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As I understand it, the ruling doesn't argue against the effectiveness of wiretaping, it argues against the program's legality.

Why not wiretap using legal existing channels through FISA?

If the FISA provisions are not satisfactory, then why not update them? By the way, Is RINO Sen. Specter working on this?

Solid Surfer

Hi Mossad,

If I'm understanding it correctly, the main issue isn't over wiretapping itself, but wiretapping without a warrant.

I don't think anyone disputes wiretapping's efectiveness, but the ACLU claims that it's a privacy invasion to do it to someone without first obtaining a warrant.

The problem is, warrants aren't issued instantaneously. The way the legal system works, they can take hours to days. And typically when the government intercepts a terrorist phone call, they need to monitor it immediately. By the time a warrant is issued, the government will have missed out on days worth of vital information that could prevent terror attacks. To require a warrant for wiretapping will, in effect, indeed wipe out the benefits of wiretapping.

I don't think FISA is applicable here, since the case is solely about whether a warrant is or isn't required in order to do surveillance. Not sure if Sen. Specter is working on it either, but I think he's a supporter of the government's claim.


It really astounds me that you can be as dumb as you are. This issue is not about wiretaps. Wiretaps have been used by law enforcement since long before Islamic terrorism.

But we don't permit this substantial invasion of individual privacy rights on flimsy suspicions, or on no suspicion whatsoever, though I'm sure you'd favor general restrictions on all members of certain disfavored ethnic and religious groups. Hitler did, too.

The issue is the unsupervised use of wiretaps by the executive branch without any requirement of showing that the tap is justified or that the person being tapped is engaged in any sort of illegal behavior.

Obviously, "government wiretapping must always be watched." That's why we require scrutiny of the executive's use of wiretaps by the judiciary. That's why wiretaps require a warrant.

If you want to assure that wiretaps are only used against "jihadist terrorists," then the best way to do that is to have the executive branch agent who wants to tap the phone submit his proof to an independent assessor.

Otherwise, any such restriction on taps is essentially discretionary and therefore worthless. If the executive can tap phones without independent scrutiny, they can tap your phone as easily as they can tap any terrorists.

If someone is a jihadist terrorist, don't you think a judge would grant a warrant? What this ruling does is protect people from invasion of privacy by agents operating on their own authority.

I guess that doesn't register in your sick mind, where defending the U.S. Constitution and the individual rights it guarantees is "idiocy bordering on treason."

Solid Surfer


I only respond to polite inquiries. If you won't abide by this, then feel welcome to post elsewhere.

It's easy to know who is a potential jihadist terrorist - someone who is a Muslim between the ages of 18 and 59, and who acts suspiciously. Almost 100% of terrorists fit this profile.

If the government warrantlessly wiretaps people who don't fit this profile, then it's a problem, and the government should be forced to stop. But as long as it is ensured that they wiretap only people who fit into the terrorist profile (and this can easily be done), then everyone else has nothing to worry about.


See, that really demonstrates that you're trying to make legal policy without any concept of the law. A wiretap or a search of a home is a serious invasion of a privacy right, and we don't allow law enforcement to breach those rights without a strong likelihood of criminal activity. It's called probable cause, and it works for drug dealers and murderers, and there's no reason to relax it in these circumstances.

And use of race is absolutely unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. You can't tap somebody's phone for being Arab or Muslim. That is not how we do things in America.

I can't see how you can advocate persecution and severe restrictions based on religious background, and then compare the Muslims to Nazis. You're basically advocating a set of restrictions on Muslims that mirror the 1933 Nuremberg laws.

You need to take a closer look at history before you go spouting this kind of stuff, pretending to know something.

Solid Surfer

Say all you want, but warrantless wiretapping simply works. Given that this activity is precisely what allowed authorities to thwart the planned terrorist attacks on British airliners a couple weeks ago, would you rather go back in time, disallow the wiretapping, and let the attacks take place? I don't think so.

And I'm not saying to persecute all Muslims; I'm not worried about Muslim children and 80 year old Muslim grandmothers - it's only young men who are both Muslim and have acted suspiciously.

And if you really don't think Muslims in power can be Nazi-like, this should refresh your memory: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/27/wiran27.xml


No. First of all, there's absolutely no evidence that unfettered executive snooping provides any greater security than law enforcement practices that are consistent with the United States Constitution.

Second, I don't understand how you can call yourself a conservative. Don't conservatives decry the excesses of "Big Government," and attempt to curb the power of government to meddle in affairs best left to private interests?

How can you simultaneously believe that the government is too inept, inexpert and corrupt to control the economy or to regulate the distribution of wealth, while trusting the same government unconditionally on things it deems important for security purposes?

I say, if you're going to believe in a limited government, believe in a limited government. And it's important to limit government invasions into private rights by keeping executive's use of invasive investigatory techniques contingent on a showing that the person whose privacy is being invaded is probably a criminal.

The minute the government starts wiretapping people who probably are not criminals, we've ceased to be a free society.

Third, even if the security state provides greater security than a free society, the costs may outweigh the benefits. I don't think September 11 proves we have to sacrifice what makes America great to protect ourselves from our enemies, and I'm willing to tolerate a certain degree of risk to live in a free country.

Every totalitarian state has used some security crisis, real or perceived, to justify expansion of government power. The Chancellor of Germany didn't have dictatorial power when Hitler took the office. He suspended the German constitution and collapsed legislative power into his unitary executive under the pretense of necessity in the face of a security crisis.

Benjamin Franklin's observation that "any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both" has certainly been proven true repeatedly by subsequent historical events. I we have little to gain and a lot to lose by waiving Constitutional protections, even for the purpose of fighting terrorists.

Maybe you hate freedom, but some of us still think basic American values are the right values and are worth fighting for.

I believe your position that Muslims are poised to conquer the West through force of arms is based on an extremely inaccurate and ill-informed concept of the military situation, and I think the only way the terrorists can win is if they make us compromise our values. As far as I'm concerned, you're either on the side of freedom or you might as well go squat in a cave with Osama.

Solid Surfer

I don't like big government at all. In fact, I think the government should do the minimum necessary to allow American society to freely proceed. But effective terror prevention measures fit squarely into the necessary category in my book.

Ben Franklin's quote may have rung true in his day, but he had no knowledge of the lengths Muslim terrorists would go to subvert our democratic system.

And the terrorists won't win if we compromise our values. The terrorists will win if America turns into a Sharia state. We need to retain as much liberty as possible for all, but keeping terrorists out is a higher priority, because we'll never be able to enjoy the values if we're destroyed by terrorism. We have the ability to stop them; we just need to do it.


Absolutely not. We need to be protected from those who attack American values abroad, but we have to also protect ourselves from people who attack American values at home.

The lesson of the Holocaust is that rights are only good if they're absolute and unassailable, even in a time of national crisis. Once you allow exceptions, anyone can be stuffed into one. The surveilance/security state is as bad as the Sharia state, and it's a lot more probable. This doesn't have to become a fascist nation to avoid becoming a Sharia state.

We have to keep the protections that prevent us from being terrorized by our own government, and that's the whole point of checks on the executive and limitations on police power.

We have a history of taking the fourth amendment seriously in this country; the remedy, in addition to possible civil damages, is exclusion of illegally collected evidence at a civil trial. That means that we are willing to release a drug dealer or gangster or killer or even a terrorist who we know to be guilty, rather than poisoning our process with evidence that was collected in a way that violates a core American value. This is extremely serious.

We have a belief as old as the Constitution that the government needs to be limited. That's why we require a showing that a person is probably a criminal before we allow a tap.

Solid Surfer

I would agree with you if terrorists were merely ordinary criminals. But they are not. They are far worse, and we need extra provisions to deal with them and only them. This is why I don't think warrantless wiretaps are bad, as long as it can be proven that they only focus on genuinely suspected terrorists.

Let's say, for example, that authorities heard about a credible plot to set off a WMD attack in an American city. And the suspected perpetrators had no criminal records, but were known to be fundamentalist Muslims and passionate verbal supporters of Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Iran. Because the perpetrators have no criminal records, you can't get a warrant on them.

But what would you then do if you had a chance to wiretap them and potentially hear a conversation where they may end up revealing details of the plot, and with that information, you could stop them. Would you still wiretap them, or would you put the entire city's population at risk because you care more about jihadist rights than about American lives?

This is the type of situation our government has to face, and given that so many lives could be at risk, I think they've made the right decisions thus far.


You seem to be under the impression that a warrant takes days to process. There are magistrates sitting round the clock to grant warrants, and a highly time-sensitive request would be fast-tracked through the DOJ chain of command for authorizing the request for a warrant, and through the hearing process, which generally hinges on a brief affidavit or testimony from the investigating agent explaining his probable cause.

If there was a need to process a warrant for a wiretap because the agency had probable cause to suspect a particular person of being involved in a particular crime, then the warrant could be delivered in less than an hour.

What we don't want to see is executive-branch agents deciding to tap all the arabs in a neighborhood to see what they can turn up. What we don't want to see is the executive snooping on people who speak out against its political agenda. Judicial supervision is an absolute necessity with regard to executive branch actions that have the potential to violate fundamental rights.

Solid Surfer

Even the process you mention might not be fast enough, though. Phone conversations can last mere minutes, and often no warrant can be granted that quickly. This is the problem.

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