Friday, August 18, 2006


Tap not my wires

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program is illegal and unconstitutional:

Judge 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. She rejected the administration?s repeated assertions that a 2001 Congressional authorization and the president?s constitutional authority allowed the program.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly when his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

This is particularly significant for two reasons. The unconstitutionality means that even a new law permitting it would fail on the same constitutional grounds. Such a law would have to be crafted specifically to deal with the constitutional issues. The illegality means that the president has broken the law, which some of us have been saying all along. This isn't just a misstep; it's a criminal abuse of power.

Those supporting the wiretapping program are, of course, pulling out the "activist judge" argument. She's a flaming liberal with her own agenda, they say. Mm. And the conservative judges that vote against abortion rights, they're what? Unbiased and fair? No agenda? You can't have it both ways. The Bush administration is appealing the decision, of course, as the other side would have if it had gone the other way. This will stop only at the Supreme Court, and the final decision will be made there. And we'll see if the administration's pack of "activist judges" do the right thing or not.

Interestingly, while Judge Taylor's decision requires an immediate cessation of the program, that order is suspended pending the appeal. Isn't that backward? Shouldn't they have to stop until and unless a higher court overturns the decision? That one puzzles me.

In any case, I'm pleased with this decision, and I do hope it stands. And it provides a good piece of evidence for the impeachment hearing....

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