Sunday, December 18, 2005

Untrustworthy Bigger Brother

Los Angeles Times Editorial : Last week may come to be seen as a tipping point in the public's attitude, one that will cause the administration to reverse its encroachment on rights in the name of security. The report of the NSA's unsupervised eavesdropping program helped defeat an extension of certain controversial provisions of the Patriot Act in the Senate on Friday.

Now even sympathetic lawmakers can be expected to view the Patriot Act more skeptically. The revelations about the NSA raise two fundamental questions about the administration's rationale for increased powers: If it's already spying on its own citizens, then why does it need the Patriot Act? Alternatively, if it's already spying on its own citizens, how can it be trusted with the Patriot Act? This administration has yet to fully acknowledge that with greater powers must come greater accountability.

As for the Defense Department's counterterrorism database, the Pentagon was forced on Thursday to acknowledge that it hadn't followed its own guidelines requiring the deletion of information on American citizens who clearly don't pose a security risk. Imagine that: a domestic military intelligence program that failed to abide by its own safeguards.

Given this administration's history, none of these developments is especially surprising. But the latest revelations may serve as a timely reminder of why the American constitutional system requires the judiciary — the third branch of government — to review the actions of the executive branch when necessary to protect the people's liberty.

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