Thursday, August 2, 2007

Emergency Wiretap Legislation

According to an article in Newsweek, Behind the Surveillance Debate, the emergency wiretapping legislation that the Bush Administration seeks is permission to tap into calls without a warrant. Allegedly, this is necessary to prevent the government from missing important information about terrorist activities.

But, why is the remedy to this to give authority to tap into phone calls "without a warrant"?

The purpose of a warrant is to require the administration to prove that they actually think they are going to get useful information about terrorists from their activities - and to make sure that they do not seek to obtain information having nothing to do with terrorists but, instead, having to do with, for example, political opponents or members of the press.

Clearly, if the administration has evidence that "this is important information about terrorists", then they should have no trouble getting a warrant. Indeed, the law should be written in such a way that this is the case. It is only when the government is listening in on people who might not be terrorists - people in whom Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Gonzales might have other interests - that warrants might be hard to come by.

Is the objection that there is not always time to get a warrant?

This has been answered. The law is written to allow the Administration to begin its surveillance while the warrant is being sought.

What matters is that some impartial third party look over the Administration's shoulder to determine when 'use' of executive power becomes 'abuse' of executive power. And given the moral character of the Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales crowd to date, who can say with a straight face that they are not abusing the fact that no court is looking over their shoulders when it comes to surveillance?

The 4th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits searches and seizures without a warrant. This is a vital part of our system of checks and balances. This is the only protection we have from an abusive administration that decides to use these powers to target political enemies.

This should not pass.

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