National security notes on the State of the Union address
In a good rundown of the President’s State of the Union speech, Phil Carter has this to say about the President’s call to renew the PATRIOT Act:
This is very interesting. Many legal scholars and political observers see this piece of legislation as a political albatross for the administration — a lightning rod for criticism that the Bush Administration doesn’t respect American civil rights or civil liberties. It looks like the President is going to come out swinging on this point, and I’m not sure how that’s going to go over. As a policy matter, I support most of the measures in the USA PATRIOT Act, because of my understanding of how they work and how law enforcement uses these tools today. But I also recognize that this Act has a tremendous political cost, and I’m not sure the President has the political capital he had in October 2001 when he got this Act passed the first time.
Not thirty minutes ago I said something very similar to someone, and I pointed out that, while I agreed with most of the policy of the PATRIOT Act, there were some things that have the potential to “scare the bejeebers out of me.”
The world has changed. Surveillance is a necessary part of our life, much more than in the past. We need to uncover other people’s secrets, keep our own secrets (even from our own people), and act covertly if we want to win. But there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed at any cost, and I’m afraid that we’re flirting with it.