Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where is McCain on wiretaps?

Last week, one of John McCain's top aides said that Teddy Roosevelt v.2 fully endorses President Bush's insistence that the White House has the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps, no matter what the law says. In a letter to National Review, Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote:

[B]oth the 109th and 110th Congresses have conducted extensive evaluation and examination of this topic and have satisfied the public’s need for appropriate oversight; hearings purportedly designed to ‘get to the bottom of things’ have already occurred; and neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Senator McCain has never stated, nor does he believe that telecoms should only receive retroactive immunity in exchange for congressional testimony about their actions. We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

That seems to contradict an interview that McCain gave to the Boston Globe in January of last year, during which he said, "There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is. ... I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law."

That might mean that the McCain camp hasn't got its message straight yet, or it might mean that the senator is "refining" his position as he enters the general election campaign. Or, it might just mean that, like lots of politicians, McCain likes to leave his actual position open to interpretation, so that voters can see what they want to see.

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