Switching up wiretapping practices

The administration is going to extraordinary lengths to quash their wiretapping lawsuits.

Last October, the distinguished legal scholar Geoffrey Stone paid a visit to the Hubert H. Humphrey Center where he delivered a lecture on the relationship between freedom of the press and national security.

One of the most interesting parts of the evening came after the lecture, during the question and answer portion, when a member of the audience stood up and asked about the legality of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The topic had gained considerable attention in the news, but for many the subject needed some clarification: The administration insisted the program was legal, while others insisted it wasn’t.

In his response, Mr. Stone carefully outlined the administration’s arguments for why the program is legal and just as carefully dismantled them. According to Stone, the program “flatly and unequivocally” violates the law that regulates such actions. In fact, the Bush administration’s legal arguments were so defective and ungrounded that he used the word “bogus” more than once to describe them.

But maybe “absurd” is the more accurate word for it. Anyone with even a basic understanding of the law would recognize that the program was illegal. It is absurd to employ such stall tactics, and yet, it’s perfectly characteristic of this administration. They’re deluded into thinking they can do whatever they want, and, to make matters worse, they have a love affair with secrecy.

The most recent example of this affliction came last week. Shortly after the administration publicly agreed to abide by the wiretapping law, reports surfaced about the administration going to extraordinary lengths to quash lawsuits over their illegal wiretapping program. According to The New York Times, the Justice Department is refusing to let plaintiffs or judges access files that are central to the cases at hand. In another instance, the Justice Department filed suit in an attempt to remove a document from the computer of a plaintiff’s lawyer.

There’s something called acting honestly and openly, and there’s also something called following the law. At this point, our guess is that this administration just hasn’t heard of it.