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Friday, March 31, 2006

Presidential Censure

In the midst of all the publicity, that has surrounded the immigration reform issue, there has been a somewhat less obvious issue present: Sen. Russell Feingold has initiated a resolution to censure Bush because of his allowance of wire tapping activities after September 11th. According to CNN, a former white house counselor (John Dean) said that Bush’s activities were not in accordance with the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I will not speak to whether he violated this act, but I think that an economic analysis of Bush’s policy could be helpful in discerning whether his activities are truly as reprehensible as they have been represented as being.

From the freedom perspective I think that the analysis is initially clear, though somewhat muddled after a closer examination. Initially I am inclined to say that the freedom perspective would dictate that Bush should not be allowing wire-tapping. However, this would be an overly simplified view of the issue. Bush allowed wire-tapping after he was allowed the use of, "all necessary and appropriate force" by an act of congress after September 11th. The wire-tapping in question was not completely without supervision and was used to monitor only people known to be involved with Al Qaeda in some way. This seems to qualify as protecting people from harm. Though this point is arguable to some extent, it seems that generally this could be considered an acceptable rationalization. From the freedom perspective, it seems that Bush’s use of wire-tapping would be justified.

I think that both efficiency and equity do not particularly speak to this issue, and I would struggle in defining another perspective which would be helpful, but common sense does seem to speak to it to some extent. I think that even if you object to government interference in general it is not difficult to think that perhaps the only people that would be negatively affected by wire-tapping would be those who have something to hide. This is not to say that government should be permitted to listen in on all phone calls, but it certainly makes the issue a little more clear. I think that the freedom perspective cuts through much of the rhetoric that has been used and shows that the issue is simple. Bush used wire-tapping as a means of protection. Whether or not a person agrees with the activity it at least needs to be acknowledged that there was some justification for the activity. Since there is a rational justification for Bush’s wire-tapping, I would not support censuring him.

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