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.


  1. Well, I should have said ‘walking on thin ice’ instead of ‘skating close to the edge.’ I fully support the intel aspects of the war on terror, and I understand why surveillance in necessary. But the wide-ranging ability to pull records, and the power granted by pooling info in different databases, gives me a bit of a chill. There have been so many cases of misuse of this type of information in the past, and the PATRIOT Act just seems to simplify the job of those that might want to do so. That being said, I’m not advocating sunsetting the entire thing.

  2. Since my previous comment didn’t even begin to answer your question, I’ll try again. I don’t really have any specific complaints about the Act. Or rather, I have the same complaint about all of them: There’s so much room for abuse or use for things other than the war on terror. I’m not informed enough on the subject to discuss it in detail, which is why I keep skating around the edge. And don’t ask me why I keep using all these ice skating and ice metaphors. Maybe because, as I write this, it’s 2 damn degrees outside. (-10 wind chill.)

  3. Why does it scare me? 1984, Ruby Ridge, WACO, the RICO laws, Adverse Possession Laws, The Patriot Act. Teh ability of the FBI to take what they need to ‘Prosecute’ the war. The thought that someone like Teddy Kennedy or ‘Reverand’ Jackson will be in office. Read any good history lately, like th ehistory of Hitlere’s rise to power? How far do I need to go, and what proof do you have that we need these laws, other than they sound ‘reasonable’?