Matt Welch over at Reason has a quiz for pro war libertarians like myself.
The lonely libertarian figured he would give the quiz a shot. 1) Should the National Security Agency or CIA have the ability to monitor domestic phone calls or e-mails without obtaining judicial approval?
Under certain circumstances, yes. It’s not the monitoring that concerns me so much as what’s done with that information. It’s amazing the technicalities that have been raised over this issue. There already are programs to obtain warrants in these national security types of cases after the wiretapping has occurred. And no, the administration hasn’t done that in a number of circumstances. My response is, so what- technically, the privacy of the monitored parties had already been violated, so even in if the warrants were somehow denied, the government would still have the illegally obtained information. And if that information was related to terrorism, it’s obviously not going to be ignored for the mere fact that there was no warrant. In an era when surveillance and spying has become a fact of life, the real issue is what is being done with that information. 2) Should the government have the ability to hold an American citizen without charge, indefinitely, without access to a lawyer, if he is believed to be part of a terrorist cell?
This is probably the most controversial of controversial issues in the War on Terror. The thought of holding any American citizen indefinitely without charges should be disturbing to everyone. Yet at the same time, if an American citizen is some part of and impending terrorist attack, typical concerns about due process (or even dare I say it, concerns over torture) just don’t seem to apply. This is the very crux of the debate, one that few people seem willing to offer rational and workable solutions. Clearly, some sort of process is needed, both short term and long term. And just what that process is, is precisely what should be discussed, rather then the mudslinging we have to listen to now. Libertarians that join liberals in the “blame Bush” vein of civil liberties concerns are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Criticism is much needed, but criticism without solutions gets us nowhere. 3) Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?
Yes- see the ticking time bomb scenario. In other cases, probably not. But the real answer to this question feeds directly in to the discussion of question 2. What are the rules in fighting the War on Terror, and what are the procedures that are to be followed? Anyone?4) Are there American journalists who should be investigated for possible treason? Should Sedition laws be re-introduced?
No and no, of course not. Although it should be kept in mind that regardless of the reasoning behind it, illegally disclosing classified information is a crime, and should be prosecuted. To journalists who believe they are doing the right thing by disclosing such information, they can go to jail and serve their time in the noble tradition of civil disobedience. 5) Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?
No- morally it’s a tricky issue, but the reality is that it’s much too messy, and would rarely, if ever, actually solve any problems.
6) Should anti-terrorism cops be given every single law-enforcement tool available in non-terrorist cases?
Shouldn’t anti-terrorism cops have more tools at their disposal than the regular cops? At least, I would hope they do.7) Should law enforcement be able to seize the property of a suspected (though not charged) American terrorist, and then sell it?
No, no, no, absolutely not.8) Should the U.S. military be tasked with enforcing domestic crime?
No. 9) Should there be a national I.D. card, and should it be made available to law enforcement on demand?
No, never.10) Should a higher percentage of national security-related activities and documents be made classified, and kept from the eyes of the Congress, the courts, and the public?
It’s hard to come up with a meaningful answer to this question. After all, how are any of us supposed to really know the answer. It does sound horribly un-libertarian of me, but national security is one area where you just have to hope for the best. What else can you do. It’s difficult to imagine any government protecting national security without keeping some things secret. If you think too much is being kept secret, that’s when you vote that administration out of office. But the truth is, it’s all guesswork.
Matt Welch said that his answer to every question was an unequivocal no. I can offer up 5 “no’s”, 3 “maybe’s”, 1 “not enough information” and 1 “I don’t understand the question.” But lets go back to question one for a second, that of wiretapping without judicial approval. Matt wonders if the CIA or the NSA should have the ability to conduct such surveillance. His choice of words is a bit off, as they clearly do have the ability. The question is, how should they use that ability and to what extent should it be used. The process of obtaining a warrant is just that- merely a process. And I’m sure Matt would agree that such a process in no way ensures that no wrong is being done to you. One need only scroll down in my blog to read the Corey Maye story to see that for yourself. Personally I truly am more concerned with 1- the discretion being used to only tap hone calls (with or without a warrant) that impact national security and 2- that such monitoring while being used in combating terrorism is not used to wage war on the American people.
Maybe I’m the naïve one for thinking that this is at all possible. That’s a point I’d be willing to debate. But to hold such strong “no’s” as Matt Welch and many other libertarians do to everyone of the controversial issues raised above seems merely to ignore the fact that we have no rules for combating terrorism and such rules are desperately needed.