Ruled Unconstitutional, Wiretapping Continues For Now

Although a federal judge has ruled wiretapping to be unconstitutional, the Justice Department has filed an immediate appeal and succeeded in allowing the wiretapping operation to continue for the time being.

Adam Liptak and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times write:

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor

In a sweeping decision that drew on history, the constitutional separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, a Carter administration appointee who sits on the U.S. District Court in Detroit, rejected almost every argument put forth by the administration.
Taylor ruled that the program violated both the Fourth Amendment and a 1978 law that requires warrants from a secret court for intelligence wiretaps involving people in the United States.
The Fourth Amendment protects Americans against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

The Wall Street Journal challenges the opinion of Taylor's court in an editorial, criticizing her for falling into the "temptations to be hailed as Civil Libertarian of the Year." (We live in an age where universities teach them and people are paid for such rhetorical arts!)

Today, August 18, 2006, I searched the WSJ for articles on the ruling and found only few references to it, and only in the online edition. Perhaps, the Saturday edition will have more.  Yesterday, there was a small on-line paragraph, in the "Washington Wire" section of the paper, noting that "A new Harris Interactive poll released late Wednesday shows a majority of Americans favor increasing surveillance of suspected terrorists through cameras, banking records and cellphones. But many say such actions should require authorization by Congress." Supposedly the polsters did not see it fit to ask whether the public believed the courts had anything to say about the constitutionality of such matters involving the exeuctive power of the government. In the meantime, it can be relatively easy to guess how the highest court will rule in a case like this. (There are also links to the ruling itself and a short analysis.)

The Washington Post has more as is expected. They also have also posted the text of the ruling (a free, relatively low-impact registration gives you access).  The cover article by Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer has a picture of Judge Taylor, who looks like no push over. The Washington Post also reports President Bush's response to the ruling. Reuters has a video report as well as a written report on the President's response.

The program allows the government to bypass warrant requirements and monitor communications, such as e-mail and telephone calls, into and out of the United States by people believed linked to al Qaeda or related groups.

How that determination is made is left unclear with the argument that revealing it would be a security risk by itself, and I think that is the real core of the problem. (Of course, if you are a believer in artificial intelligence, matters can be different but then you're living on the boundaries of imaginary worlds like the one depicted in the movie Brazil.)

American Civil Liberties Union was one of the plaintiffs in the case. ACLU has a page that shows some of the Americans who have been targets of spying. ACLU has streaming audio responses to the federal court ruling, including one by Christopher Hitchens who was no opposer to the "war on terror" by any measure. Others providing audio responses are Anthony Romero, executive director of ACLU, and Melissa Goodman, ACLU staff attorney. Goodman gives a very good summary of the decision by Judge Taylor's court. (It is worth noting that in another case, Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, in which the Supreme Court strikes down military tribunals of the Guantánamo Bay detainees in June of 2006, the ACLU had filed a friend-of-the-court briefing.)

Personally, I have nothing to hide but I think the power to wiretap is one of the darkest powers on our modern earth that's granted to governments. It is very easy for governments to abuse it and it throws a dark suspicion onto all conversations that may be out of the mold. It works in subtle ways to send a very strong signal against all activities that may only be deemed as in opposition.

People are put in their place at the level of their subconscious. This is a quiet but true leveling into "the public" at a massive scale. (I suppose Kierkegaard who have found reason to write about it.)

There's an undertone, as some polls seem to indicate, that most believe this taking away of rights from them will only apply to those who are not from their own communities. Somehow they feel themselves secure. Since they believe they are not in danger and that the policy is for their safety, they willingly give in to the massive-scale leveling that occurs because it levels everything around them, they believe. However, they're already leveled into their own, and they rarely know it.

It is amazing how fear can be used to disarm people of the most elementary aspects of their existence--i.e. the ability to feel secure in their relationships with others, including those who are different.

We have come very far from the time of those who wrote the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution.


"Since they believe they are not in danger and that the policy is for their safety, they willingly give in to the massive-scale leveling that occurs because it levels everything around them, they believe."

Amazing, I had the same exact thought when I read about this:

<a href="">what the Iranian Government is doing.

Why would they do that?

Posted by ThinGuy on August 18, 2006 at 06:08 AM PDT #

Let's not forget that satellite television can get banned in the U.S. in a much more effective way.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on August 25, 2006 at 04:08 PM PDT #

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