Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush Press Conference

In his conference, the President explained that a brief contact with a potential criminal is justification enough for intense surveillance unless the surveillance is politically harmful.

In the first, he explained that it was justifiable on its face to surveil people connected in any loose sense to al Qaeda. The fact that someone is prepared to assert such a connection is safeguard enough.

He's refusing to release photographs of himself with Jack Abramoff because he talks to lots of people and shakes lots of hands, and doesn't see why anyone should tar him simply for shaking a hand.

And that would be a fair point if he weren't insisting that any connection at all to al Qaeda is sufficient to justify intense invasions of privacy.

The logic he's applying in case 1 is: Person A is suspected of being a criminal, or at least of associating with criminals and wanting to be one. Person B, simply by contacting person A, is a legitimate target of surveillance.

The logic of the second case is: Person A is a confessed criminal and an associate of murderers and other criminals, convicted and indicted. Person B, simply by contacting person A, should not be a target of surveillance.

No one minds surveilling terrorists. That's fine. Warrants aren't there to interfere with surveilling criminals, they make certain that the surveillance doesn't sweep up innocent people. Which is exactly why the administration claims it doesn't want to release these photos. I wish they'd extend that same protection and some sort of safeguards to the rest of us.

Now the President explains, "FISA passed in 1978… it's 2006." Also, he asked his staff if they could do this under the existing law, they said "no," so we went ahead with it anyway. But he resents the implication that he circumvented the law. Very bizarre.