News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: President Broke Law with NSA Wiretapping Says Constitutional Law Scholar

Sunday, February 05, 2006

President Broke Law with NSA Wiretapping Says Constitutional Law Scholar

Geoffrey Stone, constitutional professor of law at the University of Chicago Law Scool, has once again analyzed the Pres. wiretapping program of US citizens. Stone believes that the wiretapping is illegal, but in his most recent posting he addresses the question of what would happen to the reporters who uncovered this story.

More importantly--to me at least--Stone also discusses the fallout of Bush's program, were it to be found illegal by Congress. He doubts that the Pres. would be impeached, most likely because the Republicans own Congress. (Stone does not address the possibility that the next congressional and senate elections might change that.) ...

Stone sums up his remarks:

Al Gore’s call for Attorney General Gonzalez to appoint a special counsel to investigate Mr. Bush’s authorization of the spy program will certainly fall on deaf ears. In the absence of a massive public outcry, this is truly a case of the fox guarding the hen house. Moreover, unless it could be proved that the government officials who approved these practices (including the President) knew that they were unlawful and intended to violate the law, they would almost certainly not be convicted or impeached. But, if that is so, then what about the leaker/whistleblowers? If they honestly and reasonably believed they were acting lawfully and responsibly in disclosing this information, shouldn’t they be accorded the same protection against prosecution as the President and his agents?
My own position on this situation is that the wiretapping was illegal. No matter what rationale the President and his henchmen provide, they cannot deny the fact that they over-reacted and continue to over-react to a threat whose danger is quite limited--limited and therefore any restricting of individual rights is uncalled for. These measures have nothing to do with a threat from outside but instead further the govt's goal of playing on the public's fears so as to consolidate support for a political regime that the US public would otherwise find odious.

Of course, the outcome of this struggle between the Pres and Congress will probably produce further laws and refinement of the laws that are already in place to curtail executive-branch intrusions into individual's private lives. This procedural and legalistic solution is ultimately unsatisfactory because it does not address the core issue. That is the fact that America has accepted the assumption that there are enemies out there who are not rational and who cannot be talked to. In such an environment, the govt plays upon fears of some unknown other--an other that can be anyone, and because of this is everyone is suspect.

What this program represents is a much larger social process. This process involves the notion that there are various charcateristics that represent approved of personal and private traits. These can work at the social, personal, and cultural level. In the interests of maintaining control over an ever fragmentary social consciousness, the ruling powers need to maintain a guarantee that these forces will not oppose and disrupt the ideological means that the political uses to stay in power.

Beyond the political, however, this effort also represents a by-product of what Kierkegaard called the levelling of ultimate values that include religious and ethical constructs. Western civilization has reached apoint at which appeals to authority have no inherent validity or appeal. Instead, the power of social conformity forms the basis for how people gain an awareness of guding and directing their lives. For Kierkegaard, this process to ever growing conformity and subsumption of individual self-awareness under group rubrics entails a fragmentation of every ruling ethos. This process further destroys the basis for an appropriate growth of individual ethical selves.

Related Links
My Other Postings on NSA Wiretapping

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