And the award goes to … George Walker Bush. Again.
The president says allowing the National Security Agency to secretly intercept the communications of whoever the government sees fit to scrutinize ” is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives.”
Someday, maybe there’ll be an accounting of all the good work this spying program achieved. Until then, we’ll have to take the president’s word for it. By now, I’ve got a pretty strong opinion of what that’s worth.
Last year, I wrote something brief about Olmstead v. United States. The term “landmark decision” is overused in reference to the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States. But because of a brilliant dissent by Associate Justice Louis Brandeis that cut through the legalistic myopia of the court’s majority in a 1928 wiretapping case, Olmstead became a fundamental declaration of a right to live free of “every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed.”
Of course, the president, his cohorts, and their defenders are a step ahead of Brandeis’s objection. They say what they are doing is not only justifiable, it’s a necessity for “saving American lives.” Again, don’t wait up late for proof — that would be only helping our enemies. And haven’t we done enough for them already?
In Olmstead, Brandeis anticipated justifications such as the one the president proffers now. He wrote: “.. Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. …”
Men of zeal, without understanding. Engrave it on a plaque. Send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.