THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW …

December 20, 2007:

“1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

McCain: 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.

Okay, so is that a no, in other words, federal statute trumps inherent power in that case, warrantless surveillance?

McCain: I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law.”

Now:

“A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.”

Here’s the letter posted to NRO; here’s Andrew McCarthy discussing it, and here’s Glenn Greenwald. Glenn sums it up:

“These days, in order to please the self-proclaimed “small government” conservative movement, a candidate must now vow to spy on Americans with no warrants or oversight of any kind; reserve the right to torture; and even break the law — ignore popular will as expressed through acts of Congress — whenever such lawbreaking is deemed beneficial. Those are now defining planks in the limited-government “conservative” movement.”

Yep. It’s a strange, strange world. To see how a real believer in Constitutional limitations on government power answered the Dec. 2007 questionnaire cited above, see here.

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