Bush and his wiretaps: one of us doesn’t get it

Yesterday a U.S. judge declared that the National Security Administration’s (NSA) warrantless domestic eavesdropping and surveillance is unconstitutional.

Quick to defend his administration’s position, President Bush today declared, “Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.”

Okay, Mr. Bush, I’ll bite. I’m elated over the decision. Explain to me, then, why the FISA law requiring a warrant for wiretaps and surveillance does not apply to you and the NSA. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the nature of our world today; why, there’s evildoers everywhere you turn. But we have laws to deal with those folks, and we have a government of checks and balances to keep everything running like it should (at least, that’s the way I learned it in school). So explain to me again, Mr. President, why today’s world somehow necessitates your breaking the law of the land, whereas yesterday’s did not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to legal government surveillance. The NSA can wiretap everyone in the U.S., as far as I’m concerned, as long as they have a warrant for it. It’s a good example of checks and balances at work.

I just don’t get it; does illegal surveillance somehow work better than legal surveillance? Do warrants somehow short-circuit the listening devices or something? Has the government caught and convicted more terrorists with illegal surveillance than with legal surveillance?

Maybe Mr. Bush is right. Maybe I really don’t understand.

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