Letter to the Editor: Bush and Spying on Phone Calls
I appreciated the letter from Brian Cain that you posted on the blog regarding the Bush wiretaps story, but I was disappointed by your response. You failed to address Mr. Cain’s primary point — that the wiretaps, whether legal or not, are an affront to democracy. Instead, you dwelled on the media’s coverage of the issue and tried to excuse Mr. Bush’s behavior by virtue of Mr. Clinton’s past position.A fair question, and here’s the answer.
Frankly, the media is merely a peripheral part of this story. That you declined to come out explicitly either in favor of the wiretaps or against them is glaring. Instead of taking the media to task for some perceived slights against the president, how about you take the president to task for a very real slight against civil liberties?
First, we dealt with the media in those posts because we think the first thing that needs to happen is to put the partisan bias aside and look at this in historical perspective.
Only after we do that can we have a meaningful discussion.
People in the Mainstream Media are constantly insisting that “we’re not the issue! George Bush is the issue!”
But the media are the issue, or at least an important issue. Since they genuinely believe that they represent unbiased Truth, they don’t take kindly to people criticizing them. But it won’t work anymore.
We are going to pay attention to that man behind the curtain. We simply aren’t going to accept what the mainstream media say as the complete and absolutely true story.
Time to get used to that, folks.
Personally, we’re not at all outraged by what Bush did, because it was pretty much authorized by Congress — the main dispute being whether he should have gone to a special court after wiretaps were put in place, rather than not at all.
The truth is that some people need to be wiretapped. Another attack of the magnitude of 9/11 would have all kinds of nasty consequences, including impositions on privacy far in excess of anything done to date, and also make the lives of Arabs and Muslims living in the U.S. a lot less pleasant.
None of this is really new. Echelon was not a Bush invention.
We think the real question is not whether the government is going to do things like this, but what checks and balances there will be.
So calling for the Administration to submit to court supervision on this (especially if the court in question is reasonably sensitive to security needs), or calling for more Congressional oversight are reasonable positions to take.
If the President has an inherent power to do things like this where national security is involved (a position strongly asserted by the Clinton administration), then Congress can’t take it away by statute.
Congress does have the Constitutional power of the purse, and can refuse to fund activities of which it disapproves. And it has the power of “oversight.” It can drag bureaucrats administering any Federal program before it and demand answers about what is going on.
But saying that government simply can’t tap peoples’ phones, nor intercept e-mails isn’t a reasonable argument.
And yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world where we didn’t face threats of another 9/11. Nor of the Madrid or London bombings here on American soil.