The Ham Hock of Liberty

Monday, February 06, 2006

Today, wiretaps. Tomorrow, summary execution.

The administration's defense of its warrantless-wiretapping program has been basically two-fold:

First, Congress implicitly OK'ed this when it authorized the President to use force against Iraq (strict constructionists need not apply). This one pretty much fails the laugh test, for all sorts of reasons. Not the least of which is that Congress specifically rejected an -explicit- attempt to authorize warrantless wiretapping.

Second, and slightly more reality-based, is the argument that warrantless wiretapping (assuming it is limited in scope to what the White House has described - a dicey assumption at best) is part of the President's inherent "wartime" or national-security authority. Once again, strict constructionists need not apply. According to this argument, if Article II of the Constitution grants this inherent authority to the kingPresident, any infringement of that authority, a la FISA, is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers.

Some shrill left-wing bloggers have wondered if the White House believes there are -any- limits on what it can do, as long as it claims to be acting to preserve "national security" during "wartime." Sober-minded pundits like to dismiss this speculation as wild-eyed slippery-slope speculation.

Except, apparently, it isn't.

Perhaps emboldened by their fun new interpretation of executive authority, some attorneys in the Justice Department have actually been considering whether the President can order summary executions of suspected terrorists. Not convicted terrorists, and not terrorists in the midst of committing an act of terrorism. But suspected terrorists.

I think that basically speaks for itself.

At the risk of sounding shrill, are we now officially a frog being boiled alive, who doesn't notice that it's being boiled, because the heat increases slowly and steadily?