Did the NSA "break the law"?


I know that this blog (Power Line) is pretty hard-core conservative, but I found their analysis of the legal questions around the NSA electronic intercept program fairly convincing.


"The only constitutional limitation on the President’s power to intercept communications by Americans for national security purposes is that such intercepts be “reasonable.”



Is it reasonable for the administration to do all it can to identify the people who are communicating with known terrorists overseas, via the terrorists’ cell phones and computers, and to learn what terrorist plots are being hatched by those persons? Is it reasonable to do so even when—rather, especially when--some portion of those communications come from people inside the United States?



I don’t find it difficult to answer those questions; nor, if called upon to do so, would the Supreme Court." (from Powerline)


This in contrast with a highly speculative article in the Boston Phoenix that purposely confuses some facts with lots of more or less random prediction and speculation:


"Fearful that his presidency could be swept into the same historical dustbin as Richard Nixon’s, an unrepentant President George W. Bush seems intent on prosecuting the sources who leaked to the New York Times the details of his administration’s warrantless domestic spying. But does Bush have the chutzpah to go after the Times itself?" (from the Boston Phoenix)


Did you notice that? "Bush seems intent on ... " and "... does Bush have the chtuzpah to ..." Stating some speculative questions and then writing a whole article assuming that the answer is "yes" but with no evidence other than, "that's the kind of thing he would do."


But the more direct connection between the Phoenix bit and the Powerline bit is this:


"Many believe that the Times performed an incalculably valuable service when it reported last month on a top-secret National Security Agency program — almost certainly unlawful — involving presidentially (but not court-) approved electronic surveillance of message traffic between people in this country and locations abroad." (from Boston Phoenix again.)


Notice the "almost certainly unlawful" - I don't think it's anything like that clear. Anyway, I am no Bush apologist, by a long shot, but both these articles were very thought provoking, for different reasons.


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Posted on January 5, 2006 and filed under Life, Politics.