Here’s what we needed to know about the NSA wiretapping.
This strikes me as very important, at least domestically. ABC’s calls are being tracked, or at least that’s the claim.
We had all become comfortable with an uneasy cold war between the state and journalists, conducted with a string of double agents we called leakers and whistleblowers. The state was opposed to these unauthorized informants, of course, but in the way they oppose so many things, i.e. ineffectually. This kept leaking to a minimum, and only for important things. It also allowed various officials to use strategic leaks to release information that could not be challenged, as when Rove and Libby used leaking to propagandize for the war in Iraq.
Perhaps it’s good that our officials must again practice the tradecraft that led Woodward and Bernstein to have discrete conversations in parking garages. I like a good spy novel as well as the next guy, but 007 has taken it too far in the direction of technology. Dead drops, crossword puzzle cryptograms, and some good old fashioned codebooks are what we really need. That’s the stuff the NSA was built to combat, and it’ll be fun to live in a world where only the unlucky and the incareful get caught and arrested on trumped up charges. If V for Vendetta and The Matrix taught us anything, it’s that hostilities are sexiest when they’re open. It robs insurrection of its revolutionary joy if there’s confusion about who the underdogs are. I’m tired of the conservatives claiming all the Big Brother victimhood for themselves. Now we progressives can be victims too!
That said, it would also be nice if the legislature would pass laws protecting journalists and whistleblowers from persecution. Call it, I dunno, “freedom of the press” or something. It’d be significantly less sexy, but it also might go a long way towards preserving democratic legitimacy. If fidelity to principles sounds too boring, perhaps they could pass it off as a public relations ploy. Part of a brand new “America, Home of the Free” campaign. For the tourists, dontcha know.
Anonymous Liberal has a nice wrap-up of the relative strength of the NSA’s wiretapping program as compared with Nixon’s wiretapping efforts. The conclusion: Nixon had a better case than Bush, and still lost. All the arguments for executive authority were basically demolished when Congress instituted the FISA court to oversee domestic wiretapping warrants. I suspect that any movement for Bush will come either from the Republican’s political hegemony or from a peculiar judicial blindness to the ‘unified executive’ doctrine, which my last post discusses.