Ever since the story broke on the existance of unwarrented wire tapping, there have been a variety of opinions on the subject, from outright disgust that the government would spy on Americans (and those who might like to use it for less than ethical purposes) to those who say that the program is essential for nation security and the War on Terror.
So, when the story broke today that a Detroit judge rules thd unwarranted version as illegal, I was quite happy. I’m all for using technology to root out and eliminate terrorists threats, and I’ve never had a problem with the War on Terror in principle, because it’s a good principle. However, the ability to wiretap anywhere for any or no reason is not a good thing. We are a country of law and due process, and everybody should respect that, including the President. I do understand that the wiretapping is for overseas calls to suspected terrorists, but I don’t think the oft-used excuse of “they’re not U.S. citizens, anyway,” is a pile of crap, to put it bluntly. We call ourselves democratic, and a free nations, so we must show a good example.
Now, what to do if this becomes illegal permanently? Well, easy answer, and it’s only four letters: FISA! There is a court set up specifically for this kind of thing, and FISA is it. Worried about national security? Well, no worries when the court is secret, so that nobody will ever see what the warrants are about. So, what’s the problem? Intelligence officals, and others, have said that procuring a warrant takes too long, especially when terrorists move fast. Well, fine then. Do your wiretapping, but you still have to submit a warrant at some point. On O’Reilly a few days ago, an interviewee suggested this very thing, that you can do your wiretapping, but you have submit the warrant request later. She didn’t get into specifics, though. So, I say no more than two weeks from the time of the wiretap should the warrant request be made.
I mean, come on, about what is the government really worrying? According to the Wikipedia article on the FISA Court, five out of 18,765 warrants were rejected. Five! So, I think the government having to get a warrant (just like everyone else in security) can only be a good thing. It creates record of action (even if classified), and stops what I see as a dangerous precedent. While I don’t agree with all depictions of the President as some evil tyrannical authoritarian, that’s not to say a furute President won’t be. If this precedent stays through the next Presidents, what is to stop a future chief executive from claiming terrorism as justification for spying with warrants, while really using it to spy on a political opponent. Spying has happened before (Nixon, anyone?), and I don’t doubt it’ll happen again. So…review. Getting useful information on terrorists is good, but warrentless wiretaps are bad. Solution? Wiretap, then submit your request within two weeks, because really, it’s bound to be accepted, anyway.