The House Judiciary Committee, both Republicans and Democrats, submitted a set of detailed questions to the Bush Administration and the Department of Justice regarding the NSA domestic spying program, and the Department of Justice's responses to these questions are now available (see below).
There are numerous remarkable items, but the most noteworthy is that the Department of Justice made it quite clear to the Judiciary committee that even if Congress were to pass some sort of newly amended FISA Law of the type which Sen. DeWine (a Republican) has introduced, and even if the President "agrees" to it and signs it into law, the President still has the power to violate that law if he wants to. Put another way, the Administration is telling the Congress -- again -- that they can go and pass all the laws they want which purport to liberalize or restrict the President's powers, and it does not matter, because the President has and intends to preserve the power to do whatever he wants regardless of what those laws provide.
Case in point is question number (5) from the Committee Republicans which asked "whether President Carter's signature on FISA in 1978, together with his signing statement," meant that the Executive had agreed to be bound by the restrictions placed by FISA on the President's powers to eavesdrop on Americans. This is how the Department of Justice responded, in relevant part:
'The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statutes inconsistent with the Constitution must yield. The basic principle of our system of government means that no President, merely by assenting to a piece of legislation, can diminish the scope of the President's constitutional power...
'Just as one President may not, through signing legislation, eliminate the Executive Branch's inherent constitutional powers, Congress may not renounce inherent presidential authority. The Constitution grants the President the inherent power to protect the nation from foreign attack, and Congress may not impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty.'
Thus the President is claiming that he is granted by the Constitution with powers that George Washington rejected. President Bush and his administration are claiming unlimited and un-limitable power to do anything that they believe is necessary to "protect the nation." So even if Congress passes several laws which seek to limit or define the power of the President in any way, and even if the President agrees to those limitations and signs these bills into laws, the President claims he still retains the power to violate them whenever he wants.
Thus, Sen. DeWine can pass his bill purporting to require oversight, or Sen. Specter can pass his, or they can do nothing and leave FISA in place. None of that matters, because no matter what Congress do with regard to the law, the law does not restrict what the President can do in any way.
President Bush and his administration are telling the Congress to its face that all of the grand debates it is having and the negotiations it is conducting are all irrelevant farces, because no matter what happens, the President, while we are at war, retains unlimited power and nothing that Congress does can affect that power in any way. Anyone notice they keep claiming this is a generational war?
The reality is that the Bush Administration has been making it quite clear for some time that the President has unlimited power and that nothing -- not even the law -- can restrict it; and here, they are specifically telling Congress that even if Congress amends FISA and the President agrees to abide by those amendments, they still have the power to break the law whenever they want.
Folks we have a President who is seizing unlimited power, including the power to break the law, yet few seem to be noticing!
DoJ's responses to both the Democrats' questions: http://rawprint.com/pdfs/HJCrawstory2.pdf
DoJ's responses to both the Republicans' questions: http://rawprint.com/pdfs/HJCrawstory1.pdf