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Monday, August 6, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping

The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The court’s only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted. It will not scrutinize the cases of the individuals being monitored.

The law also gave the administration greater power to force telecommunications companies to cooperate with such spying operations. The companies can now be compelled to cooperate by orders from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.

Ok, so we are going to empower specific individuals within the executive branch with the power to eavesdrop on Americans on American soil sans judicial oversight. Why it is so impossible to have a system in place that would allow for oversight of a power that could be easily abused continues to baffle me.

It isn’t that I do not understand that there might very well be good reasons for intercepting a phone call between a suspect and an innocent party. However, the notion that the right to so should rest with political appointees without some sort of check in the process is problematic and strikes me as an avenue to easy violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

While I do not want to make this issue solely about current occupants of the office, or even about this administration (as the changes that are being fashioned now will have long term consequences) but, can anyone watch the recent performance of Alberto Gonzales and say that he is someone you want to have this power? Or, if one wishes to expand the issue, how about Janet Reno with the power in question?

And I can’t help but think about Mr. Chertoff and his amazing gut. While the Secretary of Homeland Security is not empowered directly here, it is an office that would clearly be involved, at least in an advisory role, in the overall area of counter-terrorism. However, that isn’t the main reason I think of Chertoff’s gut. Rather, the very fact that someone in Chertoff’s very serious position would go around making such irresponsible and unanalytical statements (that even got wrong the notion of al Qaeda favoring summer attacks) should give us all pause when we look at the issue of empowering specific individuals to act without oversight.

It is always best to assume potential incompetence and/or abuse and design the institutions of the state accordingly, rather than assume the best and empower from there. However, in the current era of fear, this prudent line of thinking (which was key in the design of the US Constitution) appears to have been shelved.

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Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror | |


  1. […] Original post by Dr. Steven Taylor […]

    Pingback by Bush Signs New Wiretap Law : — Monday, August 6, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  2. You said it, Steven: no political appointee should have this power, whether an appointee of the Republican, Democratic, or, for that matter, Green party.

    This authority should reside in an independent authority, checked by judicial oversight.

    Comment by MSS — Monday, August 6, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Your so right about the importance of oversight, especially with all the problems in the vice presidents office, with them not sharing information like they should.

    Just think if Cheney really was president how closed off everything would be. And actually he was! Check out this site that posted his home where he was president for a few hours.

    I mean come on!

    Comment by Brian — Monday, August 6, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  4. This guy must think that reality is not about timing. He seems to think the horse will stay in the barn when the door remains open until it is convenient to close. He says he does not understand. Maybe he ought to ask a simple farmer to explain it to him.

    Comment by Clint Zupancic — Monday, August 6, 2007 @ 4:59 pm

  5. I am in the middle, we can’t fight them with clean rules, cause they have no rules, but we can’t ignore privacy. On the other hand, I have no problem if they listen to me, I doubt they have the time nor resources to listen to my trivial converstations.

    Comment by Joaquin — Wednesday, August 8, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

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