Monday, May 15, 2006

Tautological Explanations

"Because we say it's legal, " is the usual response to questions about the current regime's malfeasance, no matter what the subject. Most recently the subject has been the governmental spying on Americans by demanding (and, for the most part, getting) a list of all the phone calls made by Americans, whether international or purely domestic. The NY Times has the story.

The adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security affairs, declined to confirm the details of a telephone surveillance program operated by the N.S.A. that was publicly disclosed on Thursday in an article in USA Today. But Mr. Hadley said that surveillance efforts had been "narrowly designed" and pointed out that the USA Today article had emphasized in its description of the program that it did not involve listening to individual calls.

..."There has been no meaningful Congressional oversight of these programs," said Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Specter has said he will hold hearings soon with representatives from the telephone companies that turned over millions of telephone records to the N.S.A.

He said he wanted to question the phone company executives before the committee because, unlike the Bush administration, "they cannot claim executive privilege" and refuse to answer questions.

Without more details about the program, Mr. Specter said, "we do not know whether it is constitutional or not."

Narrowly designed? When the data involves millions of phone records? When that data was obtained without an easily obtainable warrant showing probable cause that a crime was or was about to be committed? If the program was so narrow, why did all of the phone records of all Americans have to be obtained?

And if the Congress had been properly briefed, why is Republican Senator Specter admitting that he doesn't know enough details to determine whether the program is constitutional or not? Because the regime says it is hardly qualifies as an answer. Asking telephone companies why they gave up the material so readily will not provide that answer, but at least the subject will remain in front of Americans, many of whom remain unconvinced that this regime is ripping away all of our civil liberties.

I suppose that is at least a start.


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