It’s just prior to the president’s talk concerning FISA lawmaking. The reports are that the president is pushing for retroactive immunity for private parties who provided private information about citizens to the government without warrants, something that is included in the Senate bill, but not the House bill.
Why is there discussion on this? It seems to me that doing this is a form of legal revisionism, a slap in the face to traditional jurisprudence, and certainly it is no expression of conservatism. I forget; is the power of presidential pardon limited to actual persons, and not fictional persons in the form of corporations? Especially if the latter is permitted (not that paying attention to constitutional permissions has been much of a factor so far in executive governance in the current administration), it seems to me that all the protection the president could wish for already exists.
Ah, the speech has started. Bush says that the telecommunications companies have been ‘helping America’ and that it would be ‘unfair’ to let them be exposed to class action lawsuits on the matter. Bush says that they are ‘abusive’ lawsuits. Can’t FISA be used? No, says Bush, it didn’t let us track terrorists quickly and effectively.
I’m not sure about this, but I don’t recall that FISA usage supports the president’s assertions. The great preponderance of warrant requests were granted, and I don’t recall that there was any appreciable delay in the FISA court granting warrants. [Someone with stats said FISA granted 25,000 warrants, and denied 5 warrant requests. That’s about a 0.02% rejection rate.
If the warrants were issued randomly, about one in 120 people that you know have been monitored by the government. Since, hopefully, they aren’t issued randomly, you may know considerably fewer — or considerably more — “observed persons”, or be one yourself. My innumeracy corrected by Annyday, see comments. I’ll plead illness. — WRE]
So what recourse would US citizens have against false investigation and exposure of personal communications? If the revision preferred by the president is passed, it appears that this near-impossible task becomes even more remote. The telecommunications carriers who told the government to take a hike until proper warrants were served should be commended, and those who did not respect the rule of law prevailing at the time are properly exposed to the possibility of their clients having legal recourse against them.
At the moment, I’m not impressed with this latest push to erode legal protection of the citizenry. What good does it do to defeat foreign terrorists if in doing so we make our system of governance indistinguishable from the systems those terrorists seem to prefer, with repressive tactics and justice dispensed at the whim of bureaucrats?