Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Judge Richard Posner has an opinion piece in the Washington Post today. The gist of his argument is that our government's ability to collect domestic intelligence (that is, to spy on us) has so many holes in it that Bush has to break laws and launch illegal spying programs in order to get the information he needs to keep us all safe. Two points stand out.

First, he's engaging in the same old fear mongering. His closing lines:
The terrorist menace, far from receding, grows every day. This is not only because al Qaeda likes to space its attacks, often by many years, but also because weapons of mass destruction are becoming ever more accessible to terrorist groups and individuals.

Is it even possible to have a reasoned discussion about the War on Terror and civil rights without someone on the right flapping their hands in the air and crying, "We're all gonna die!"?

Secondly, his argument has one big, gaping hole in it. The president has had over four years since 9/11 to fix these holes in our domestic intelligence system. He got his tame congress to pass a laundry list of due process waivers called the Patriot Act. He created an entire Department of Homeland Security. He's announced more than one major shake-up of the intelligence community. Yet he chose to break the law four years ago and continues to break the law. He has never even tried to fix those dangerous holes in domestic intelligence. Why?

Posner's idea of what some of those domestic intelligence gaps are is a bit creepy.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive.

Think about that for a moment. He's worried that we don't have an easy way to snoop into the homes of Americans who aren't suspected of anything. How dare those innocent people go about their lives without being watched! This actually fits in with a subtle theme of his piece. While talking about security and intelligence, he denies us any right of privacy. He even denies making that argument while he makes it.

Posner believes that the executive branch of the government should be able to collect any information on anyone and, as long as their motives are pure, we have no right to complain. Watch for other right-wing pundits to develop this theme.

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