Friday, December 23, 2005

A Conservative Objects to Bush Wire Tapping

An e-mail from Brian Cain:
In your “Clinton Claimed Authority to Order No-Warrant Searches” post, you point out the problems with the media bias with respect to the recent revelations about President Bush’s authorization of wiretaps. While I was surprised to learn that the President was not the first to authorize this sort of activity, I’m also curious why it should matter that President Clinton did so as well. Matters of media bias aside, I’m troubled that any executive would assume such a power.

The FISA seems to grant enormous powers to the executive to conduct intelligence operations (e.g. the tap-first-get-warrant-later provision), so I’m confused as to why the President needs to assume yet more power. As far as I know, the principle of stare decisis applies strictly to the judicial branch, so just because other US presidents have presumed to execute searches without getting a warrant doesn’t justify the current president doing the same.

I’ve stood behind all of the decisions that President Bush has made while in office, but this one has me nervous. When the President refers to his powers as Commander-in-Chief of the military, it makes me wonder where and when these new (or at least new to me) wartime powers end. I’ve read a couple of legal breakdowns that compare Congress’ AUMF with the Fourth Amendment and the FISA, but the issue for me is not “was this legal given the state of US laws at the time,” but “should we really allow this sort of thing to go on?” I can’t fathom how anyone would think that this sort of tradeoff is worthwhile. I think that this country should serve as a model of democracy, especially if we are to succeed in our attempts to offer it to other nations. If we let this news pass without taking any action, it seems like implicit support for military rule over self-rule.

Other conservatives that I’ve spoken with seem to side with the President, so maybe I’m all alone on this one. My support for the President has done just about a complete 180, to the point where I regret the choices that I made at the ballot box. I’m curious to hear your feelings on the subject.
Our thoughts on the subject are not that Bush was right or wrong, but rather that the media have been obtuse in reporting this, and that the obtuseness largely follows from their hostility toward Bush.

Bush is very much in the legal and historical mainstream in claiming the power to wiretap in the service of national security.

Being in the mainstream is not the same thing as being right.

But a sober consideration of this issue isn’t going to happen as long as the media and the Democrats view it as merely an opportunity to bash the president.


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