Sunday, December 18, 2005

FISA: The Lawful Alternative

Ezra Klein says it succinctly:
When you need a wiretap, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows you to apply for one. When you need it yesterday, FISA allows you to place the tap immediately and retroactively clear it with a judge 72 hours later. The law strikes a balance between broad executive powers and substantive oversight -- the president has full authority to assault the evildoers, but cannot deploy the law on behalf of his own political interests. It's a check on totalitarianism.

What Bush has done is unilaterally decide the oversight unnecessary. Given the shape and safeguards of FISA, there was no operational need to evade it. It was an exclusively ideological decision in service of unlimited executive powers, and it's chilling.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has the secret FISA Court's raw statistcs. They show an overwhelmingly accommodationist court, willing to rapidly issue eavesdropping warrants both before and after the fact.

More later today.

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