Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Unauthorized Surveillance of US Citizens: Bypassing FISA was Stepping Over The Line

I’m going to dedicate a couple posts tonight, and invariably more over the coming days, to the unauthorized wire taps utilized by the NSA on US citizens. There are many different angles to look at this story from, and I’ll try to hit on all the angles that come to my mind. But feel free to chime in with a perspective I am not seeing.

I can understand why wire taps could be necessary to protect homeland security, although a part of me truly believes it’s too high a price to pay for a level of security that is far from comprehensive. But I do not believe that any branch of our government should have unlimited powers, and it scares me when any government organization bypasses the checks that are supposed to exist on their authority.

This has obviously taken place in the case of the wire taps. It was revealed that after FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) rejected or modified over 185 surveillance requests, the NSA decided to bypass FISA altogether. In other words, the organization designed to monitor the use of surveillance determines that the Bush administration is overstepping their bounds in wire tap requests, so the NSA stopped requesting the wire taps and just implemented them without approval.

Colin Powell said he sees "absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions" to protect the nation. But he added, "My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants. And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it."

If the government goes through the proper channels and determines that these wire taps are necessary, and then goes through whatever approvals are required in obtaining permission for specific surveillance, then how can I disagree? A huge part of what makes America great is that we elect a government that represents the collective will of the people, and makes policies reflective of that will. But the government must follow those proper steps to ensure the right to privacy of each and every American.

Posted by Scottage at 1:36 AM / | |