Monday, December 19, 2005

Wiretaps And Eavesdropping

Their has been a lot of debating and it seems that this is the new bash Bush story from The New York Times who reported last Thursday that President Bush ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens after 9/11 without first getting a warrant. The Bush administration says that the eavesdropping orders were only given in cases where there was a clear link with terrorism.

I haven’t had much time to really look at this story and figure out what is going on here. All I know so far about it is what I have heard from the network news, and we know how accurate that is. However I would like to offer a scenario, one that very well could be more real than one might think. Let’s say U.S. Intelligence agencies overseas finds the phone number of Osama Bin Ladin's satellite phone. Osama makes a satellite phone call to a U.S. citizen living outside of Chicago. At the time of the call nobody is home. Intelligence operatives are certain that Bin Laden will try to place the call again, but it may be from a different phone. They know that Osama changes phones frequently, so there is no time to waste. Their best chance to intercept Bin Laden's next phone call is to place a wire tap on the U.S. citizen's phone. The next phone call may be in a matter of minutes, or hours. There is no time to go before a court to get a wiretap order. So ... what do you do? Do you put the wiretap in place immediately, or do you take the chance of missing the next phone call from Osama while trying to get a court order? Now, before you answer, imagine that this might have been a phone call from Bin Laden to Mohammed Atta an hour before Atta was to board that American Airlines flight in Boston. The call was Bin Ladin giving Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks of 9/11. Without a court order you intercept the call, discover the plot, and save 3000 lives. Wait for a court order and the 9/11 attacks go forward.

OK there's your scenario. You're the president. You've taken an oath to protect the people and defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold its laws. Obviously this character living outside of Chicago has some ties to Osama bin Laden. Something may be in the works: another terrorist attack may be just hours away. Do you spend those hours trying to get a warrant? Or do you spend those hours trying to prevent the impending terrorist attack.

Now, with Bush there is, of course, no way he can win on this. If he orders the wiretaps on people who have clear ties to terrorism, he will be assailed by the left for violating the law and ignoring our civil rights. If it is later discovered that he was aware of someone in this country with direct ties to terrorism but didn't take immediate action to monitor their activities, he will be accused of ignoring clear threats to our country.

Aren’t you glad you don’t have to make this decision? I know I am.

Now, for my two cents on the matter; we are at war. If wire tapping helps us to fight our enemies then let’s use it. I am tired of hearing about our civil rights being violated. We are in a fight against terrorism, but we are not allowed to use racial profiling because that would be a violation of civil rights. We got to get rid of the Patriot Act, it violates civil rights. Wire tapping of people who may have links to terrorist, it violates civil rights. Folks, your civil rights will not mean a hill of beans when your body is laying at room temperature because we couldn’t gather any information about the next terrorist attacks.

Does anyone remember how worried FDR and Truman were about civil rights during WWII? They were so worried about civil rights that they gathered up the Japanese and placed them in camps. Now, I am not suggesting that we do the same with Muslims, all that I am saying is there was a difference in priorities between then and now. We understood that we were in a fight for our very existence I often wonder if we realize it today.

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