Justifying wiretaps for security

The U.S. government and the Bush administration on Thursday will appeal U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor’s decision that ruled the National Security Administration surveillance program illegal. This surveillance program allows the NSA to monitor conversations by people who intend to attack America.

Taylor’s ruling has weakened national security and ultimately secures the demise of America.

Those on the left, like Sen. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., trumpet the decision. In a press release, Pelosi said Taylor’s conclusion is “a repudiation of Mr. Bush’s dangerous assertion that he has unlimited authority to conduct wiretapping activities in the United States.”

While those who are leading the country are working hard to secure the freedoms Americans enjoy, there are those who are fervent to solely gain power. Taylor, besides striking the program down on manipulated constitutional grounds, exercised heavy rhetoric instead of judicial prudence.

In actuality, the surveillance program has been effective. After all, this country has not been successfully hit by a terrorist strike in the five years since the World Trade Center and Pentagon were maliciously attacked.

The decision by Taylor is narrow-minded and naive. A piece of judicial work is one that is supposed to act as a translation of what the existing law intends – not a result of personal political opinion.

Although she officially stated the Bush administration violated the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a right to privacy, she made no mention of how these rights were specifically violated. Justification of her ruling required an outline of how the NSA and the Bush administration broke the law. She did not provide one.

She claims the government is arguing that Bush “has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution itself.” She goes on to say, “There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.”

Accusing a president of behaving like a king is dramatic and obtuse – it’s not a statement made by someone making unbiased judgment.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal produced an editorial in defense of Bush’s actions concerning the NSA. It states, “Judge Taylor manages to forget or overlooks that no one is being denied his liberty and no evidence is being brought in criminal proceedings based on what the NSA might learn through listening to al-Qaeda communications. The wiretapping program is an intelligence operation … Congress was duly informed, and not a single specific domestic abuse of such a wiretap has yet been alleged, much less found.”

Robert A. Levy, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., adds to the argument by saying, “The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause in order to obtain a warrant, but it does not require a warrant for all searches … the administration can credibly argue that it may conduct some types of warrantless surveillance without violating the Fourth Amendment.”

Critics voiced their outrage toward the government for not having foreseen the attacks on Sept. 11, yet many of the same people argue against the government’s methods for preventing another disaster in the future. Those opposed to wiretapping claim it violates the rights of those who are not known terrorists but still fall under the umbrella of surveillance.

When I go to the airport, I get my bags checked just like every other person in line. They do not only check those who have already committed an FTA crime or attacked an airplane – they check everyone’s. Everyone should be all too happy to remove their shoes and lift their bags onto the scanner because of the knowledge that the same is being done to everyone else. Those who show evidence of intent to harm will be filtered out, and things will therefore be as secure as possible.

The same goes for wiretapping. If the government cannot take action against suspected terrorists until after they become confirmed terrorists, then the government is holding itself hostage.

Unlike Taylor, Bush is accountable to the voters of the United States. Taylor’s ruling is a blockade and an insult in the face of American security. She included nothing of substance in her ruling and defied her judicial duty by handing down an opinion rather than an unbiased judgment. Those opposed to wiretapping must choose if they would rather have vulnerable phone conversations or a vulnerable nation.

Erik Raymond is a senior majoring in English and pre-law.