Friday, June 06, 2008

McCain Waffling on Warrantless Wiretaps?

The other day I stated,"I will vote for whichever candidate I believe will restore the balance of power away from "the imperial presidency"." Today the NY Times reports that when it comes to warrantless wiretaps McCain's position is the same as W's...

WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.

And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”

Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power.

In an interview about his views on the limits of executive power with The Boston Globe six months ago, Mr. McCain strongly suggested that if he became the next commander in chief, he would consider himself obligated to obey a statute restricting what he did in national security matters.

To me this issue says a lot about what a candidate's attitudes are in regards to the powers the office president holds. The devil is in the details on this however. The wiretapping program is currently legal and has to be authorized by Congress every six months and as I said previously:
Critics fear that the new law is too broadly worded, an end to privacy, or is likely to be abused. I'd argue that privacy is frequently not guaranteed when communicating with citizens of other countries. Additionally in an age when terrorists are frequently ahead of the curve in using the internet to their advantage there are scenarios when time could be of the utmost import. However I in no way, shape, or form trust any administration permanently with the powers this law grants. But as long as this law requires approval every six months and the law is continually refined in the process I'll concede that it may be a necessary tool in order to prevent terrorist acts on U.S. soil. But once it ceases to serve that purpose or is used for another end I'll be among the first to advocate scrapping it.