Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Connecting The Right Dots: The Legal Use of Surveillance

President Bush claims that had the NSA surveillance of American citizens been in place prior to 9/11, the terrorists could have been intercepted. He says we have to be able to 'connect the dots'. He is possibly right.

On the other hand, had a perfectly legal message switch connected the police records systems of South Florida, the same result would have occurred because Mohammed Atta in a perfectly legal traffic stop was subject to a perfectly legal name query that would have returned information sufficient to detain him.

It isn't that we need to connect the dots. That is too simplistic. We need to connect the right dots legally, then I believe we would have all the connections we need.

The Executive Branch of the government is attempting to persuade us that in times of war, laws don't matter. When laws don't matter, we are a government of men, not laws. While I have no evidence that the information gathered by the NSA is or has been used for some purpose other than those claimed, the fact of law is that it is illegal to have done so. If the only reason for breaking the law is 'wouldacoulda', then one that is speculation, and two that is not the only 'woulda coulda' so it is loose speculation. The second coulda is also legal.

Law is sometimes imprecise and in need of rewriting to meet the changing technology and times, but it is not speculative. We are now confronted with evidence both of outing a covert officer and of using the covert systems to commit possible high crimes from the same Executive Branch. The Executive Branch must be held to account for the commission of acts that may on inspection provide evidence of high crimes, If we are to remain a nation of laws, not men, then this evidence must be discovered and deliberated to determine grounds for prosecution if indeed these grounds are supported by the evidence.

... even if the acts were mostly just stupid.

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