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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Two Sides to the NSA Spying Program, Pick One

The last few weeks two sides to an argument developed regarding the NSA spying program. The White House, as of late, has tried to play psych games with the public by trying to change the name of the program to Terrorist Surveillance Program. It is a smart strategy, if it works, because it changes the tone of the program from an invasion of privacy to protection of national security. The White House is taking the position that the program is necessary to protect the American people and that it is completely legal and within the scope of presidential powers and authority given by Congress when it authorized the Iraq War and also supported by article 2 in the U.S. constitution. Yet, every legal, UNBIASED expert disagrees with this assessment, and even some Republicans.

The Democrats are taking the side of civil rights violations and an abuse of presidential powers. Essentially, they are accusing the President of breaking the law, though not in such an articulate manner. God forbid a Democrat grew some brass ones and spoke his mind. But as always, they seem to be hesitating where they should be in a winning position. They are coming off as weak when the White House, clearly in a weaker and less legally certain position is moving into an offensive mode. Leave it to the Democrats to always seem weak, even when they really are not.

Ok. One party supports the transgression blindly (at least House Republicans do), while the other condemns it. But no one, even the more emboldened media seems to express the fact that while nobody likes the idea of being spied upon, almost everyone would agree that there are likely Al-Qaeda operatives inside the United States and they must be identified. The disagreement comes in the approach to it. There is no logical argument to be made as to why the Bush Administration has circumvented the process by authorizing warrantless and paperless wiretaps. The argument that speed is of the essence is null since the warrants can be obtained up to 2 weeks after the act has taken place. Another argument is that maybe there were so many wiretaps (it would have to be thousands for the load to be unmanageable) that the FISA court would not be able to handle it. But are we really to believe that if there are thousands of wiretaps, all of them deal with Al-Qaeda people? There probably are not even that many known, I emphasize known, Al-Qaeda operatives in the world. Can we honestly believe then that all those wiretaps are warranted? How can it ever be proven that someone was wiretapped and his civil rights violated when there is no paperwork or anything that can prove the wiretap even existed? The spying program is being run without any accountability, and unaccountability inevitably leads to abuse. The only logical argument for this spying program is that the White House does not want a paper trail because it does not want it known who is being spied on. And a warrantless paperless wiretap does not leave a paper trail. Does that make any sense to you? It does to me. Then again this is just a possibility based on logic. Let's wait until Congress investigates (hopefully thoroughly enough) to make any such assertions.

Another misconception, and this is where Democrats need to be forceful in their argument, is the idea that because Democrats want there to be a legal process to obtain warrants they are weak on terrorism. That is just a flat out LIE. No Democrat has suggested that the NSA should not intercept suspicious phone calls and email. All they have done is demand that a record of it be kept, AS IS MANDATED BY THE LAW, in order to protect the American public from inherent abuses. To me that is not unreasonable, in fact I believe that is the way it should be. The process does not interfere with any activity performed by the NSA. And if, because technology has changed radically since 1978, the FISA court rejects certain petitions such as monitoring of disposable cell phones and such, then go to Congress and request a revision and update of the court's requirements etc. This entire issue has never been about national security as the White House wants it framed, this issue is about protecting the public from the abuses certain to occur when a government agency as powerful as the NSA is given extraordinary powers without any accountability. But, alas, leave it to the Democrats to look like a bunch of wimps when they should hold the upper hand. When the congressional hearings into this issue commence in two weeks, the outcome will be determined more by the pressure applied by an angry public, and a few moderate Republicans worried about re-election, than by a perpetually ineffective Democratic minority.

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