Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Well Done

I've not posted on the FISA controversy for a while, primarily because there's nothing new to report: The executive branch persists in defending the unwarranted surveillance program as necessary, despite the ample provisions for speed inherent within the text of the FISA. The latest from Gonzales:
In his address, Gonzales said, "I keep hearing, 'Why not FISA?' Why didn't the president get orders from the FISA court?

"It is imperative for national security that we can detect reliably, immediately and without delay whenever communications associated with al-Qaida enter or leave the United States."

Gonzales told his audience: "You may have heard about the provision of FISA that allows the president to conduct warrantless surveillance for 15 days following a declaration of war. That provision shows that Congress knew that warrantless surveillance would be essential in wartime."

Evasive bordering on non-responsive, sir. The FISA provides for speed, with section 1805 specifically stating:
(f) Emergency orders
Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, when the Attorney General reasonably determines that—
(1) an emergency situation exists with respect to the employment of electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information before an order authorizing such surveillance can with due diligence be obtained; and
(2) the factual basis for issuance of an order under this subchapter to approve such surveillance exists;
he may authorize the emergency employment of electronic surveillance if a judge having jurisdiction under section 1803 of this title is informed by the Attorney General or his designee at the time of such authorization that the decision has been made to employ emergency electronic surveillance and if an application in accordance with this subchapter is made to that judge as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance.

To my knowledge, and I've skimmed the news on this regularly, the administration keeps citing the need for speed, yet no one has been able to proffer any explanation as to why the three-day rule is unworkable in that context. I can only assume that there is none, otherwise why not point it out?

Yes, it's a pain to acquire a warrant, filling out dozens of forms proving why you need access to the suspect materials. In a prior life, I've sworn a time or two at the tediousness of the paperwork. But I understood - it's meant to be rigorous, to ensure our rights aren't violated. If you successfully impinge upon the process, even with the best of intentions, the same "shortcuts" could serve to dismantle your own rights under a less-scrupulous administration.

Given the lack of any solid explanation, I can only conclude that the administratration's position on following the law is simply that if it's not convenient, they shouldn't have to do it. I'm sorry, but "bogus" doesn't begin to cover that attitude. So I was very gratified to see this demonstration at Georgetown:
During his speech, more than a dozen students staged a silent protest by turning their backs to Gonzales, reports CBS News' Stephanie Lambidakis. Five students wearing black hoods unfurled a banner with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

Silent, powerful, effective. Nice work.

Prior posts are here and here, if you want to read a brain-dump as I worked through the language.

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