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Feingold: Legal Memos on ‘Blatantly Illegal’ Surveillance Still in Place

No real surprise that progressive Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) would be appalled by the inspectors general report on warrantless surveillance, but this is news to me:

“This report leaves no doubt that the warrantless wiretapping program was blatantly illegal and an unconstitutional assertion of executive power. I once again call on the Obama administration and its Justice Department to withdraw the flawed legal memoranda that justified the program and that remain in effect today.”

Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but I thought that those memoranda — principally John Yoo’s Nov. 2, 2001 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum underpinning the programs — were either significantly abridged or withdrawn outright. This is from page 182 of the memoir of Jack Goldsmith, the former Office of Legal Counsel head who worked hard to roll back the most extreme legal contentions of his Bush administration colleagues:

I am not permitted to say much about how Jim Comey, Patrick Philbin and I, with the crucial support of former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others, struggled to put the Terrorist Surveillance Program on a proper legal footing. I first encountered the program in 2003-2004, long after it had been integrated into the post-9/11 counterterrorism architecture. Putting it legally aright at that point, without destroying some of the government’s most important counterterrorism tools, was by far the hardest challenge I faced in government.

Now, of course, significant aspects of the program have been codified in last year’s FISA Amendments Act — of which Feingold remains a staunch opponent. But does the legal architecture of the original PSP still remain in place?

I suppose if it does, one vehicle for calling attention to it — and perhaps doing something about it — is the debate over reauthorizing sections of the Patriot Act that will take place later this year.

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