Jacob Sullum

Yet a McCain adviser contradicted that position in a May letter to National Review Online, saying the Arizona senator believes "neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001." He added that "John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from [terrorist] threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution."

The reference to Article II implies that the president has constitutional authority to flout statutory restrictions on wiretaps, the very position that McCain disavowed in December. Pressed by The New York Times to explain the blatant contradiction, a campaign spokesman wrote in an email message, "To the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn't be read into as anything otherwise." Thanks for clearing that up.

In response to the Times story, McCain himself claimed, "it's ambiguous as to whether the president acted within his authority" when he ordered the warrantless wiretaps. No more need be said on the subject, according to McCain, because we should "move forward" instead of "looking back." The question for voters is whether they want to move forward with a president whose commitment to obey the law is ambiguous.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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