Friday, August 18, 2006

Correcting the Course

Yesterday, a federal judge issued a decision that many of us have been screaming for with respect to the warrantless NSA wire tapping. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor found the program illegal, and, most importantly, based her decision on constitutional grounds. From the lead editorial in today's NY Times:

Ever since President Bush was forced to admit that he was spying on Americans’ telephone calls and e-mail without warrants, his lawyers have fought to keep challenges to the program out of the courts. Yesterday, that plan failed. A federal judge in Detroit declared the eavesdropping program to be illegal and unconstitutional. She also offered a scathing condemnation of what lies behind the wiretapping — Mr. Bush’s attempt to expand his powers to the point that he can place himself beyond the reach of Congress, judges or the Constitution.

...She said Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when he ordered the National Security Agency to spy without a warrant on international phone calls and e-mail by Americans and foreign residents of the United States. She noted that the surveillance law was passed to prohibit just this sort of presidential abuse of power and provided ample flexibility for gathering vital intelligence. She also said that the program violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as the rights of free speech and association granted by the First Amendment.

...But for now, with a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion, one judge in Michigan has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do. She has reasserted the rule of law over a lawless administration and shown why issues of this kind belong within the constitutional process created more than two centuries ago to handle them.
[Emphasis added]

By citing the US Constitution as the primary basis for her decision, this brave judge has effectively shut out any congressional attempts at jiggering with the FISA law to retroactively legalise this unconscionable intrusion into the liberty of Americans. The regime has already promised to appeal, and if it loses at the District Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court will have another important case to hear. This is how the system of checks and balances set forth in the Constitution is supposed to work.

What is also so heartening about this decision is that the New York Times editorial board understands what is at stake. For too long, most major news outlets have given the Emperor and his minions free reign when it comes to matters dubbed "national security." It's nice to see that the press is finally fullfilling its role as envisioned by the founders of this nation.

I'm beginning to see grounds for optimism that we'll get through this nightmare.

NOTE: Judge Taylor's decision can be found in pdf format here.


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