Since I pointed yesterday to Bruce Schneier’s piece on Bush’s use of the NSA for domestic spying, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also send you his way to read today’s piece on what the spying means for privacy rights, and for the idea of Presidential power. It feels to me like nobody’s stated the issues more clearly and forcefully:

The result is that the president’s wartime powers, with its armies, battles, victories, and congressional declarations, now extend to the rhetorical “War on Terror”: a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and — most ominously — no knowable “victory.” Investigations, arrests and trials are not tools of war. But according to the Yoo memo, the president can define war however he chooses, and remain “at war” for as long as he chooses.

This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don’t use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. In the weeks after 9/11, while America and the world were grieving, Bush built a legal rationale for a dictatorship. Then he immediately started using it to avoid the law.

This is, fundamentally, why this issue crossed political lines in Congress. If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act? Any debate over laws is predicated on the belief that the executive branch will follow the law.

Schneier’s piece is chock-full of legal analysis and precedent that demonstrates how illegal the wiretapping efforts of the Bush Administration are, and provides tons of links to other peoples’ analysis of the program and the Administration’s stated justifications for it. One link, to Scott Rosenberg’s view over at Salon, is also worth a read, for the first postscript as much as for the rest of it.