I must say, I was rather blindsided by the recent warrantless wiretapping move by Bush and the Justice department. I have been even more intrigued by the many varied and interesting takes on it’s legality. However after looking at all the different sides of the argument, I am confronted by some rather disturbing points that lead me to a rather disturbing conclusion.
Among the articles I read was an interesting article by a Harvard Political Review writer who makes the seemingly irrefutable claim that not only are warrantless wiretaps legal, but they are necessary. The article makes a strong argument for the legality of the new law, however I couldn’t help but notice that it made some rather glaring assumptions in two important aspects. It seems to make the president entirely immune to the law, and it does not actually explain why this is even necessary…
Is the president not subject to the law?
First, the fact that any legislative change had to occur for this would indicate that it was not legal prior to the enactment of these changes. This would mean that Bush had, in fact, committed a crime, and is In effect, rewriting the laws to make his actions legal after the fact.
I don’t know about you, but I was not aware that as president of the United States of America, you were allowed to do whatever you wanted. Yes, as president, you are vested with much more power than the average citizen. But You are still a citizen, and STILL beholden unto the law. In fact the president should be even more so than the average citizen.
I find it irritating that Bush is treating the law of this country like his own personal diary, and Ignores and rewrites them to suit his purposes. This last act is just another in a long string of actions to legitimize actions that would clearly have been illegal had he been subject to the same laws as everyone else. If the president of the United states is simply allowed to change laws whenever it suits their fancy, then the laws become meaningless.
Is it really necessary?
Now even if we disregard the legality of his actions, there is still the issue of the actual need for such a law. This new legislation ostensibly makes it OK for anyones privacy to be invaded without explanation or accountability, so long as it is for the purposes of international surveillance. Here’s what makes no sense to me. The whole purpose of the warrant, as I see it, is to demonstrate a valid need for such an invasion of privacy to occur. This step is needed in order to prevent the abuse of innocent civillians on a random whim. It is there to prevent the needless violation of an American Citizens rights.
Why, exactly, would the government see the need to be able to wiretap anyones phone without a warrant? I do not get this part. Is the government unable to carry out wiretapping programs because of the current laws? And if so, why would that be? Perhaps because they would be illegal otherwise? And is there not a good reason for it’s illegality? Why is it so damaging (according to Bush) to have legal oversight of his international wiretapping programs?
Lets face it, these wiretaps are primarily going to be on US soil, so don’t kid yourself, this is just as much about the legalization of the violation of the rights of American Citizens as it is about fighting terror. Personally, I see no advantages of warrantless wiretaps. And what’s even more telling, is that in spite of the massive media coverage on the issue, there is precious little discussed by anyone, about why, exactly, warrantless wiretaps are a useful, effective and necessary anti-terrorism tool. In fact, I could find no articles that convincingly covered any good solid benefits to it. None. Not one.
Don’t beleive me? Try it yourself. And I’m not talking about the possible benefits of wiretaps on US soil. I mean any concrete reasoning and or evidence/proven benefits for warrantless wiretaps as opposed to the judicially approved warrant based approach. Go look for yourself. And please come back and tell me I’m wrong. Because what really bugs me (pun intended) is that this law effectively also opens the door for a wide range of other wiretap programs that they need not tell anyone about. You do the math.
There are only two possible advantages I see to this, and neither of them are particularly encouraging good.
First, there is effectively no legal accountablility. None. If you are not required to get a warrant, you don’t have to justify your actions, and you can effectively do whatever you want. This is not a good thing. That process exists to prevent mistakes, keep people in authority in check, and most of all, make sure no laws are broken. Now… Nada.
The second, and rather galling reason, in this bloggers humble opinion, is that under the new law, Bush can no longer be held liable for his illegal actions. My take? There is no need for Warrantless Wiretaps. The prez is simply trying to avoid massive lawsuits…
Obama’s support for the FISA “compromise” – [Salon.com]
Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers – [New York Times]
Bush’s Wiretapping: Legal and Necessary – [Harvard Political Review]
NSA WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM – [Federation of American Scientists]
Three Media Mistakes on Warrantless Wiretapping – [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
The Threat to our Freedoms: President Bushs Authorization of Warrantless Wiretapping – [Espionage Unlimited]