Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prosecutions and Wiretapping

Tom Bevan made mention of this inexcusable behavior reported in U.S. News and World Report regarding the War on Terror:


In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. [snip]

The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

The act requiring prosecution? The leak.

It tipped off terrorists as to our methods and efforts to detect their activities. Even worse, it may have clued them in to what we are not doing, and that certain of their operations may not be compromised. But regardless of the stated intentions of these two officials, what they did was unethical (again, irrespective of their stated intentions) illegal, and put our national security interests at risk.

This is the same problem I had with Deep Throat. He reported his concerns to a reporter who told the story and revealed information gained in the process of an investigation (again, illegal), rather than to a prosecutor who could have handled the problem. He also retained his job and lived within the system that he claimed to despise, not so disgusted that he wasn't willing to take the paycheck.

And if these anonymous sources have such great problems with a program that they find illegal, they need to resign and in their resignation letter to their superiors, state that they believed that the acts taken in the interests of homeland security were unconstitutional. It would clear their conscience, they would have their grievances aired on the record, and secrecy would be maintained.

But what these people believe to be constitutional or otherwise requires some correction.

There is nothing unlawful about detecting smells, sounds, or sights that can be perceived without entry into a place of privacy. Much like the drug dog cases, people have no privacy interests in contraband, nor in emissions that come from such items that can be detected in the outside world. And methods that detect such emissions are not unlawful searches, United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983). Similarly, efforts to detect radiation and other harmful substances by emissions detectable in the public realm do not violate the Constitution if the measurement is done outside a place where there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy. And many of these places are not "private" they are businesses and mosques, open to the public and inviting people to enter. And if a detection of contraband occurs inside the public areas of such a place, it is likewise lawful.

But that explanation aside, these people have broken the law. Things are "classified" for a reason. And because a couple of people decided to play lawyer, they have gone public and exposed our sources and methods to get an answer to their burning legal question. Well, here's the answer. It's legal. Their breach of trust by leaking undoubtedly top secret information was not. And in an effort to make themselves feel just a little better, they made life just a little more dangerous for the rest of us.

2 Comments:

Blogger ELAshley said...

I couldn't agree more. These folks need to be hung out to dry. It would be especially nice if the NYT's and assorted other media outlets could be nailed to the same tree. Something should at least be done to take them over the knee and give them a public spanking.

I'm all for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but there are lines-- limits --that shouldn't be crossed. I feel it's a safe assumption to say Caesar would have avoided the knives of Brutus and the other senators if he hadn't crossed the Rubicon. Every action we make comes with a price, be it benign or malignant.

Today's media is beginning to take on that Cancerous look.

11:53 AM  
Blogger rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

People want Bush bad for this issue. However, did he break a law or just use bad judgement?
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

5:20 PM  

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