The implications of this development strike me as rather … um … significant.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.
I’ve always been torn on this subject. Long ago, when I first embraced the conservative moniker, it was after reading Orwell’s 1984 and discussing it with my late father. That brand of conservatism resisted too much power being concentrated in too few hands. That brand of conservatism would have never allowed a warrantless wiretapping program.
That brand of conservatism also did not anticipate the lightning speed with which — nor the multiple channels along which — communications travel today. Even Orwell’s fantasy failed to imagine a world with wireless communication and this thing we call the Internet.
For those reasons, I now believe that, in this world, in the real world, there needs to be some latitude given to law enforcement. (And by “law enforcement,” I mean the broad effort to protect us from all those who would do us harm, domestic and otherwise.) At the same time, I don’t want such latitude to be drawn so broadly that our essential rights are undermined.
And those, in the simplest terms, are the roots of my struggle on this topic. Unfortunately, I lack the expertise to understand how such balance — between the needs of law enforcement and the rights of citizens — might be best achieved.
One thing is certain: The ruling noted above provides further evidence (as if we needed it) that this debate won’t be resolved anytime soon.
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