Another sign of the decline of the US into a police state: President Bush ordered the NSA to evesdrop on domestic email and telephone conversations. As a guest poster points out on Political Animal, this is an outright violation of US law; the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bars any electronic surveillance by the government except as specifically authorised by statute. And despite his Nixonian pretentions to being "as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV", the President's word is not law. Or at least, it isn't yet. But on torture and now on wiretapping, that seems to be something this President is endeavouring to change...
This time, though, Bush seems to have gone too far. The revelation of widespread illegal wiretapping has already helped bolster support for the filibustering of the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, with Senator Russ Feingold saying
I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care.
It is time to have some checks and balances in this country.
Indeed it is. Meanwhile. prominent Republicans are promising hearings early next year. Hopefully, those hearings will be followed by prosecutions. People in the NSA have broken the law, and they must be held accountable for it. Unfortunately, while its easy to hold low-level surveillance technicians accountable, there seems to be no way to prosecute their superiors and those who "authorised" (or rather, claimed to authorise) it. But even low-level prosecutions will "encourager les autres" to make damn sure they have a warrant before wiretapping.