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August 17, 2006

NSA Wiretaps Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that the Bush administration's NSA warrantless wiretaps of international calls are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

A few things in this paragraph bug me. First, when one says she "became the first", the AP implies "of others", because you don't typically refer to the first of something when there is only one of them, or unless you're anticipating more (or trying to give the impression that there will be more). Their bias is showing, and their intent to manipulate public opinion has begun.

Secondly, listening to speech in no way restricts it. It's like saying when a stoolie wears a wire it stifles the free speech of the mob.

Thirdly, there's that elusive general constitutional right to privacy that no one can ever put their finger on. There are some specific privacy rights, but none so general as would prevent people from listening in on conversations or allow the general right of getting an abortion.

Now granted, this is a very preliminary report of the ruling, which just hit the wires. There's certainly more to come, and the description of the ruling at this point may be overgeneralized. In fact, there's no mention in the article about the warrant or FISA issues. And frankly, as I said when this thing first came out, I'm always a bit wary of expanding government power (though when it's a constitutionally-mandated power, I'm less concerned). But if this turns out to be true--that this flimsy ground is what the ruling is built upon--it's worth of appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, which involves secretly taping conversations between people in the U.S. and people in other countries.

Yup, let's make it easier for journalists to do their job, while making it harder for the intelligence agencies to do their's. Now that's prioritization.

Certainly this will be a hot topic in the days to come.

Posted by Doug at August 17, 2006 01:14 PM

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Yes Doug it is a priority that the constitution raises our right to privacy above the goverments intrusions. Limiting the power of the goverment to intrude into our private lives is a priority. Is there a problem with that? As to the implications you so quickly extracted from the phrase "became the first Judge" all I can say is that I thought that it meant that there had been many other cases and Judges that ruled the other way and that this judge was maybe going against the tide. Your bias is exposed and I don't think you can dress it up with "I'm wary of expanding goverment blah, blah blah". Keep gathering stones.

Posted by: Mike at August 19, 2006 01:59 AM

Mike, the suit being brought has nothing to do with personal privacy rights. It's on behalf of journalists trying to keep their sources available. It doesn't speak to your concern, so it's best not to extrapolate.

I thought that it meant that there had been many other cases and Judges that ruled the other way and that this judge was maybe going against the tide

This is the first ruling in the case, actually. So my reading of the phrase is, I think, a bit more accurate.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 19, 2006 11:16 AM