Monday, December 19, 2005

NPR Covers Wire-Tapping Debate

All Things Considered began today with three pieces on the story that the President authorised warrantless domestic spying.

Click for my take on the issue.
As I see it there is a conflict between two competing, and it seems, mutually exclusive concerns.

  1. How does one respond quickly and efficiently to act of terrorism before they can kill thousands>

  2. And
  3. How does one protect our sacred civil liberties and rights?

One can imagine that the Government does believe it has a need to know quickly what those threats are before they occur. Since it can take two days before the special court to obtain a warrant, if the Government had reason to believe they did not have those two days, what then? Well, we'd probably have another 9-11 Commission who would argue something needed to be done, but that wouldn't happen until people died.

On the other hand, the reporter's question in the first piece is quite important. Lord Acton's fear is very real. And in the past the both pernicious and benevolent rulers alike used the argument that these "emergency" powers are in your best interests, simple people.

So, there needs to be a balance, obviously. But how? I don't know that at the time I type this I have that answer.

In any case, I think much of this will turn on whether the President's assertion that this is spying on intercepted foreign communication (either before it enters the United State or after it leaves it) is true. If it is true, then I suspect the legal; advice he was given is actually sound, even if it causes him no end to embarrassment in the near term.

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