Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Dependable FISA in a Time of War

The President of the United States of America authorized the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance on people within the US that contacted suspected terrorists beyond US borders. Critics charge that he violated the FISA law by not seeking warrents in FISA courts. They content that such warrents would not have been hard to come by.

To these critics, I ask: Is that your final answer?
One might ask whether the Bush administration has flooded the FISA court with requests and has gotten sloppy about their work. Indeed, since 2001 the Bush administration has sought 5,645 warrants -- which hardly sounds like an administration that has worked with the impulse to run roughshod over the idea of getting search warrants for their work. That number reflects an increase of only 64% over the final term of the Clinton administration, which requested 3,436 FISA warrants during that period. Considering the increased activity by the Bush administration post-9/11 to tighten security and track terrorists, a 64% increase does not sound like the current administration has exactly tried to overwhelm the FISA court, but instead work within its legal parameters to balance national security and civil liberties -- and it seems as though the FISA court has chosen to get cranky about it at a very foolish point in time.

Even more curiously, 173 out of 177 of the forced changes and all four of the rejections came after the fall of 2002, after the appointment of Judge George James (Sorry, Cap!--AHF) Robertson, the FISA court member who made a public splash with his resignation earlier this month. Rodney at the Bayosphere deduces that Robertson probably knew more than he let on about the issues surrounding the NSA program and used his position to obstruct it, a deduction that appears sensible, looking at the data and Robertson's actions.
Yes, it's a curious coincidence that Judge Robertson joins the FISA Court and suddenly rejections and ammendment of FISA Court Warrent applications flood the Administration. I wonder why?
James Robertson was appointed a United States District Judge by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Chief Justice William Rehnquist later placed him on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. On December 20, 2005, Judge Robertson resigned his position on the FISA court in apparent protest of the NSA warrantless surveillance disclosure.


From 1965 to 1969, he was in private practice with the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. From 1969 to 1972, Judge Robertson served with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as chief counsel of the Committee’s litigation offices in Jackson, Mississippi, and as director in Washington, D.C. Judge Robertson then returned to private practice with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he practiced until his appointment to the federal bench. While in private practice, he served as president of the District of Columbia Bar, co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and president of Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, Inc.
Oh, that's why.

Far be it from me to suspect that a Clinton appointee to the Federal Bench just might have a potential conflict of interest with a Republican President, when that Judge is in a position to help or hinder that president's exercise of his office. Which happens to play to that president's strength. As Mr. Clinton's Democrats prepare for a contentious 2006 mid-term elections, and Mrs. Clinton warms up her '08 bid.

Now, I'm not suggesting that there's proof of disingenuous behavior at play here. I'm just noticing some convenient coincidences. This, and the MSM's mouth-foaming on the NSA electronic surveillance practices, lead me to believe that Reasonable elites within the Democratic hierarchy have made much ado about nothing--for a political loss, no less!
Unfortunately for Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, the American electorate has proven themselves to be quite a bit more concerned with winning the war than with sharing the radical Left's paranoid fantasies:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not sure.

While almost the entire Democratic Party leadership has accused Bush of high crimes and talked about impeachment, a majority of their own party approves of the NSA program (51%), even as it might be endangered thanks to the NYT's exposure of it. Fifty-seven percent of independents also approve of the program, and combined with the 81% of Republicans, Bush has a solid mandate to continue using all the tools at his disposal to protect the nation.
In other words, the broom closet's open, and everymen have started sweeping. Please keep up the slobbering, my fine Reasonable friends! It'll provide motivation for the rest of us to clean house.