Whatever Just Happened There
My colleague Julian Sanchez has a fascinating article in Wired today about warrantless wiretapping:
As Congress prepares to reauthorize the controversial FISA Amendments Act of 2008 — which effectively legalized the notorious warrantless wiretap program launched by President Bush — much about the law remains shrouded in secrecy: The National Security Agency has refused to give legislators even a rough estimate of how many Americans’ communications have been swept up in the digital dragnet.
Yet even four years after the FAA’s passage, one of the biggest mysteries isn’t how the law has been used, but why it was necessary in the first place. One surprising — but surprisingly plausible — explanation points to the unexpected consequences of broadband deregulation.
In other words, it seems entirely plausible that the Bush administration’s deregulation of cable broadband service accidentally led to a secret court refusing to approve a sizable chunk of the NSA’s wiretapping activities. That ruling then precipitated a dramatic political battle full of overblown claims of threats to America and eventually resulted in the passage of a measure expanding the NSA’s ability to intercept communications inside the United States.
But hey. We live in a democracy, so I’m sure that we all wanted… whatever it was that just happened there. About which not one of us can even begin to form a proper opinion. But it’s okay. Democracy!
As Mark Thompson observed in a recent, not-to-be-revisited comment thread, in the absence of evidence all we have to fall back on are our own intrinsic biases.