Government wiretap program ruled illegal – allowed to continue

I often look at how things work in politics and in the judicial system and think that for the problems we see in these arenas, a large part of the operation involved goes well enough. Sure, there are occasional WTF? moments for some court rulings, and some zOMG thoughts come up when politicians do idiotic things. But mostly, things work well enough that there isn’t a pressing need to seek change in the processes. However, when rulings like this get passed down, I really wonder how these decisions can come about.

The Bush administration is allowed to continue its warrantless surveillance program while it appeals a judge’s ruling that the program is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The president says the program is needed in the war on terrorism; opponents say it oversteps constitutional boundaries on free speech, privacy and executive powers.

“Yes it’s unconstitutional. Go right ahead with it until you get the answer you want from the court system.”

This is absurd, and leaves me wondering exactly who thought this was a good idea.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling by a unanimous three-judge panel allows the program to continue during the appeal that could take months.

In their brief order, the judges said they balanced the likelihood of success of an appeal, the potential damage to either side and the public interest.

And I have to assume weighing in the public interest didn’t take citizens’ Constitutional rights into account, or the decision would not have been made. The Constitution should outweigh any judgement made based on likelihood of success of an appeal. But to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court, apparently it doesn’t.

Another annoying bit in this whole fiasco is this quote:

But the government says it can’t always wait for a court to take action. It says the NSA program is well within the president’s authority but proving that would require revealing state secrets.

Fortunately, the creators of the 1978 FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) understood that, and put in specific provisions to allow the President the power to initiate wiretaps without a warrant, provided a warrant is applied for within 48 hours of initiating the wiretap. Once the request is put in, the wiretap can continue until the request is approved or denied. If it is approved (which damn near always happens), the entire tap is legal. I don’t understand why the President feels requesting authorization from a court dedicated to authorizing these taps within 48 hours of initiating a wiretap is so difficult. But I think a lot of things are more difficult for the President than for most people.

[tags]Court – wiretapping unconstitutional; keep it up!, Current state of NSA wiretaps[/tags]