Thursday, July 16, 2009

Patriots All

On day one of every semester I ask the students to introduce themselves giving name, political experience, course expectations and their "hot button" issue. I get to play Devil's Advocate and argue against whatever they are enraged about. It is a demonstration of the two sides of every issue and it is the point after which we become objective political scientists rather than position advocates.

Inevitably one or two students are upset about the erosion of their fundamental rights by the Patriot Act. I will ask them how they have been personally impacted. It leaves them at a loss for words. They've been told by the media that they are damaged, so they dutifully bemoan their fate despite the fact that nothing in their lives changed.

I'm a believer in waging war with all the tools at your disposal. Non-conventional enemies demand non-conventional tactics. Data mining is a viable tool. Gleaning electronic communications between potential combatants in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the US is not unreasonable to me. We have the capability to flag and intercept cell phone transmission, satellite phones and internet exchanges. We learn a lot.

Consider this:

foreign threats "are much less capable to be directed by antecedent, standing, positive laws." Legislatures are too slow and their members too numerous to respond effectively to unforeseen situations. Only the executive can act to protect the "security and interest of the public."

Or possiblty this assignment of the responsibility for securing the nation:

The power to protect the nation, ought to exist without limitation," because "it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them." To limit the president's constitutional power to protect the nation from foreign threats is simply foolhardy. ..."decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man, in a much more eminent degree, than the proceedings of any greater number." "Energy in the executive, is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks."

Is that the language of some Bush administration apologist? Is Dick Cheney or Karl Rove trying to justify his action? Nope.

The first quote comes from John Locke in the 1760s. The second is from Alexander Hamilton, writing in The Federalist. I can't dispute the wisdom of either.

Read it all here:

The Justification for Warrantless Wiretaps

Wow, that guy is teaching at Berkely! Can you believe that?

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I love your "day one" exercise is great! We need more teachers like you.