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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Everybody's doing it, why can't he

From Drudge:

Bill Clinton Signed Executive Order that allowed Attorney General to do searches without court approval Clinton, February 9, 1995: "The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order"

WASH POST, July 15, 1994: Extend not only to searches of the homes of U.S. citizens but also -- in the delicate words of a Justice Department official -- to "places where you wouldn't find or would be unlikely to find information involving a U.S. citizen... would allow the government to use classified electronic surveillance techniques, such as infrared sensors to observe people inside their homes, without a court order."

Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, the Clinton administration believes the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

Secret searches and wiretaps of Aldrich Ames's office and home in June and October 1993, both without a federal warrant.

Jimmy Carter Signed Executive Order on May 23, 1979: "Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order."

I'm eagerly awaiting the expected Three Monkey argument that because Clinton and Carter did it, it is therefore right for George Bush to do it. Is that seriously a foundation upon which Republicans wish to make a stand? And since I fully expect people to miss the obvious... these illegal and totalitarian measures obviously didn't prevent Aldrich Ames's spying or 9/11. The logical conclusion is that they won't prevent future terrorist attacks either.

"Everybody's doing it" is not considered an acceptable argument for children and it is certainly not an acceptable one for presidents.

Nor should it come as any surprise that the number of intercepts doesn't involve just a few probable terrorists, and that contrary to the authorization order, domestic-to-domestic calls are being "accidentally" spied on. The NYT reports today:

But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified, would not discuss the number of accidental intercepts, but the total is thought to represent a very small fraction of the total number of wiretaps that Mr. Bush has authorized without getting warrants. In all, officials say the program has been used to eavesdrop on as many as 500 people at any one time, with the total number of people reaching perhaps into the thousands in the last three years.

Here's an idea: if a foreign national is suspected of being a terrorist, why not simply deport him instead of using him as an excuse to violate American liberties?

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