Blood on Her Hands
It was expected that they'd be against the ruling. Anything remotely critical of President Bush or Republican idealogy is fodder for their pages. But their editorial today on Judge Taylor's ruling permanently enjoining the Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program was particularly snarky and hysterical. They argue, for example, that the wiretapping program is an intelligence operation and not a law-enforcement proceeding, as if this is a meaningful distinction. We suspect that if or more likely, when, the Administration actually starts using the information obtained in a criminal proceeding it will matter little to the victim that his or her civil rights were denied because the information was gained for intelligence purposes.
But where the WSJ really goes astray in its argument is in its view that the program should be judged by its results rather than its essence. According to the WSJ, there is no evidence of any single specific domestic abuse of the program to this point. We struggle mightily to understand why this matters. A program that is illegal is per se an abuse and simply because the perpetrators haven't compounded the problem by engaging in further abuse doesn't somehow make it more palatable or legal. The suggestion that because an individual may not realize that his or her rights have been violated by an illegal wiretap somehow makes the more program more palatable is an extremely distasteful rubric.
We also find it unfortunate that with her opinion, Judge Taylor will now have blood on her hands because "no one can hold her accountable for any Americans who might die as a result" of her opinion. As long as we're applying a results-based analysis, we'll wait patiently for the WSJ to identify the first victim but won't hold our breath. But they can't really be suggesting that's the test, can they? Protecting civil liberties is never easy but assuming for the moment that Judge Taylor's right, isn't that exactly why we have 2000+ dying in Iraq in the first place?
It may be that Judge Taylor's opinion will be overturned. Given the make-up of the Supreme Court, it's likely. But until then, we'll respect the rule of the law and leave it to the editorial board of the WSJ to argue for a different outcome.