Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Clearly something isn't right when the judge overseeing the program resigns in protest

There is already secrecy in intelligence cases. But today, a Judge who oversees secret hearings, resigned in protest over the warrentless searches, fearing that it could taint the work of the secret panel of jurists that he serves on.

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John D. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.


It isn't just the judge who is concerned about the warrantless wiretaps.

Word of Robertson's resignation came as two Senate Republicans yesterday joined the call for congressional investigations into the National Security Agency's warrantless interception of telephone calls and e-mails to overseas locations by U.S. citizens suspected of links to terrorist groups. They questioned the legality of the operation and the extent to which the White House kept Congress informed.

Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) echoed concerns raised by Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has promised hearings in the new year.


These three are now joining three Democrats on the committee, in also raising the issue and calling for an investigation.

The whole idea of a warrentless search is absurd. The White House can easily enough arrange for a judge to be on call to authorize a warrant in less than a minute if needs be, and stay within the law. But without a warrant, there is absolutely no safeguard against the process being abused other than the 'good will' of the White House and security agencies. We already know that they monitor every single email sent in the United States, and every single phone call. So, they can in theory spy on anyone anywhere and for any reason. A warrant protects all of us from any abuse of this policy. And right now, given the past abuses which have occurred (for example, I have a friend who apparently ended up on the 'no-Fly' list merely because he has donated money to John Kerry), I'm not convinced that simply the 'good will' of the Bush administration is a very good safeguard.

5 comments:

Chuck said...

"We already know that they monitor every single email sent in the United States, and every single phone call."

I guess I knew about the key "triggering" words and phrases over the phone lines and resulting dossiers, but I guess I didn't know about all (every) the e-mails. Putting that all together is a sobering thought.

"for example, I have a friend who apparently ended up on the 'no-Fly' list merely because he has donated money to John Kerry"

~Shudder~ Now tell me what you would call that. The whole thing smacks of the Orwellian fear that those informed have (have had).

EAPrez said...

His resignation doesn't make sense to me. What does it accomplish? Perhaps I am missing something but he should have stayed in his oversight position (even though he wasn't being utilized) Perhaps he figured it was a powerful statement to do so...I thought so initially but then I thought "what does it accomplish?"

Mark said...

This type of power has been debated before. Clinton argued for it in 1994, stating that presidency has "inherent" authority in National Security Issues. President Reagan used this type of authority in espionage against the Soviets.

While it may be true that Pres Bush could have had the searches given warrants after the fact, it is pretty clear that in time of war the president has these types of powers.

Did he break the law? Probably not. Did he bend normal rules more than is usually allowed? Probably so.

Eli Blake said...

Mark:

And the voters slapped Clinton at the polls that year, as I recall. This kind of stuff always rubs people the wrong way. And it has gone on administration after administration after administration... building on what has been inherited. People who criticize Clinton for the 'no-knock' raid at Waco, for example, forget that the law that was used to allow it was passed during the Reagan administration's 'war on drugs.'

It's not even a partisan issue-- any power that is granted to the Federal government will continue to be exercised, used and unfortunately (if history is a guide) abused. And no matter what one's partisan identity is, anyone who believes that there will never be a President who they don't trust is indeed a fool.

Frankly, I suspect that if some candidate running for President (from whatever party) made as a centerpiece of their program to publically review all of these kinds of laws to debate whether their effectiveness against terrorism outweighed the surrender of personal freedom and privacy that was a consequence of each one, and then either renew or get rid of each law, then that candidate would get an awful lot of votes, 'under the radar,' so to speak.

dorsano said...

Congress will decide for this generation if it is co-equal with the office of the Presidency or subordinate to it.

That decision will come in January and February of next year it looks like. A Republican, Arlen Specter, will see that the question is called.

What's in play, is the authority of the United States Congress and the GOP's reluctance to embarrass the leader of their party.

"When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

George Bush, April 20, 2004

Not anymore - we're talking once again about people who know they can't sell what they would like to sell, so they find a way to shove it down our throats.