Facebook Slider


Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!
Friday, 18 August 2006 05:19

Conservatives' Response to Federal Court Decision Striking Down Illegal Wiretapping? Attack the Judge. How Predictable!

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email


Sure enough, following yesterday's big federal court decision (pdf) striking down Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, conservatives have begun their predictable response: attack the judge who made the ruling, Anna Diggs Taylor.

"Liberal judge backs Dem agenda to weaken national security," blasts the RNC. House Speaker Dennis Hastert expressed outrage the judge would question the NSA program since it "saved the day by foiling the London terror plot" (even though there has been no evidence of this even being the case). The Wall Street Journal went so far as to say Americans "might die as a result" of the ruling.

Why do conservatives never have a better response to those who point out that the Bush Administration has repeatedly broken the law other than to say they are al Qaeda sympathizers? Like most others who have fallen in the sights of the Republican attack machine, Taylor's character and credibility are unquestionable.

Taylor was one of five women who graduated from Yale Law School in 1957, where she later said women who raised their hands in classes were considered show-offs. As not only a female but also an African-American at the time, she was unable to find employment in a private firm.

In addition to practicing as a county prosecutor, an assistant US attorney, and for the Department of Labor, among other places, Taylor also worked to defend and protect workers in the civil rights movement. She arrived in Mississippi to support the 1964 Freedom Summer to promote voter registration the same day activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner went missing, later to be found dead. Taylor had to overcome racist mobs there in her struggle to find the truth.

When President Carter nominated her to be Michigan's first black female federal judge in 1979, Senator Strom Thurmond attempted to acquire her file from the FBI to smear her and portray her as a communist. Thurmond didn't even attend her hearings or confirmation, which was approved without opposition.

Judge Taylor became the first black female chief federal chief judge in Michigan's Eastern District in 1996, and her name was mentioned as a candidate to take Justice Harry Blackmun's seat on the Supreme Court in 1994. In 1998 she shifted to semiretirement as a senior federal judge, and has a reduced caseload.

It is completely inappropriate to challenge Taylor's motivations in her NSA wiretapping opinion. At the end of the day, all she really said was that the president doesn't have the authority to do absolutely everything he wants, and that Americans are afforded certain rights under the Constitution. Only radical Republicans could have a problem with such ideas. Far from being an "activist judge," Taylor is simply doing her job in the constitutional system of checks and balances by trying to limit our activist executive.

What's more, they are accusing her of having a narrow interpretation of the law, writing flamboyantly, and just trying to get in the news. Sounds a lot like their judicial hero, Antonin Scalia. The difference is that he's on their side.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has already started its appeal, it is possible that Judge Taylor's ruling will be overturned by partisan Republican judges. In the meantime, her order that wiretapping be ceased will not go into effect if an appellate court issues a stay. Nevertheless, this latest admonishment following the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision about detainee rights is an important step in the increasing challenges to Bush's usurpation of power. Judge Taylor should be celebrated for her courage.