As we all delve deeper and deeper into Alberto “Gonzo” Gonzales’ personal bout of Alzheimer’s or dereliction of duty or whatever it was, the Washington Post proves that no fact is too clear to be confused, if you want to:
WASHINGTON, July 28 — A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
“Privacy issues” are a legal issues, aren’t they? If the Justice Department is conducting surveillance which is unconstitutional – or if at least the lawyers at the Justice Department thought they were unconstitutional – that would be enough to quit over. Granted, we don’t know precisely what caused them to quit, but it’s really not that much in doubt, either.
At the same time, we have the president demanding that FISA be updated. . . . again. As the Anonymous Liberal points out on CrooksandLiars.com, the whole purpose of the Patriot Act was in fact to amend FISA for the purposes of counter-terrorism, as even the president himself acknowledged previously. That the conduct of the NSA’s surveillance program doesn’t fit the already promiscuous Patriot Act should be enough to give Americans reason to have concern over this program.
There is reason to believe that the FISA law does, indeed, require some retooling. Especially after the Patriot Act’s breakneck-speed passage through Congress. As I’ve discussed in an article when the NSA Wiretapping story first broke, the definition of wiretapping is inadequate to the modern landscape of servers, cell phones and wireless Internet. However, the Bush Administration has proven itself beyond a doubt the least-qualified group of people in whom to vest such trust. Care must be taken not to trample privacy rights and above all, wisdom must guide the restructuring of FISA law.
There is simply no reason to have any confidence in the president at all in his most important duty as the executive of the Constitution of the United States.
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