Monday, February 25, 2008

Unwarranted surveillance and the Supremes

The Supreme Court has declined a case brought by the ACLU challenging the unwarranted surveillance Pres. Bush began in 2001, in apparent violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to consider requests for warrant to do electronic surveillance of U.S. residents. The Register deplored the court's decision. I talked later with Roger Pilon at the Cato Institute, who has come close to accepting John Yoo's contentions that such surveillance is within the president's authority, and Congress didn't have constitutional authority to limit it by passing the FISA law (that's a minority opinion at Cato). I like and respect Roger, but I respectfully disagree. I think the Fourth Amendment limits both executive and legislative authority to do such unwarranted surveillance. In addition, even if the program is legal, it's bad policy and utterly unnecessary. If this program had really stymied some terrorist plans or led to neutralizing some of them, you can be sure they would have been bragging about it.

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