Monday, July 14, 2008

More On Spying

Say you were given two choices about the sort of society you could live in. Society number one had a government with numerous personal privacy protections, but an abundance of laws on how to live your day-to-day life. Society number two had no such laws about how to conduct oneself, but did had a government that spied on it's citizens with a free hand. Which one would you chose? I can say, without a doubt that I'd chose number two. While I like the idea of my privacy, I'm a far bigger fan of actually getting to make choices for myself and live my own life as I see fit without any interference from a meddling government.

Now, obviously, that's a false dichotomy and life is never that simple. But I maintain my position that government surveillance, whatever the purpose, is a far lesser evil than the laws that literally infringe on our individual rights to make choices for myself. I refuse to join the libertarian cacophony against government spying because there are literally hundreds of other worries on my list.

The ACLU has brought suit over the new FISA law, but as much as the libertarian inside of me wants to get on board with those who claim to be defending the Constitution, I can't help but get the feeling that the new law actually isn't so bad, and in all likelihood, probably is Constitutional. The explanation for the lawsuit seems big on rhetoric and light and law, which in my mind has always seemed to be a good indication that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes.

Over on the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has a post that actually delves into the specifics of the newly passed FISA amendments.

From what I understand, the big civil liberty concern seems to be rather sweeping nature of surveillance permitted. But given that we're talking about foreign targets, I'm not sure what the proposed solution is. Foreign targets of surveillance are not subject to the limitations of U.S. law or to the protections of our Constitution, so the notion of requiring individual warrants for such targets seems unnecessary. And if the CIA is already listening in on some terrorist phone calls in Afghanistan, it just doesn't make any sense that they'd need to hang up if that terrorist called up someone in the United States.

The most pressing concern (in my mind) seems to be rather far fetched- that in casting it's web so wide, the government will acquire a vast database of international communications and nothing will prevent them in the future from using that database to target American citizens. Now the law doesn't authorize this in any way, it's just a possibility, a possibility that could easily be dealt with via a Constitutional challenge in any trial in which the government attempted to use such information. In the end, the worst you can say about the law is not that it violates the Constitution, but that it may make it possible for the government to do so in the future. As I've been saying all along, this is the show me test. Show me the case where this has happened. No one can and as long as no one can, I'll remain confident in the ability of the Constitution to protect us from such actual infringements of our rights.


Anonymous rose said...

I couldn't agree more with you.

I think the resistance in large part is just the anti-Bush hysteria about anything he touches. If Bush declared himself a Raiders fan you'd probably see a bump in Chiefs season ticket sales.

Blog requests:

1) N. Korea. Seems the administration quietly had a pretty huge success there.

2) Iran. Diplomacy is failing. AGAIN. Iran's on the brink of having a nuke. We're less than 7 years removed from 9/11 and our allies around the globe have been hit often since then. Yet the average American doesn't seem the least bit concerned that Iran is on the brink of having a nuke. And we (the public) aren't the least bit interested in our continued development of a missile defense system, except for the occasional criticism from dems. Seems to me with diplomacy failing and the fact that military action is a political impossibility at this point that a defense system would be a pretty high long-term priority. Although if plans A, B and C fail maybe we can just have Obama talk em out of it.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

great piece.

12:28 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Perhaps most interesting- Diplomacy actually seems to have worked in North Korea. I don't know too many specifics, but it certainly seems that the nuclear threat of North Korea has been lessened without a hint of military action.

Or in other words, talking seems to have worked well in North Korea, while thus far failing in Iran. The important lesson is for those who would reduce foreign affairs to simple axioms or corollaries- foreign affairs are complex and each situation is different.

And by the way, your other link didn't work. Posting them in comments doesn't work unless you use an html tag.

12:42 PM  

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