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Friday, August 18, 2006

It's official: rule of law still prevails in US

A US Federal judge has found that the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program, undertaken without the issue of warrants, is unconstitutional and has ordered an immediate halt on grounds it violated rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

This is a major setback to the Bush Administration and its claims for extraordinary powers in the pursuit of the ‘war on terror’. The Judge made it pretty clear that the rule of law is still in place in the US:
"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution."

2 comments:

  1. Mark Everingham5:16 pm

    Peter
    Does the use of the quotation marks around the phrase war on terror suggest that it is a false concept? The number of casualties in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Baghdad, New York, Bali, Madrid, London, Istanbul, Thailand, Sudan, Phillipines, Moscow, Grozny, Mumbai, and Jakarta do not fortunately reach the levels of the major wars of the 20th century. But there is still clearly a war occurring against a non-state actor. It should be acceptable to balance the right to privacy against the right to defend against terrorists, as was clearly intended by the US Congress when via its House intelligence committee this program was sanctioned. To quote Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times: "What happened a week or so back was that a handful of would-be jihadists in London managed to get airline security changed in perpetuity for 300 million Americans, 60 million Britons and anybody who wants to visit them. And we all gave a shrug and barely noticed....[my] National Review colleague David Frum calculates that an extra 10 minutes added to the passenger screening process costs the global economy more than $33 billion a year. So, as the Britons and Germans and Danes and Canadians have been doing in recent weeks, we can keep intercepting new terror plots and adding a minute here, a minute there to security procedures to cope with whatever novelties the jihad comes up with.

    That's assuming the authorities are allowed to keep intercepting. The method by which Scotland Yard and MI5 uncovered the Heathrow plot -- monitoring communications between external and domestic phone numbers -- has now been ruled "unconstitutional" after a case brought by the Michigan branch of the ACLU, which went judge-shopping and happily for them found a judge who'd previously served as trustee of an organization that funds the Michigan ACLU. Quelle surprise, as the French say. Or as they would say if they weren't too busy trying to weasel out of their phony-baloney U.N. peacekeeping gig in Lebanon.

    Setting aside her conflict of interest, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor delivered a legal opinion of almost laughable illiteracy that leaves the United States government in the curious position of being able to do more to intercept terrorist plots against foreign countries than against its own. That's to say, on the Heathrow bust, the United States provided some information from communications intercepts to British and Pakistani authorities. If Judge Taylor's ruling stands, if the U.S. government intercepts a call from Islamabad to London about a plot to blow up Big Ben, it can alert the Brits. But, if the U.S. government intercepts a call from Islamabad to New York about a plot to blow up the Chrysler Building, that's entirely unconstitutional and all record of it should be erased. And, given that cell phones with American area codes can be used all around the planet, all the guy in Islamabad would have to do is get one with a 202 or 212 number and he can plot jihad on every continent to his heart's content. One notes that earlier this month five Muslim Americans were arrested in Ohio and Michigan after hundreds of cell phones were found in their cars. But no doubt Taylor will soon uncover a constitutional right to multiple cell phones."

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  2. Quotation marks were used because these are the words used by President Bush to characterise the response to terrorism.

    Many respected commentators take the view that the word “war” suggests that this struggle can be won by military means,and is a misdiagnosis.

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