Saturday, September 30, 2006

Update on civil liberties

Well it appears that the congress has passed legislation defining the rules for treatment of detainees and for wiretaps.

While the legislation has many flaws (and may still not fully pass constitutional muster), I say "hooray" that congress has finally done its job of setting up the rules of engagement.

There are two things that I find very disappointing, though.

The first is that while congress stepped up to its job of defining the rules, they largely punted on any heavy lifting, pretty much giving the president the discretion to interpret the rules by which he is bound. I thought we had checks and balances for a reason; the whole problem is that you don't want the same person who can declare someone to be an enemy combatant to be the one who decides if it's OK to declare someone an enemy combatant. It boils down to "trust me" on the president. But it doesn't matter whether I trust the president -besides, in two years we'll have another one. I want to put my trust in laws, in process, not in specific people.

The second thing that disappointed me was the politicking around this. I suppose it can't be avoided this close to an election, but, for example, John Boehner said "The Democrats' irrational opposition to strong national-security policies that help keep our nation secure should be of great concern to the American people" in describing the desire of many Democrats to provide checks and balances and a legal framework on wiretapping. If I understand this line of reasoning, then we might as well give Bush the power to monitor any phone conversation, domestically or otherwise, without court supervision? Heck, why stop there, why not let the government read any email, instant messaging, or smoke signals too? Why not let the government demand a second copy of our home keys so that they can make sure that no terrorist activity is going on? We'll be safer that way, won't we?

Shame on you, Mr. Boehner. Nobody - not even the dreaded Democrats - opposes the wiretaps themselves. All they want is for them to be done in a framework that prevents abuse. I thought that was quite a patriotic American value, but perhaps I was mistaken.

No comments: