the country there are laws of war. Just because our life is at risk does not give us permission to break those laws. We took an oath to protect and defend the constitution, that constitution delineates that we in the Marines serve at the pleasure of a civilian government and we fight to protect that government. Our honor is at stake, our reputation is at stake, our dignity is at stake. I would rather die than live because someone was tortured and violated as an human being. My government has no right to break the law to defend it. If a young Marine fighting for his life in Iraq must not shoot a child in the head if that child does not tell him where the weapons are at, Mr. Bush has no right to authorize that behavior on behalf of the citizens of the United States. Especially because it is not his life at risk, nor Mr. Cheney, nor their Republican cronies in the Senate. Who are you Mr. President that you can take away the very thing that we in our military swear to uphold and defend, the constitution of this great nation and the laws that flow from it? I now have my Master's in Social Work and I work with family violence. What this country needs is to address its own problems. Last year, apx. 26,000 Americans died from bullets and 40,000 died in cars. It is much more dangerous in our country as a whole than to be Marine in Baghdad. Why are our Marines in Baghdad? Clearly to serve your Oil and Gas Buddies from Texas. You say it is national security. Whatever. Are we really that dumb? Wake up America. There is one power left us by your argument Mr. President, the people can impeach you and hold you accountable if you broke laws. I am accountable so must you be.

    Besides reading the book 'Blackwater" I suggest everyone read 'A Question of Torture' by Alfred W. McCoy

    I appreciate Mr. Fried's position regarding the limits of presidential discretionary judgement and I agree with him that there will undoubtedly be a corresponding swing in the future to perhaps unduly clamp down on the Extraordinary Powers stance, but the issues facing a president are not so strictly limited to constitutional laws; there are moral and ethical elements at stake as well, and here, I'm afraid, comparisons to Lincoln and Roosevelt fall short. For those two great leaders understood moral right from wrong -- the Amancipation Proclamation and Lend Lease were inarguably 'right" in a moral context, whereas Bush-Cheney-Addington cynically manipulate congress, the people and the law in an attempt to rationalize immoral conduct -- if they deign to speak at all.

    History saw this act played out in Berlin in the '30's, to a distracted and disbelieving public -- we explain away this American administration's dark scheming at our own peril.

    I appreciate Mr. Fried's position regarding the limits of presidential discretionary judgement and I agree with him that there will undoubtedly be a corresponding swing in the future to perhaps unduly clamp down on the Extraordinary Powers stance, but the issues facing a president are not so strictly limited to constitutional laws; there are moral and ethical elements at stake as well, and here, I'm afraid, comparisons to Lincoln and Roosevelt fall short. For those two great leaders understood moral right from wrong -- the Amancipation Proclamation and Lend Lease were inarguably 'right" in a moral context, whereas Bush-Cheney-Addington cynically manipulate congress, the people and the law in an attempt to rationalize immoral conduct -- if they deign to speak at all.

    History saw this act played out in Berlin in the '30's, to a distracted and disbelieving public -- we explain away this American administration's dark scheming at our own peril.

    Since global mass media reinforced the "Manifest Destiny Myth" (1830's) ... our nation's experienced an erosion of public T-R-U-S-T.

    Dx: This trend is sustained by zero-sum game (Art of War C4I-PsyOps) using neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) for political empire-building and economic gains!

    Rx: Realign group decision support systems (GDSS) to empower sustainable well-being framed by FDR's Four Freedoms speech 6-Jan-1941.

    Begin by exercising our nation's missing "MentorshipArt of Peace" to H-E-L-P ensure LIFE, Liberty and pursuit of happiness!

    I vehemently disagree with Charles Fried, former U.S. Solicitor General in the Reagan administration, who says:

    The warrantless eavesdropping that I think was going on under the NSA and perhaps still is going on is absolutely necessary.

    The big problem, besides treating the whole US population as criminals, and violating our right wholesale, is the ADMINISTRATION that is doing the spying.

    The Bush administration is the most criminal bunch in US history. Forget the torture and spying, just on the basic level of corruption and politicalization of government, cronyism, etc., it is like authorizing the Mafia to protect us.

    Anyone would think that is a crazy idea, yet gullible but intelligent people in and out of government truly believe that the Bush administration wants to protect America.

    IT DOES NOT. It wants to loot America and has no conscience about the destruction to the country's standing in the world, economy or future indebtedness of our children. And these are the people you want to allow to spy on our most confidential and personal aspects of our lives?

    Remember INSLAW, where elements of the Reagan "Justice Dept." stole software for their own enrichent? That was small potatoes compared to what we are presently opening up ourselves to.

    Why would business go along with this? Their trade and operational secrets are being exposed to the most corrupt people in America.

    Think people, think.

    They can read your mind. As well, like the christian heretics written about 2000 years ago, they dream send. Some day it will be done to you! The right of the people to be secure in their persons... shall not be violated...
    Your representatives know and it is being concealed.

    great finale Bill!

    I guess we got the government we deserved. They keep telling me to give up and go along. Our government runs on the what they don't know will not hurt them. IT DOES!

    Yes, we need an investigation.

    Which is so unfortunate in that is will divert our time, energies and focus away form solving the important issues of our time.

    However, it is critical that we reverse the damage this Administration has done to the American Constitution and the Balance of Power within our government.

    Torture is WRONG and against everything that the US stand for.

    The President of the United States does not stand above the Constitution Law but is bound by oath to up hold it.

    Suspension of the Fourth Amendment and refusing to extend it to modern day technology with it ever-increasing integration into individual’s lives is UNACEPTABLE.

    “Act first and ask permission once you get caught” is not a line of reasoning we want form a President of the United States.

    And if this had all turned out WELL. It would STILL BE WRONG.

    Committee?! We need more than that - we need Articles of Impeachment followed by a war crimes tribunal. We need to get this government back under the control of the people and do it now. I'm convinced at this point that the Democrats are either afraid to stand up to Bush because of some kind of black mail, or simply making too much money to mount any real opposition to his many, many crimes.

    I'm at a loss as to what to do. I write to Congress, I write a blog, I participate in any way I can in local elections, but at some point, somebody has to take charge again, and if the Dems won't do it, I don't see it happening. There is NO excuse, up to and including an immanent attack, that justifies violating the rights of our citizens, let alone torturing prisoners and suspending Habeas Corpus. Attacking the United States is just stupid, and Ahmedinejad et al know that - there's always retaliation, and not necessarily toward the right people. Bush has already killed over a million people to secure Iraqi oil, using fake intelligence and pretend patriotism. I don't think there's any doubt that another attack on us would surely provoke the Connecticut Cowboy to wipe some country off the map.

    How do we wake people up? I keep going back to "They Thought They Were Free" by Milton Mayer - each offense is unconstitutional, then they try to change the law to cover the offense, and no single act is so heinous that people are spurred to rise up over any one particular illegal action. Everything Hitler did was technically legal because he changed the laws to "allow" his insanity. We are looking at the same situation here. Think we don't have concentration camps? Check out the internment camps filled by Homeland Security raids on illegal immigrants, where US citizens are included among the children there. Then look at the FEMA trailers in "Cancer Alley" housing the Gulf Coast poor that managed not to drown.

    I'm enraged that Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is off the table - if you can't impeach a person who stole 2 American Presidential elections (by the way - isn't conspiring to commit a crime covered under the RICO statutes? The RNC certainly fits the definition of an organized crime syndicate in my view) who is allowing torture, has turned Iraq into a graveyard using chemical weapons and depleted uranium, and has pretty much shredded the Constitution, looted our treasury, sold our future to China and wants to put Dubai - you know, where most of the 9/11 hijackers are from - in charge of our ports while 18,000 people die every year from lack of health insurance, then please, someone tell me, what does he have to do to warrant impeachment? How many have to die from his venom and neglect before we can do something?

    I don't care if they can get it through Congress. If they have to have a hearing every day from now until January 2009, I say have them. Somebody has to stop doing what is politically savvy and start doing what is right just because it's the right thing to do. If they have to send the same bill to give kids health care or protect people from hate crimes every day until then, then that's what they should do. If he vetoes 100 times, send them 101.

    Not one damned dime more should go into this illegal, immoral, counter-productive and wasteful war.

    So, yeah, start with a Church Committee style investigation if we must, but somebody please start.

    Fritz is great. Fried seems to be a compliant clown, with the "soul of a collaborator''.

    j.bee writes in supporting the war, but then admits "my family and friends have not been inconvenienced one bit by the war on terror in regard to civil liberties, taxes, gas lines or food lines or even being asked to join in the fight", and "the casuality rate is relatively low." If you did have to wait in line, would that be such an inconvenience? If it was your child who was killed, would the deaths mean so little to you? Since you support it, will you "join in the fight"? I'm sure there's a recruiting station near you, so it won't be too inconvenient.

    The information is out there already. When does a coverup by the use of classified information become absurd? People all over this country know about what the government is doing. People comment on the streets about what was done to me. People at NBC were involved intimately with every aspect of it. The torture and the coverup as well as aspects of the agent who violated her non disclosure aggreement in revealing it all to me.

    I've been writing letters for years to many people in the media. Like the bugs on the rim of the glass...This is our constitution people - mark my words - If this abuse of the psycho energetic device is allowed to continue we will be bowing to a dictator. Is a government controled by corporations fascism?

    Mr. Moyers,
    Thank you for bringing these issues out to open the American people's eyes.
    The issue of the 'waterboarding' torture. I think the best way to decide if it is torture is to administer it to Chaney and Bush and then they can tell us how it feels. And while it is being administered maybe we can get the truth out of them. I am sure Bush and Cheney would agree, it is torture. Sadly the American people are not aware of many of the underhanded policies of our government.
    We are going from, 'Ugly American' to 'Evil American'.
    the US should be an example to other nations as one of the leaders of the world but lately our nation's character has been tarnished.
    Where is Bush taking us now. To our 3rd war in Iran?
    Americans need to wake up and say "NO MORE" because the Congress has not been able to stand up to Bush and his War Machine.
    I have started to hear the young people awakening their consciousness of this crazy path Bush is leading us into.The cost of this war is staggering. Think what we could do with all those BILLIONS that are being used to destroy Iraq.

    Charles Fried thought that electronic eaves dropping of large segments of the populatiion was OK. Who decides on the patterns they will mine. Once started against believed terrorist it could expand to any group. Will we use ethnic names, religious ID, political affiliation, charity contributions, purchases, it would be the end of privacy.

    The information is out there already. When does a coverup by the use of classified information become absurd? People all over this country know about what the government is doing. People comment on the streets about what was done to me. People at NBC were involved intimately with every aspect of it. The torture and the coverup as well as aspects of the agent who violated her non disclosure aggreement in revealing it all to me.

    To anyone paying attention, with an open mind - by law, the government can wiretap for several days before getting a warrant, if they think it's needed. Then they can get a FISA warrant to continue, based on whatever evidence they have. And from what I've read (and I'm a news junkie), almost every warrant request (more than 98%) is granted. So there is no need for warrantless wiretapping, unless we're looking for an uncontrolled, lawless government.

    Watching the countries people for conformaty is the work of individguals who feel that everyone should be like them. Or people who I call holyer-than-thow. Hitler was such a person. Today our world is running out of supplies. Our government is scared of it's people. This is apparent by the way business is conducted today. As products get cheeper and supplies get less, prices rise and less fortunate people are pushed aside. As this continues war will prevail. With the advent of nucular weapons, the next war will be catastrofic.America, although the most powerful nation, is falling and is the main target for this reason.

    The focus on wiretapping is a ruse to cover up a far more intrusive covert abuse.

    It was a valuable experience to listen to such knowledgable exponents of the limits of Presidential power. Thank you, Bill Moyers! In times such as after 9/11 when the country feels attacked and wants to strike back, perhaps even blindly, it is especially tempting but dangerous to grant power with no checks or oversight. We must be sure to ask presidential candidates their positions on this issue.

    Can spy on you? Wake up! Wake up! The wording of the protect America Act which expanded FISA is specificaly writen to allow unlimited intrusion into your mind! You may think this is a joke. IT IS NOT! I exposed a false bin Laden tape in the time between it being written and it arriving Porter Goss resigned. I learned from the President that it was a turf war between hard right and hard left factions in the CIA.

    Bush and Cheney and Rice have given us false information, and maintained excessive secrecy about their actions. They lied to us about the need for the Iraq war, and I do not trust their intentions toward Iran, or their assessment of the "dangers." I would like to see impeachment proceedings begin promptly, in hopes of avoiding yet another war front.

    For all of my 'negative' comments, allow me to say how much I admire Bill Moyers for all of his fine work over the years, bringing important issues to the attention of the American people - although I'm not sure enough of us are paying attention!

    Mission creep is an understatement! We the people have been canceled out of the system. People involved in the secrecy are bound by non disclosure aggreements. These are the same people the press go to for explainations of the secret programs.

    Let me see if I've got this correct - the hard-core right wingers say that the government can't restrict the right to own rapid fire machine guns, but it can spy on us?

    Good Evening Mr. Moyers-

    Oct. 26, 2007 10:44 PM EST.

    Your Bill Moyers' Journal program is a valuable service to the nation, and the "Unitary Presidential Power" is perhaps the greatest potential risk to the nation survival. Please return to this topic on future programs in this series with a variety of guests to prod the nation into discuss this from a variety of perspectives.

    I recommend a group of Senators such as Leahy, Feinstein, Specter, Graham for a coming series.

    Senator Arlen Specter is reported to be writing a Bill to permit Congress to sue the President. Charles Fried, former U.S. Solicitor General might argue some laws of Congress are unconstitutional, and the President can decide which he needs to obey. Professor Fried also noted the Supreme Court is acknowledged by all Presidents to be the final word.

    Congress should not need to challenge the President through a Special Prosecutor, with grand jury proceedings. Rather, Congress should seek the Supreme Court with “fast track authority” to rule on the Constitutionality of a Presidential act. It would be appropriate for the Senate to proscribe at least 60 Senators curing, for an suit to be brought against the President, to merely establish policy and for no punitive action against the President.

    I would hope Senators would reflect on the wisdom and benefit of Senator Specter’s legislation, and perhaps call hearings to lay a foundation for the Congressional necessity for the right to sue, and gather the nations legal opinions on this proposal.

    The "Unitary Presidential Power" theory must be defined within narrow limits or abandoned all together, and the sooner the better.

    I might suggest a panels of former Secretaries of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House Chiefs of Staff be invited to review the pros and cons of the theory "Unitary Presidential Power".

    One day, a President could assert that presidential elections are a threat to national security under a period of declared "Marshal Law".

    Please keep up the pressure and I welcome the opportunity to view future programs in your series.


    George Martch

    Perhaps all of these discussions of a monarchical president/vice president would be moot if these were men to be trusted. If they had integrity. But the fact is that nearly every word, spoken or written, out of Bush/Cheney and the administration's minions is swaddled in propaganda, dumbed down for the unwashed masses, and shrouded in so-called secrecy for the "good of the Nation." Trust them, indeed. To do the next right thing? In a pig's eye, as my grandmother used to say. Wake up, Americans. We deserve better.

    I think that all of the discussion might best be considered in light of three words, "We the People." It was lack of representation that lead to our declaration of independence, and provided the First Word in our constitution.

    As to the Congressional briefings, do you think the Bush/Cheney administration told the whole truth, like they did about the weapons of mass destruction?

    A couple of other points that could have been raised this evening: Leaders of the House and Senate were supposedly briefed on a regular (twice a year) basis about this program. Assuming the briefings had some substance about the programs, what was the result? Did the leaders agree? Dissent? If the programs are illegal, does this make those House and Senate leaders (of both parties) co-conpsirators? If the programs are illegal, why didn't they stop them?

    Fried is right about algorithmic eavesdrooping and Schwarz' concern about mission creep is spot on. The real problem with everything that is going on is the American people. They are as Stepford wives, asleep at the switch. They need to WAKE UP immediately, if not sooner, because their freedom and democracy is going down the tubes. Both political parties are an utter disgrace. The simple fact that Congress has not initiated impeachment proceedings against Bush & Cheney is beyond belief and an absolute dereliction of duty. It is their Constitutional prerogative. Because of this, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush/Cheney were on a path to create a situation or situations whereby they would claim the right to quash the upcoming presidential election so as to remain in office to deal with "this unprecedented national emergency." Wake Up people before it is too late.

    Dear "Peter Pan" - As I said, Clinton isn't the president any more. What is happening now is due to the present administration. And your refering to him as 'St. Bill' gives away your incredibly slanted viewpoint, in case you didn't realise that.

    Back before the first time I was tortured I trusted our government. Over many years of suffering the after effects of the torment I've come to understand a great deal about how the system of circular avoidance is maintained. The hubris of the people involved, in what amounted to a turf war in the justice deparment lead them to explaim a great deal of the workings of private inteligence operatives being used to side step and subvert constitutional restraint. The president's actions are a bold and open seisure of power.

    to C. Muller,

    Did you read what Scahill said about St. Bill setting the stage for Blackwater?

    This kind of manipulation of the public does not happen overnight. It takes planning, orchestration, and enough delay so that it becomes softly familiar (as it appears St. Bill has become to you).

    Then the hammer falls.

    Presidencies are dynastic and the same players have been involved since Nixon (or didn't you see the Frontline piece that Bill refered to)

    Would it be going to far to suggest that we 'waterboard' Mr. Fried, since he obviously doesn't believe in the rule of law and the Constitution of this country? Or would that be 'torture'?


    I listen in rapped attention when you have an opposing view to demonstrate balanced journalism.

    I am never disappointed that the complete lack of logic and critical thinking the likes of Fried portray. He defined a point on eavesdropping and without taking a breath contradicted himself on his own point.

    His Harvard credentials explain a lot - Who else in power graduated from Harvard? I rest my case.

    Very important discussion tonight. But I've made a terrible realization: if the Congress was able to bring Impeachment to a vote on Bush/Cheney, the Republicans would not let it pass, thus allowing the Admin. to the claim the Unitary Executive has been proven right, the new true American path, and Bush can claim all the power "fait occompli"-and telling Congress that they are Unconstitutional for standing in his way! I can easily invision my Republican Congressperson saying "We have to stand back now and let our President lead" and urge the Congress to ajourn.

    The program certainly opened by eyes to the reality that "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

    To "Peter Pan" - Grow up, and stop living in your fantasy world. Clinton isn't the president anymore, he didn't try to take away our basic civil rights, and didn't ignore the Constitution.


    Church Commission - Shamission.

    You tend to harp on the same point of what terrible things are done in terms of war and civil liberties after 9/11, yet NO ONE is talking about rooting out and punishing the chain of command that allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place.

    My favorite Rice comment: "We didn't know you could use an airplane..."

    The more I hear concerning the current war on terror, the more I realize that the Bush/Cheney regime is on the right course. The casuality rate is relatively low for the concurrent wars and the troops still have their morale. Despite the crying tear jerks in this country who want to hug a terrorist and make nice-in their wimp minds that is-cause they'll never put their derrieres on the line for the USA. Never! Our interrigators need a tough minded president who says it is okay to cause our enemies a little duress now and then. But no eye gouging, finger amputating or the like, that would be wrong. Still, a selective draft should be considered in order to round out the ground forces and expand them to 16-18 divisions again. Lastly, my family and friends have not been inconvenienced one bit by the war on terror in regard to civil liberties, taxes, gas lines or food lines or even being asked to join in the fight. Most Americans will agree w/ the verity of that comment too. Only airline travel has been a minor problem, and who wants to visit the middle east anyways? We do intend supporting "Ron Paul" in 2008 though.In part because this war is just to expensive w/ an all volunteer/contractor military and needs to be reined in. j.bee.

    To witness this thoughtful & highly nuanced discussion of this critical issue by these erudite individuals was indeed a rare pleasure.Your willingness to regularly encounter such issues, germaine to our democracy, while creating an atmosphere of mutual respect has earned my deepest gratitude. Thank you Bill Moyers & may your program endure.

    ALL powers belong to THE PEOPLE and the PRESIDENT HAS NO AUTHORITY to violate THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE. Moreover, Amendment X of the Constitution reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The ONLY powers the President has are those explicitly given to him in the Constitution.

    Fried completely misses the point with his rationalizations. The harm done when are rights are violated cannot be restored later. A victim can’t be “un-tortured” or have their privacy “un-violated.” He must think he isn’t likely to be a victim, but the law protects us all, including those more like to be victims than he.

    What would conservative Republicans say if a Democratic administration tried to do what Bush and Cheney have already done?


    go to the Jeremy Scahill answers to questions and scroll down to the expose of St. Bill Clinton.

    Fried's comments, substantially, that "these things happen" is strikingly deficient in legal analysis for a HLS professor. That other presidents, even great ones, have stretched or violated the Constitution is no more a defense of current practice than a murderer standing up in court and pointing to past crimes as an excuse for present criminality. To reduce Fried's argument to its parts is to say that a nation of laws is vulnerable to willing illegal acts. This does nothing to answer Mr. Moyers' question, Can the President break the law? Of course the answer is yes--anybody can break the law. But the two words implicit in the question and dodged by Fried are: "with impunity." No inhabitant of a nation of laws can violate the law with impunity. Without an articulable constitutional position for violated Congressional will--itself a representation of the voice of the people--Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney should not have their actions excused. They should be punished as all lawbreakers.

    If the treason succeeds then none dare call it treason...If the treason has succeeded then why do they fear the whole truth being told about the aspects of eavesdropping that involve wireless eavesdropping into the human mind? Applied psycho energetics as developed at the Stamford research institute?

    "We" want the president to break the law? Who is "we"? I surely don't.

    I recently worked for a company called NCI and was a Sprint Customer Financial Services Rep Trainee for 7 weeks. My duties were supposed to have been to collect payments and make payment arrangements for Sprint Customers.

    A change took place while I worked there between 8/9/07 and 10/5/07. Sprint and Nextel split their customer base but still use the similar equipment that they sell to customers. In looking on line, I found that Sprint will have US customers now and Nextel overseas customers. Where before Sprint had both.

    For 6 of my 7 weeks of training, I was introduced to the political power and abilities of cellular phone companies. Sprint employees posed as customers and shouted in my ear for 6 wks to see how I would respond, emotionally, to an individudal's circumstances or personality as projected by their tone of voice according to what perameters I had been given to use.

    The people who controlled the volume(loudness and number of calls) also had the capability to dub voices to sound like familiar characters. All my calls were taped, monitored and reviewed which of course determined which type of call I'd receive next.

    I resigned when I was told I wasn't nice enough to customers. Low management offered me the opportunity to stay and that they could work with me to get my calls within in the desired length of time.

    The situation was abusive and invasive. To have to sit and listen to someone shout for 8 hours into your ear and to know that the environment of the call was a script half written and my reactions monitored had be feel like I was training the enemy in what vulnerabilities some Americans like me have.

    Not suprisingly, I've received more telemarketing calls; primarily from a student loan company and the state and federal political party I belong to.

    I believe the communications companies are as vigilante as the corporate militias like Blackwater.

    I don't believe that Americans have much if any input into how or laws are made or how they are enforced.

    I do believe in a God of my understanding and I know He is still in charge. That is what I believe in and what gives me hope.


    The conversation between Mr. Schwarz, and the "nut-case" Mr. Fried, was very good....and equally sad. Mr. Fried is absolutely delusional. Who raised the professor, Barbara Bush? Maybe I'll apply for the position of CHANCELLOR of Harvard itself, if I get bored enough wtih my own personal existence. If you don't understand what I'm saying, "reader", don't sweat it. You're not alone. You have many so-called "friends" out there. tgr

    Maybe the FBI hasn't conducted illegal wiretapping, but the NSA and other Governmental agecies have, and that's a well know fact.

    Excellent program, and on the whole I agree with Prof. Fried. However, he fell just a little short of saying what I think he intended.

    We want a president to break the law when it is a good thing to do and not when it is bad. Thus it must be done openly and at his own peril. It should not be made legal, setting a precedent, or codified into bad law. He must be sure enough of the necessity of his action to risk impeachment; if what he has done is universally perceived as beneficial, it will not come to that. If it is perceived as bad, we are well rid of him.

    The missing fact in this debate, which I find disturbing, is this: Thanks to the FISA Act, domestically the FBI has not conducted illegal or warrantless wiretaps since 1978.

    This debate is about the communications between known and suspected terrorists overseas who happen to have contact with someone in the United States.

    When a US person becomes the subject of an investigation by the FBI as a result of that lead, they enjoy and are given their full constitutional rights. Their telephones may be tapped, a covert search of their residence may be made, but it has been and will continue to be done with a warrant obtained from a Federal judge.

    People need to hear this point loud and clear. I have heard people, who do not understand this, saying that the FBI is conducting illegal wiretaps. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Mr. Fried's opinion that the president (or any member of the government) may ignore the rulings of Congress and the courts, the law of the land, or the Constitution, lead me to believe that his academic credentials are completely worthless, and that he should not be teaching our children. In my view, he is either a blind neoconservative or an idiot.

    1. The Constitution says nothing about subversion, or creating institutions regarding it, except to confirm the right to assembly, militias, and other personal judicial rights, and give the Congress the right to provide for the common defense.
    2. The Constitution makes the President and the Supreme Court entirely subservient to the Congress. Neither have independent status based on any law or tradition derived from the British or anyone else.
    3. All wars have to be declared by, and any treaties approved by, Congress.
    4. The 10th amendment makes any usurpation, an usurpation of the state's or the people's power.

    If ppl don't like this, then they should amend it. (And ppl who who can't see this should not hold office, or be deans of law schools.)

    I am terrified that we are on the verge of WWIII. This morning when I heard Condalezza Rice talk about Iran, I needed to convince myself that I must have not heard correctly. "It can't be that this administration is seriously trying to talk us into another war. It just can't be." This is what I told myself.

    Now, however, after a wonderful, thoughtful conversation about the constitutional abuses of this adminsitration, Bill Moyers articulates my fears.

    Sadly, the Democratic congress has been unable to stop this administration. I have very little faith in my fellow Americans since they voted for Bush a second time, even after it was acutely apparent that we were headed for disaster. I couldn't understand how anyone could vote for this President the first time. Since he didn't really win the election the first time, I still had faith in my fellow Americans. However, the second time, he actually did win the Presidency.

    What will it take for this country to see how damaging this administration has been for us? They have redefined America. Now, they are threatening to go to War with Iran. What can I as a citizen do about this? How is this possible? I mean I am not a student of history and I can clearly see that this insane one-upsmanship Bush is trying with Iran is leading us - has already put us- in a no win situation. How can we stop Bush from pursuing this latest ill-guided, ill-conceived direction?

    The conversation between these two learned gentlemen who represented both sides of the arguments once again proved to me that civil discourse still lives despite the fact we never hear it coming from Washington. I appreciate the fact that they actually listened to each other, sometimes agreeing, sometimes sparing in an agreeable manner.
    The content of this discussion enlightened me on topics that before had been given press coverage but lacked the clarity that these two gentleman presented. Now I feel capable of making intelligent decisions on torture and evesdropping.
    Thank you again, Bill Moyers, for having the finest news program on television.

    The conversation between these two learned gentlemen who represented both sides of the arguments once again proved to me that civil discourse still lives despite the fact we never hear it coming from Washington. I appreciate the fact that they actually listened to each other, sometimes agreeing, sometimes sparing in an agreeable manner.
    The content of this discussion enlightened me on topics that before had been given press coverage but lacked the clarity that these two gentleman presented. Now I feel capable of making intelligent decisions on torture and evesdropping.
    Thank you again, Bill Moyers, for having the finest news program on television.

    Mr.Fried had my ear especially after saying he was a "Staunch Republican"--which must be quite embarrassing these days.I found myself listening to his points quite intently.Then all of a sudden here it comes--Bill Clinton--Bill Clinton--Bill Clinton!At that point I found myself no such much listening to his points as feeling sorry for the man!After all his party has put this country these last years for an educated man such as himself to fall back on the Bill Clinton is the Devil routine struck me as astoundingly pathetic!

    Thank you for a most intelligent and thoughtful conversation. However, I fear that Professor Fried's perspective would lead to serious threats to our civil liberties and to the operation of our democracy. We can't rely on public opinion and the voters in an era when citizens are peppered with bad information, hysterical reporting, and constant warnings about the "devil" waiting to destroy us. We need representatives who can demand better information and get it! The President and the Vice President have no right to restrict our access to information about the way our government conducts its business. It is our business. And we say, "not on our watch!"

    What is happing in America is what I lived through in Cuba. They started with the enemy and they ended up with the common person. There are not limits to power. Once a person takes over the powers as the present President, there is not way of knowing where the end or the limit is.
    This President used the constitution to his own benefit since the day he stole the election. What we have now is the consequences of that power grab. He is not different than Castro, Chavez, Pinochet, Sadam and the Iranian President.

    The current crop of candidates need to be questioned deeply regarding their feelings on this issue. To allow this topic to go unquestioned among these people who seek this power for themselves would be ramarkably naive for this electorate.

    As a high school history teach who just ended 3 weeks on the Consitution with my classes, i find this coversation utterly disheartening. I spent much of those 3 weeks talking about the beauty of the document and how no on is above the law. Yet, this president finds nothing wrong with going beyond the bounds of the constitution and uses fear and a "father knows best" strategy to defend his doing so. How do I explain that to my students?

    Yes, there should be another Church Committee and Dick Cheney and George Busch should be impeached for HIGH crimes against the American people, which includes torture of American citizens; yes they are torturing Americans right here in this country.

    The cop on the beat can't stop you and search your pockets because you look uncomfortable on the street, nor can he enter your home searching for evidence of any crime from drugs to tax evasion because he noticed your door was left open. We have oversight to prevent those kinds of abuses and we need oversight to prevent unlimited wiretapping of Americans with no probable cause to believe that any crime has been committed.

    We do need a Church committee...the president and his cohorts have shown over and over again that they cannot be trusted. They're probably monitoring Democrats more than terrorist suspects!!
    It is amazing to me that we are tolerating the terrible mess this administration has gotten us into.

    A modern day Church Committee would be a great idea.

    I think it is utter nonsense to acquiese to government eavesdropping in the name of "security".

    There are ways of defending ourselves in the modern era without gutting the Fourth Amendment, as so many authoritarian loving Republicans seem so bent on doing.

    They got slapped good by the 1978 FISA law and have been determined to undermine it ever since.

    They have more than proven they can't be trusted not to use such tools for political purposes.

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