Why Some Republicans Oppose Patriot Act Reauthorization
You'd think that Andy McCarthy, a formal federal prosecutor, would be capable of explaining to readers at The Corner the actual reasons why some Republicans objected to reauthorizing various Patriot Act provisions. But in this post, he acts as if their opposition was "mindless preening the kind that makes you wonder if some of the people screaming about 'first principles' understand what the first principles are." Let's look more closely at how McCarthy misleads the uninformed reader. Here is how he explains one controversial provision:
Roving wiretaps can only be used with the approval of a judge, and if you are going to target a terrorist or other foreign agent for electronic surveillance at all, it is downright dumb not to get a roving tap because these guys are sophisticated actors who change their phones a lot to defeat surveillance. If we didn’t have roving taps, investigators would have to go back to court and get a new eavesdropping order every time that happened. For that reason, law-enforcement agents doing run-of-the-mill drug investigations have had roving tap authority for about 30 years.
In order to understand why the provision is actually controversial let's see what The Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez wrote about it:
Roving wiretap authority allows intelligence wiretap orders to follow a target across multiple phone lines or online accounts. Similar authority has been available in criminal investigations since 1986, but Patriot’s roving wiretaps differ from the version available in criminal cases, because the target of an order may be “described” rather than identified. Courts have stressed this requirement for identification of a named target as a feature that enables criminal roving wiretaps to satisfy the “particularity” requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Patriot’s roving taps, by contrast, raise the possibility of “John Doe” warrants that name neither a person nor a specific “place” or facility--disturbingly similar to the “general warrants” the Founders were concerned to prohibit when they crafted the Fourth Amendment. Given the general breadth of FISA surveillance and the broad potential scope of online investigations, John Doe warrants would pose a high risk of “overcollecting” innocent Americans’ communications. Most civil liberties advocates would be fine with making this authority permanent if it were simply modified to match the criminal authority and foreclose the possibility of "John Doe" warrants by requiring either a named individual target or a list of specific facilities to be wiretapped.
In its coverage of intra-Republican disagreements, National Review ought to labor to explain for its readers the crux of the disagreement. McCarthy completely obscures it. And he is a serial offender, doing the same thing in this post. This is particularly egregious because some of the Republicans who raised questions about Patriot reauthorization have given detailed statements articulating various specific concerns.