Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Topical: Razzle Dazzle Redux

Cheney has gone on the offensive (isn't he usually?) to promote the use of wiretaps to intercept terrorist communications.

The trouble is, the true controversy isn't about how wiretaps help fight terrorism. It's about the rule of law, due process, and balance of powers.

Ever since the NY Times broke the story about the presidential Executive Order authorizing the NSA to tap all overseas communications between individuals in the U.S. with those outside the U.S., the administration has been justifying the use of this program to prevent and defend against terrorists.

And I agree with them. About the usefullness of this program to help in the defense of the United States. And so does the majority of those polled. Wiretaps, and the sharing of information between agencies, are very useful moves in advancing the defense of our country.

But the real issue, continuously left unaddressed by the administration, is why is the administration so afraid of getting warrants first for these wiretaps? What is their concern about oversight by the FISA court that was established the last time the executive branch exceeded its authority?

From what I can tell, the FISA court has rarely (ever?) denied an administration request for a wiretap warrant for intelligence. All the administration ever needed to was to present some smidgeon of cause for why an individual was suspect (and "making late night calls to Osama Bin Laden" was definitely enough justification). But there must be something that the administration is doing (or thought it might do) to want to bypass even this rubber stamp of due process.

Paranoid b.s. on my part? Perhaps. But then why not address the warrant issue head on? Why try to obfuscate the debate with more nationalist demagoguery about the need to fight terrorists with "terrorists bad, we fight terrorists, so we good" pedantry?

If "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose", then I guess we seem to be getting more free every day.

Update: Some very good fact checking work and consolidation has been done here.


At Thursday, January 05, 2006, Blogger Rick Fisk said...

Good one. From what I understand, the US has been getting around the wiretap issue by making Echelon available to friendly countries. Echelon made it possible to intercept all communications going into foreign countries but the law forbid the US from tapping communications that originated in the US. So, o get around this, they initiated treaties with the UK and Canada and other countries that installed Echelon equipment overseas and "shared" information with those countries.

Domestic wiretaps from what I recall are as you say, authorized with the special federal court system which I perceived to be a mere rubber stamp formality.

So I am also puzzled at the need to bypass the current system.

This administration is wierd. Rice goes off to the G7 nations and claimes that the meaning of torture is "legal" in nature - similar to Bill Clinton's "is" rationale. With the amount of hubris employed by the Bush administration every day, I keep expecting Martial Law to be initiated at any given moment.

At Friday, January 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woman: "Order", eh, 'oo does 'e think 'e is?
Arthur: I am your king!
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you!
Arthur: You don't vote for kings!
Woman: Well 'ow'd you become king then?
(holy music up)
Arthur: The Lady of the Lake-- her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite,
held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by
divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why
I am your king!
Man: (laughingly) Listen: Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power
derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some... farcical
aquatic ceremony!
Arthur: (yelling) BE QUIET!
Man: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some
watery tart threw a sword at you!!
Arthur: (coming forward and grabbing the man) Shut *UP*!
Man: I mean, if I went 'round, saying I was an emperor, just because some
moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
Arthur: (throwing the man around) Shut up, will you, SHUT UP!
Man: Aha! Now we see the violence inherent in the system!
Arthur: SHUT UP!
Man: (yelling to all the other workers) Come and see the violence inherent


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