To Be Frightened or Not: Some Useful Perspective on Warrantless Searches
To read much of the old news media commentary, one would think that the Republic is near collapse over President Bush's warrantless surveillance (search) of some American citizens' telephone conversations. I am sure many of my liberal friends find the entire situation downright frightening.
Of course, many of my liberal friends are routinely frightened, but only by forces that disturb their well-ordered world view. For example, one of them finds Paul Harvey's daily radio commentary frightening. Another finds evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews frightening. Of course, the 1994 Contract With America was terrifying to another. Oddly, none of them ever found the Soviet Union frightening (or even a little disturbing-- it was just an alternative governmental system, after all).
Significantly, in more modern times, many of my liberal friends do not find al Quaeda frightening. This may be the most obvious difference these days between mainstream liberals and mainstream conservatives.
So my "liberal overreaction antennae" always rise when I hear those folks are once again frightened by a Bush Administration action. Now that President Bush has admitted to warrantless surveillance of telephone conversations connected to the non-frightening al Quaeda organization, fear and outrage are widespread.
Fortunately, there are people in the world who know what they are talking about in this area. One example: In National Review, Andrew McCarthy, a former prosecutor, reminds everyone that warrantless searches are as common as can be in the USA. He gives 27 examples. Read them.
I haven't noticed any former prosecutors yet who are frightened by the president's NSA surveillance activities. Have you? Hugh Hewitt sums up the opposition of the frightened liberals:
I have to believe these are people of good faith who simply have no experience in the world, who simply have no idea what we are up against. It was the same way in the '80s, when the nature of the Soviet Union was not understood by the left, and the Venona intercepts still a long way from being made public. They are not serious in that they will not allow their carefully constructed world views to be disturbed by reality, no matter how ghastly the reality that knocks at their front door. 9/11, Bali, Beslan, Madrid, Zarqawi etc --nothing matters to them except their own convictions about President Bush. The good news is that they are a minority of American voters. The bad news is that they can and do accomplish a great deal of injury to the national security, and that they appear to be the decisive voice in the Democratic Party at the close of 2005.I haven't noticed any commentator who is not an obvious and consistent Bush critic or opponent who is frightened or upset about the NSA matter. I'll keep an eye out for one.
Hugh points us to another former prosecutor, XDA, who sums up the legal underpinnings of present controversy:
So, based on cases . . . by the Supreme Court of the United States and by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (which reviews the FISA court) there is nothing unreasonable about warrantless listening in on the phone calls from known al Qaeda operatives to persons in the United States especially after al Qaeda declared war on us in 1998. I'm sorry if one half of the conversation is by someone in America who may well be an American. If we could stop listening when the American is speaking without doing damage to our understanding of the conversation, perhaps we could try; but we all know that wouldn't work because then we wouldn't know what the al Qaeda guy was talking about if all we heard was half the conversation. That there is an American on the line of a foreign call doesn't make listening in unreasonable, especially when the person he or she is talking to is with al Qaeda. I believe it would be unreasonable to say the President can't try to discover what our self-declared enemy is planning. But of course I would say that, I'm a Republican. Here's the short version of what the President is doing at the NSA: Not unreasonable, not illegal, but in fact perfectly legal, reasonable, necessary and prudent. No warrant is required for reasonable searches.Read the whole thing; it's enlightening, not frightening.