Sunday, February 26, 2006

Repost: Why I'm outraged about the domestic spying

I posted this almost a month ago, and it's still true. A good starting point for your letter to the editor.


First off, I agree with Senator Hagel:
HAGEL: I don’t believe, from what I’ve heard… that he has the authority now to do what he’s doing. Now, maybe he can convince me otherwise, but that’s OK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But not yet.

HAGEL: Not yet. But that’s OK. If he needs more authority, he just can’t unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law. He needs to come back, work with us, work with the courts if he has to, and we will do what we need to do to protect the civil liberties of this country and the national security of this country.
I don't believe the President should break the law. I know that this view marks me as a radical, but so be it.

I think we should teach science in science class, that we shouldn't lie to children, and the President should uphold the law. Hence, I support teaching evolution, oppose teaching creationism, and oppose warrantless wiretapping.

In 2003, the Justice Department specifically withdrew a proposal that would have granted exemptions big enough to move this program through (specifically, by allowing "the President told me to" as a legal defense). The Justice Department specifically warned that a proposal to lower the standard of proof needed for this sort of wiretapping might be unconstitutional, even though that's why they claim the program was necessary.

Is there an opportunity to turn this issue into a "Democrats are weak on national security" wedge? Maybe, but only if concerned citizens let the advocates of unchecked government power define the issues.

Maybe this program helped catch a terrorist, but it probably didn't. The NSA is overworked as it is, there are too few language specialists there or in other intelligence agencies to analyze the contents of the calls they get within the law. Adding to the workload is more likely to slow them down and make them less efficient.

But the difference between warrantless wiretapping and warranted wiretapping is not effectiveness. The difference is that one is within the law, the other isn't. Effectiveness and legality are orthogonal concepts, independent of one another. If the program is truly necessary and effective, it's worth Congress's time to make it legal. If it is neither effective nor necessary, then why bother?