HOLDER HEARING: Senate Grills Holder on Wiretapping and FISA
In addition to Guantanamo Bay and torture, the big topics of the day seems to be warrant-less surveillance and Federal Intelligence and Surveillance Act and nailing Eric Holder down on whether or not he’ll break from the recent history of the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) spoke briefly of his past questions in confirmation hearings of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He asked Holder the same question he asked Gonzo, and I can guarantee their answers are totally different:
Feingold: What is your view of the president’s consititutional authority to authorize violations of the criminal law, duly enacted statutes, that may have been on the books for many years while acting as commander and chief?
Holder: The president, as I’ve said, is not above the law, has a constitutional obligation to follow the law and execute the laws that this Congress passes. If you look at the Steel Seizure concurrence of Justice Jackson, that sets out in really wonderful form the power the president has and where it is strongest and where it is weakest. It’s weakest in category three, where Congress has indicated something contrary to what the president wants to do. That is where Justice Jackson says the president’s power is at it’s lowest ebb, and I think, I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I think that there’s never been a president who’s been upheld when he tries to act in category three.
Earlier, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) brought up FISA and asked Holder if he supported it. Holder responded that he would support some aspects but not others calling it, ”a very useful tool, a very essential tool for us in fighting terrorism.” When Feingold followed up, looking for support to take back congressional authority on FISA, he found it:
Feingold: Is there anything in the FISA statute that makes you believe that the president has the ability under some other inherent power to disregard the FISA statute?
Holder: No, I don’t see that in the FISA statute.
The senators, collectively, seem very thankful for Holder’s straightforward answers to their questions. You can tell that this is a very different kind of hearing than what they’re used to.