A controversial Islamic lobby group filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all government records related to President Bush’s post-9/11 executive orders authorizing wiretaps of communications between Americans and al-Qaida suspects overseas without a court order.
“It is the duty of all those who value the Constitution to state that no one, not even a president, is above the law,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, charged Bush’s “wiretapping policy is not only an apparent violation of existing law, it also gives carte blanche for spying, without legal oversight, on any American.”
“Such wide-ranging and unrestricted powers are an invitation to abuse of constitutional rights and freedoms, and should be of concern to everyone in a society based on respect for the law,” he asserted.
Awad said he fears such surveillance powers could be expanded and used to spy on people who hold dissenting political views.
Previous administrations, however, as well as the court that oversees national security cases, agreed with President Bush’s position that a president legally may authorize searches without warrants in pursuit of foreign intelligence, the Washington Times reported yesterday.
“The Department of Justice believes – and the case law supports – that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general,” Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – the secretive judicial system that handles classified intelligence cases – wrote in a declassified opinion, the Times said, that the court has long held “that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.”
CAIR filed the FOIA request with the CIA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, including the FBI.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a “front group” for Hamas. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terror-related charges.
The Islamic group, in its request, is seeking: “Records concerning the ‘authority’ of President Bush to delegate or personally authorize electronic surveillance without obtaining a court order as required by FISA;” and, “Any and all lists of natural persons, both American and foreign nationals, who have been or are currently being eavesdropped without proper FISA approval.”
Earlier this week, CAIR issued a “travel advisory” for Muslim U.S. citizens attending a conference in Canada this weekend or participating in the upcoming pilgrimage to Mecca.
CAIR says it’s concerned the travelers will be “singled out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for special security checks and fingerprinting based solely on their attendance at both religious events.”