THE LEGAL PRINCIPLE OF "TRUSTING PEOPLE WHO CANNOT BE TRUSTED." Matt points out the obvious with respect to Ben Wittes' inevitable support for the Bush administration's position on every legal issue (which, remarkably, goes back to the wholly indefensible Bush v. Gore itself.) Absent any means of enforcement or disclosure, the idea that the fact that arbitrary wiretapping will be confined by language limiting it to those "reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States" is frankly absurd. And it's unclear why, at this late date, one would trust the administration with unconstrained power, given the competence it's shown so far. Checks and balances are good not only because they protect liberties but because they make government more focused and effective. Giving the administration more leeway to go on wild goose chases is not good for national security, even leaving the civil liberties out of it.
It also seems to me that Wittes misunderstands the political dynamic. Does he seriously think that in 6 months Congress will be in a position to withdraw powers it already gave to the Bush administration? Leaving aside exactly how Congress is going to effectively determine how a largely secret program is working, in an election year powers given to the executive will be almost impossible to take back. Which is why the Democrats' capitulation was so disgraceful.
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