Bush, spying and the I-word

Barbara Boxer and John Lewis raise the specter of impeachment.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 20, 2005 1:47PM (EST)

The word has been spoken.

As news of the Bush administration's secret plan for spying on American citizens sank in Monday, at least two members of Congress broached the subject of impeachment.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis told an Atlanta radio station that he would vote in favor of articles of impeachment if George W. Bush violated the law in approving the spying plan, as Lewis seems to believe he has. "It's a very serious charge, but he violated the law," Lewis said. "The president should abide by the law. He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not king, he is president."

Meanwhile, California Sen. Barbara Boxer said she has asked four legal scholars to offer their opinion as to whether Bush's violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amounts to an impeachable offense. In a letter posted on her Web site, Boxer notes that John Dean -- who, as Richard Nixon's White House counsel, learned a thing or two about the abuse of power -- called Bush's actions an impeachable offense, and she wants to know what others think. "Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents," Boxer writes. "I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible."

Of course, having the John Lewises and Barbara Boxers of the world talking about impeachment is one thing; getting the House Judiciary Committee to take up a resolution is another, and getting articles of impeachment adopted in the Republican-controlled House is quite another thing still. But Bush crossed a line when he took the law into his own hands on the question of surveillance -- as the reliably conservative editorial board of the Chicago Tribune writes today, "The only case the administration has made is that it thinks it can scorn the law" -- and he now may find that at least some others are willing to cross a line they wouldn't have breached before.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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