Eavesdropping

EAVESDROPPING….In the New York Times today, Adam Liptak makes a point about the NSA’s domestic spying program that I meant to make myself yesterday: namely that negotiating a voluntary end to the program conveniently allows the White House to avoid settling the main issue the program raises:

The details remained sketchy yesterday, but critics of the administration said they suspected that one goal of the new arrangements was to derail lawsuits challenging the program in conventional federal courts.

“It’s another clear example,” said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, “of the government playing a shell game to avoid accountability and judicial scrutiny.”

….The announcement about the surveillance program came two weeks before a federal appeals court in Cincinnati was to hear the first appellate argument about the lawfulness of the program. Government lawyers now say that case is moot, but their claim is open to question.

It’s nice that this specific program has been brought under the oversight of the FISA court, but what’s more important is the broader question of whether the president has the authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant. He still claims that he does, and that’s a claim that deserved to be litigated in the Supreme Court. It still does.