Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another 9/11 Was Stopped Without Breaking a Single Law

It should be clear to anyone who can read and reason that the arrest by British authorities of homegrown terrorists plotting to blow up airplanes demonstrates the utter uselessness of intrusive domestic surveillance programs.

That, of course, has not stopped far-right bloggers and the Christian fascist types in the Bush administration from claiming that the Patriot Act and the NSA warrantless surveillance program have been vindicated as essential tools in the fight to prevent another 9/11.

Fortunately for us all, Glenn Greenwald is here to spell out the stunningly obvious: "Legal surveillance, not illegal eavesdropping, stopped the U.K. terrorist attacks":

As I noted on Thursday, Bush supporters have been attempting to exploit the U.K. terrorist plot to bolster support for an array of extremist and lawless Bush policies -- from warrantless eavesdropping to torture -- even though there is not a shred of evidence that any of those policies played any role whatsoever, either in the U.S. or England, in impeding this plot.

Within hours of disclosure of the plot, Cliff May was over in National Review crowing that this plot demonstrated the need for warrantless eavesdropping and indefinite detentions, and yesterday, the Wall St. Journal published an editorial strongly insinuating -- with no reasoning (and no facts) whatsoever -- that Bush's most controversial policies were necessary to stop the attacks from proceeding. ...
It is hard to know where to begin in demonstrating the sheer falsity of these arguments. First, most of the surveillance of the terrorist plotters was conducted by British law enforcement. British law requires the issuance of warrants before telephone conversations can be intercepted, and every warrant must "name or describe either one person as the Interception Subject, or a single set of premises where the interception is to take place." Being able to eavesdrop only with warrants did not prevent British law enforcement from stopping these terrorist attacks. It is baffling, to put it mildly, why defenders of Bush's illegal eavesdropping would think that any of this bolsters their defense that warrantless eavesdropping is necessary.

Even more significantly, to the extent that U.S. law enforcement agents attempted to assist in the pre-arrest surveillance of these terrorists, they were able to eavesdrop on the conversations of scores of individuals inside the U.S. by obtaining the approval of the FISA court, just as the law requires. ...

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