Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Friday, March 17, 2006

The Fox is Guarding the Chicken Coop

Or he will be if congress passes the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006. Essentially, it would be congress saying:

"Mr. President, you have been illegally wiretapping our citizens, and arrogantly telling us congressfolks that we can't do anything about it. Well, just to make sure you understand who is in charge here, today we passed a law that makes everything you did legal. So there."

You can find more thorough analysis here, and here. Glen Greenwald sums it up nicely:

Critically, this bill defines who the Administration can eavesdrop on without obtaining a warrant. That means that all of the determinations as to who qualifies to be eavesdropped on are no longer with a court, but with the Administration to make unilaterally. The bill allows eavesdropping on anyone deemed by the Administration to be "working in support of" terrorist groups. It expressly allows First Amendment activities to be taken into account and even be the substantial basis for such a determination. In essence, then, the bill thus vests in the Administration the unchecked power to eavesdrop on whomever it wants.

For yet another example of why it is a bad idea to let law enforcers decide the limits of their own authority, see this post on Sui Generis.

I've already written to Sen. Shelby urging him to support the censure. I will write him again and voice my opposition to this bill. Ditto Sen. Sessions. When they respond, I'll post the responses and my letters.

(update)This story should calm all our fears. It explains just how serious the administration is about protecting our rights. Here is a quote:

"A White House civil liberties panel created more than a year ago to monitor the effects on ordinary citizens of the war on terrorism took its first significant action this week.

It met."