Politics

NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping is Wrong

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After many weeks of debate concerning the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, I think the real facts have finally squirmed their way through the partisan spin. And I think the truth is: the program is wrong.

Now, I’m not a lawyer and so I’ll let lawyers hash out whether or not the program is or is not technically legal. But clearly it exists in one of those problematic grey areas. Proponents of the program are adamant that the President absolutely must have the authority to operate in legally grey areas in order to effectively wage this war. Opponents see it as a dangerous overreach of power.

If this were 2002 or probably even 2003, I would be firmly on the side of the proponents. But it’s 2006. We’ve been fighting this war for 4-and-a-half years and clearly could be fighting it for decades more. At some point we have to stop permitting the president to operate unilaterally and start drawing lines we can all agree upon.

I do believe that President Bush has used this program out of a sincere desire to keep us safe. But what about the next president? Or the one after that? The longer we permit our presidents to use national security as an excuse to freely operate in those “grey areas,� the more we are at risk of those grey areas expanding and the rights of innocent Americans being violated.

This is not a war that will end soon. Our national security will be at risk for as long as any of us can see. Now is the time to decide what tools we need to protect ourselves and what rights we hold to be more vital than temporary security.

One of those rights is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment guarantees that our government must have probable cause before conducting searches and seizures. Unless a warrant is issued, we have the right to be secure and left alone by our government.

That is a fundamental right. There may have been good reasons to skirt the Fourth Amendment in the aftermath of September 11th, but we simply can’t continue to allow the president to unilaterally decided which rights are sacrosanct and which rights are acceptable to violate. That is just not a long-term solution.

President Bush and his supporters need to stop spinning, stop creating new rationales and admit that the NSA’s program needs congressional authorization to continue and needs to be conducted through the FISA court system. To take any other position is to support an untenable and ultimately dangerous view of presidential power.

We must draw lines. Otherwise we risk the slow but inevitable erosion of our most important rights.