posted by February 12 at 22:43 PMon
We need warrantless wiretapping to be safe? Bullshit.
The Cole bombing? The attacks on 9/11? The invasion and occupation of Iraq? Yes. All were failures of intelligence—failures of properly interpreting, of presenting and of acting upon information already available through constitutional and legal means. “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” tells you that.
Adding more raw data, crappy massive aggregate data like that gathered by the NSA’s program, won’t help. It’s a distraction, a waste, a horrifying compromise of the basic premise of our society for a dubious gain.
Smart people, clever human minds sifting through a high quality trickle of data are far, far, far more likely to succeed. Who do we need working at the CIA and the NSA? A person who finds the notion of spying a little uncomfortable, who feels a bit of the moral compromise behind covert work. The exact sort of Liberal, well-educated, and principled individual who would find a warrantless wiretapping program to be abhorrent. The sort of person who wouldn’t want to work for a president supporting such a program.
I think about all the talented cryptographers, computer engineers, linguistic experts, political scientist, historians—all the sharp minds I’ve encountered in my long education—who have no place in, who would feel no welcome within an unconstrained intelligence agency. We’re less safe without their service.
This argument was never about collecting information or defending our country and interests. This is about checks upon the executive branch, of acknowledging the vital role of the Judiciary branch of government, of legal oversight. This is the very core belief of a big-L Liberal nation—the rule of law over all. It’s imperative for the next president to recognize this ugly error, imperative for him or her to constrain the overgrown power of the present presidency.
So, shame on the 17 Democratic and 49 Republican Senators who voted to excuse this behavior, to protect the complicit telecom companies. (Qwest, our RBOC, refused to go along. Good for them.) Obama and Washington’s senators—even if resistance was symbolic—voted against this dangerous forgiveness. Senator Clinton didn’t vote at all—but at least opposed immunity in the past. McCain voted for the spying.