Bush declares immunity from Patriot Act oversight

Friday, March 24, 2006

On March 9, 2006, U.S. President George Bush signed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, which contained requirements for Congressional oversight of Executive use of the Act's powers. In a statement immediately following the signing ceremony, however, it was revealed that Bush "did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers."

Such signing statements typically allow the President to inform Congress about how he interprets the bill he has just signed into law. However, Bush's declaration that he would not follow the oversight rules if doing so would "impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties" is seen as extraordinary by legal scholars, who feel it contradicts language in the bill directly, and may violate the system of check-and-balance on which the U.S. government is founded.

The controversy surrounding the statement follows several other high-profile cases where Bush has claimed constitutional authority to bypass a law, including a claim that wartime powers permitted wiretaps of international phone calls without warrants, and a signing statement bypassing the McCain Detainee Amendment.