I have been listening to Alberto Gonzales testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today and I know I haven’t posted anything on this so I will throw my two cents in. After researching the administrations rationale and legal justification for the domestic spying program, or whatever fear invoking terrorist stopping title they are calling the program this week, as well as outside legal analysis of the legality and effectiveness of the program I have come to one conclusion. For lack of a better phrase the administration is FULL OF SHIT.
Now the administration has come out with many different lines of reasoning and rational for why this program is necessary as well as reasons why authorizing the program could only be done through executive order without the authorization of congress. I don’t really know where to start so I will just look at comments on certain lines of reasoning as they pop into my head.
As my illustrious colleague, Xtra, has pointed out one of the administrations reasons for the program is that 72 hours is not a long enough time period to seek a warrant and still be effective in hunting and tracking terrorist activities. This idea that 72 hours is not enough time is comical to me considering it was the president who told Congress to change the time limit to 72 hours in the PATRIOT Act. Now I understand that Washington is just one big slow bureaucracy, I do not doubt this, but from my research I have found that the FISA court is actually rather efficient. I don’t remember which article I read this in, so if I miss quote these statistics I apologize, but I believe that over the past four years or so there have been over 20,000 requests for warrants from the FISA court and only four or five of these requests have been denied. Further I believe I read somewhere that the longest it has taken to receive a judge’s approval for a warrant through the FISA court was 20 hours. Also if we are to believe the administrations reasoning then one would think that the president would welcome any legislation that would make the process of obtaining warrants easier. Yet in 2002 the president and the justice department rejected any need for legislation proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine that would make the process of obtaining warrants easier. So to me it appears that the administration has contradicted itself in regards to this reasoning that the process is too slow and cumbersome.
Another line the administration has used to justify this program is that (I am paraphrasing here), if this program was in place before 9/11 then 9/11 could have been prevented and that the current domestic spying program has helped stop potential terrorist attacks since 9/11. The administration has consistently reiterated that the wire taps only relate to communication between Americans and terrorists abroad. I approach these assertions with a great amount of skepticism considering that the administration has yet to actually release any details concerning the program to demonstrate that they were only targeting terrorists abroad. Furthermore it has been reported by the New York Times that according to FBI agents, whose job is to follow up and investigate any information received from the NSA, stated that virtually all of the information received were dead ends and forced the FBI to waste valuable resources following up on these dead ends. It was also reported by the Washington Post today that according to individuals familiar with the program that “Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls.” So the president and members of his administration consistently reiterate the importance of the program and its effectiveness, while those who actually carry out the program say it’s ineffective. Again this leaves me feeling rather skeptical of the administration.
Another issue is the general legality of the program. The president stated in a press conference on January 26 that “the FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It's an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also -- and we -- look -- I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do.” I realize that according to the president FISA is out of date in handling the threat of terrorism, and if he thinks that is the case then I would suggest he go to Congress with his concerns and receive the tools necessary to combat terrorism. I am actually pretty sure this is what he did when Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, but to simply circumvent the law in order to achieve this goal of protecting Americans is simply unacceptable. Now I am by no means a legal expert, so if any lawyers or law students out there would like to add to this please do, but it is my understanding that once a law is on the books it continues to be a law that must be followed until the law is updated or expires, I think that is what our system of laws that govern our country are based on. So even if the president feels that a certain law is out of date, I am rather sure that he (like every other citizen) must follow the law. This seems rather basic to me but maybe I am missing something.
Basically what this all comes down to is whether or not America is willing to simply trust the president and his administration concerning issues of civil liberties and the protection of them, I for one am in the majority of Americans who do not think that the president is being honest and straightforward with the American public. After all the lies from the Bush administration, i.e. the lead up for the war against Iraq, Valerie Plame, and what ever else you want to throw in here, I find it very difficult to simply trust the president, especially considering the fact that the NSA has in the past spied on anti-war Quakers in the United States and that both Rumsfeld and Cheney have wanted the president to be able to spy on American citizens without warrants for the past 30 years. I think there is much more to this program that is not being told to us, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there are many aspects of this program that are illegal.