Last Time Around

Tim Lee makes the excellent point that the country already has some experience with the All Discretion to the Executive model of electronic surveillance that the GOP, the Blue Dog Caucus, The Washington Post and others seem so eager to implement:

Martin Luther King was the most famous of the dozens of anti-war activists, civil rights leaders, journalists, and other undesirables whose communications were bugged by the Johnson and Nixon administration. There's no evidence that the Bush administration has done anything like that. But if we eliminate meaningful judicial oversight of the executive branch's surveillance activities, there's every reason to think that a future administration will.

And of course the absence of evidence about abusive uses of the illegal surveillance program may say more about our general ignorance of the program than about the administration's probity. We know that the "rendition" program has been against innocent people and to extract false confessions designed to bolster bogus administration talking points about Iraq/al-Qaeda links, so there's plenty of reason to worry. But even if Bush has conducted his secret illegal surveillance in the most ethical possible way to conduct secret illegal surveillance, Tim's right to say that future administrations almost certainly won't. Nixon's gross abuses built on a platform of surveillance that grew slowly-but-surely over the decades across several different administrations.

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