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Bush opposes spy ruling

Critics of his warrantless wiretapping program do not understand the nature of the world we live in, the president says.

Published August 19, 2006

CAMP DAVID, Md. - President Bush on Friday criticized a federal court ruling that said his warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional, saying opponents "do not understand the nature of the world in which we live."

"I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree," Bush said, striking his finger on a podium to underscore his point. "That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld."

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit on Thursday was the first to rule that the National Security Agency surveillance program was unconstitutional. The program involves monitoring international phone calls and e-mails to and from the United States involving people with suspected ties to terrorists.

"If al-Qaida is calling into the United States, we want to know why they're calling," Bush said.

Critics say the surveillance program skirts the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court warrants for domestic eavesdropping. The administration, however, has said that obtaining warrants from a secret court set up under FISA is a time-consuming process unsuited for the government's fast-moving war on terror.

The judge said the government, in defending the program, appeared to be saying the president had the "inherent power" to violate laws of Congress.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control," Taylor wrote in a 43-page opinion. "... There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."

The Justice Department's appeal, meanwhile, is headed for an appellate court that has a number of the president's own appointees.

However, veterans of cases before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals say the court's mixed record in a broad range of rulings makes it difficult to predict how it will view the surveillance the administration says is crucial to stopping terrorists.

Bush has appointed six judges to the 6th Circuit, including two Michigan judges last summer that gave Republican appointees an 8-6 majority. The chief judge was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

The three-judge panels that hear appeals sometimes include a district court judge or a senior judge who is not a full-time member of the court. The full court could hear the case if a panel's decision is appealed.

"It is not a foregone conclusion that a conservative-dominated court is going to say, 'President Bush did this and we're going to uphold what he wants,' " said Robert A. Sedler, a law professor at Wayne State University.

"There are many issues in this case. Conservative judges often have a very strongly libertarian streak."

[Last modified August 19, 2006, 01:35:14]

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