Reopening the Wiretapping Debate

This Washington Post story runs under the catchy headline:

Administration Revives Dispute Over Eavesdropping Authority

I was intrigued. Why, I wondered, would the administration want to talk about this any more? And what “debate?” Well, as I should have expected, the “debate” was silly and wholly irrelevant to the facts of the case.

the Bush administration yesterday reopened a dispute about whether it tried and failed to obtain direct congressional authority for use of the president’s war-making powers on U.S. territory.

So we aren’t actually debating whether the warrantless wiretapping was illegal or not. And we’re not debating the FISA law, or the fact that warrantless wiretapping occurred. What exactly are we debating? Essentially, whether or not the administration knew that their actions would not be legal. That’s the only thing the “asking for permission” factor would demonstrate. But warrantless wiretaps are illegal whether or not the President knows that they are.

The rest of the article is just he-said he-said journalism:

“Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote” on Sept. 14, 2001, Daschle wrote, the White House asked to insert the words “in the United States” into the use-of-force resolution. “I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority,” Daschle added. “I refused.”

. . .

Reached by telephone last night, [David] Crane [aide to Trent Lott, who Daschle’s office said brought the request to them] said he has “absolutely no recollection of that ever having occurred.” Though he took part in negotiations over the use-of-force resolution, Crane said, he had been reassigned to another task before the resolution reached the Senate floor.

Oh, good. No one knows what happened about an irrelevant question. What kind of news is this? Why not take a moment to talk about whether or not violating the law is illegal, or even doing a little background on whether it makes sense to classify wiretapping in the United States as a use of force?

2 Replies to “Reopening the Wiretapping Debate”

  1. I had a similar reaction to the story (and headline)….albeit from a different political perspective. I still have no idea how they revived the debate or why but I am again mindful that whatever the administration says, Tom Daschle disagrees.

  2. It seems to me that, whatever one’s political perspective, it is not news that Tom Daschle’s timeline of events differs from the administration’s. There are questions about the wiretapping program that it would be newsworthy to investigate, as I mention in the post, but this article adds nothing except to reassure us that it is not clear whether the administration thought it had to seek permission, or if that permission was sought.

    Thanks for reading!

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