The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, February 10, 2006

Reasonableness Has an Expiration Date 

I know it's very unbloglike... but with some of these more weighty controversial topics, I'm trying to slow down my responses to them so that I can take in more information before hand, and make more reasoned judgements. Sue me. One topic where I've been silent of late is the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program. First of all, Democrats who are crying bloody murder are quickly losing me in their arguments because from what I can tell, they keep complaining about things Bush isn't doing, instead of what he is. Straw man arguments quickly lose my respect... and it seems that's all the left can muster these days.

From all the information that has been made available, the scope of the intrusions being made are fairly limited and well defined. These are only being made on international communications, where one party is known to be a terrorist. Compare that to what Roosevelt approved in WWII... and Bush doesn't seem to be so bad does he?

Did Bush break the law, and was the law he supposedly broke even constitutional? To be honest... there is way too much legal wrangling going on for me (or even a lot of lawyers) to really say for sure. This is the sort of thing that lawyers live for of course. It involves complicated questions of precedence, constitutional law, and legal construction that makes most people's eyes roll to the back of their head, but makes lawyer's panties wetter than a teenage girl staring at a poster of Brad Pitt.

Instead, most normal people like you and I understand, and really only appreciate, basic tenants of law in our society. One is that the President is the Commander-in-Chief, and is constitutionally appointed to prevent attacks on this country, especially in a time of declared war (like we're in now). Signals intelligence against our enemies in that war certainly falls within that provision. Another basic tenant is our 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. To that end, I'd like to bring up a couple points.

First, these wiretaps aren't being made in the auspices of fighting crime per se. They're first and foremost being made to prevent an attack by and enemy in the time of war. While terrorist arrests may be made as a result of these wiretaps, and resulting charges may be thrown out as a result of 4th Amendment violations, that doesn't actually make the program itself illegal. If the goal of preventing a terrorist attack is fulfilled, then I think that's a worthwhile, and reasonable goal in and of itself. Preventing an imminent attack, and throwing a person in jail are two separate events. The President is first and foremost concerned with the first. The latter is merely gravy.

My largest concern is regarding the reasonableness of these wiretaps from a 4th Amendment perspective. From what I have read, the scope and need are certainly reasonable. However, the one question that has not been answered by anyone, nor has it been asked by anyone, is when will it end? A program such as this, which continues indefinitely would, in my mind at least, lose the label of reasonableness very quickly. A reasonable search is one that has a limited scope, not just in how many people are affected, but in how long they're affected. So how long will this program continue? Will it end when we pull our last troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Will it continue as long as we're engaged in the "War on Terror"? If that's the time line, then how do we know when that war has ended? Will it be like the "War on Drugs"... which has no end in sight?

Government programs which have existed for a long time quickly become part of government habit, and then expand. Think I'm kidding? Then why are we still paying a 107 year old "luxury tax" on phones to pay for the Spanish American War?


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About Me

Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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