The NSA wiretap debate is complicated, raising questions about FISA law and the Authorization to Use Military Force, as well as constitutional issues of separation of powers and the Fourth Amendment. Sometimes, even members of Congress need help interpreting these issues. When House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner needed insight on the law, he contacted Ashbrook’s own Robert Alt and John Eastman for their legal opinions. Robert’s letter to the chairman can be found on the Judiciary Committee’s web site here, and John’s letter can be found here. Robert tackles the statutory questions, showing why it is that Congress’s Authorization to Use Military Force passed in the aftermath of 9/11 gave the President all the statutory authority he needed to conduct the NSA program, and John addresses the separation of powers issues, demonstrating that the President has extensive authority in conducting intelligence operations in wartime.
Both letters are important to the current debate. In fact, Chairman Sensenbrenner wrote to the Congressional Research Service, which had previously written a memo suggesting the wiretap program was unlawful, asking them to respond to critiques of the memo made by Alt and Eastman. Interesting stuff this. Who would think that lawyers might be capable of insight?