Taking the president’s spying to the courts

We must trust the courts in a private trial concerning this wiretapping case.

As a poll suggests, the controversy over domestic wiretapping seems on the surface to bear inconsistent views.?Some of us express our desire to see all terrorist suspects tapped, yet another side view the surveillance of citizens as an unacceptable violation of the Constitution. Yet these contrasting views are not so divergent if viewed through the lens of reasonable suspicion, and as differing degrees of trust in the administration’s method for suspecting people of being terrorists.?

The Fourth Amendment’s defense against searches is given an exception in cases involving reasonable suspicion of a citizen’s criminal guilt, such as conspiring to commit acts of terrorism. The real problem is that some Americans do not believe the Bush administration or the National Security Agency are employing a valid basis for suspicion and they would be revoking constitutional rights of citizens. The trouble with this issue is that the NSA cannot ” and must not ” expose their methodologies publicly out of obvious national security needs, leaving the public doomed to ignorance on the debate’s fundamental crux.

The only way for this problem to be resolved satisfactorily, yet securely, is for the Justice Department to allow judicial oversight of their activities, which was supposed to happen all along at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts, whose verdicts are as private as they are binding. Thus it stands as a testament to the immense awareness of the nation’s founders that the Fourth Amendment’s legal exception for cases of reasonable doubt required judiciary oversight by explicitly demanding the issue of warrants for exceptionalities.

The administration’s failure to subject their suspicions of guilt to the FISA court’s oversight does in itself mark an unconstitutional activity, though its gravity depends on the reasonability with which the administration has labeled citizens as suspects of terrorism. The issue will demand a special ” and private ” court trial to determine whether this offense was pursued in such a frivolous manner so as to warrant the administration’s removal from office. This administration’s culpability rests on the question of its rationale for defining citizens, and we will need to trust the objectivity of our government’s internal judicial framework to make that determination on its own.

Joseph Schaedler is a recent University graduate. Please send comments to [email protected].