T Nation

What If Wiretapping Works?



This is an article written in the New Republic by a Federal judge. If you don't have a login, you can go to BUGMENOT.com to get one.

Among other things, he suggests that the law be amended so that any non-terrorism related data collected under the guise of anti-terror wiretapping be rendered automatically moot. In other words, unless the discussion leads the Gov. to believe they are dealing with terrortist elements, nothing they hear or read would be actionable.

Judge Posner equates intelligence gathering operations with other data mining operations, like asking a person for identification or maintaining public surveillance cameras. As a libertarian I reflexively disagree with this extension of power, but upon further consideration I think it is a perspective worth considering.

Some objections are obvious, but I personally don't subscribe to the hysterical viewpoint that we are witnessing the dawn of the 4th Reich, etc. and that this is just one more step down the slippery slope to Fascist domination. In other words, this is a serious issue with serious arguments, and should be treated as such. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting article.


could you please copy and paste the article and cite the author/web address? thanks



"Uh gee, we just overheard a cell phone call regarding 50 kilos of coke being delivered in Miami tomorrow. Guess we'll just have to erase that one".

Yeah, sure.


If you're delivering 50kg of Coke, you're a terrorist of another sort and deserve what you get.


If that isn't an example of the flexibility of using the word terrorist against anyone or anything you want...


This statement was pure stupidity. How long before someone takes that to mean any kind of step over the law? "Yeah, man, I ran that stop light yesterday and no one saw it...hold on, there's someone at the door".

There are reasons for those lines being drawn in legal matters. Your privacy should be valued. Sadly, there are just enough stupid people out there who don't care and won't until they suddenly feel it at home.


OK lets make it black and white. If, in the process of wiretapping, you are heard to confess of committing a felony it can be used against you. Now make it a law. Who has had their rights violated by this? Why do you extremists continue to find reasons against protecting ourselves.

I understand you hate Bush, but really Gor. does it affect you at all if someone gets busted for importing 50 kilos of coke--to use your own example.
In fact, wouldn't you want that to happen?

Privacy is a very grey area. There never will be black and white legislation to define and who deserves more or less of it. There are abuses of almost all legal issues. Just look at the way the Constitution has recently been interpreted.

To limit a potentially very important tool in our future safety and protection because of what might happen and all the what ifs is simply short-sighted. I'll take my chances with an occassional-potential-possibility-loss of some privacy to insure future safety for myself and my children.


Why would this be the logical question to ask and not, "what are the pontential misuses of this power"? Who cares how it has been violated as of yet? That shouldn't be the primary concern. The main issue should be HOW it could be violated in the future. This has nothing to do with "hating Bush". Why do you "hate" personal privacy? Why do you "hate" our civil rights? You wrote that looking to the future at how it could be misused is "shortsighted". That's retarded. How could looking to the future at possibilities be "shortsighted"? Shortsighted is only focusing in on how it has misused as of yet when it has the potential to destroy many freedoms depending on who decides to take full advantage of it.


I would disagree with Judge Posner as I would not equate wire tapping (in which the person has an expectation of privacy) with getting asked for an ID or being captured in a video in a public place.

The problem with compromising your rights is twofold. First they are hard to get back. And second, there are those out there who would prefer a very "monitored" society, who will not say problem solved, but will use the compromise to further chip away at your rights. There are those that have actually advocated "lowjacking" children, DNA typing children, etc. and keeping huge databases permanently. Want someone arresting you because your DNA was innocently at the wrong place?

While you may be sensible and if in a position of authority would adhere to the rules properly, others are going to think it is their new tool to get their name in the paper by catching some "bad guys" (destroying innocent people's lives along the way by false acccusations and misinterpretations is acceptable collateral damage to them, after all they are in the position of authority, it's not happening to them).

As for the 50 kilo question above, if they trampled on that person's rights to get that info, then let him go. When the end justifies the means you are definitely sliding down the slipperly slope.

They are already wiretapping anyone remotely suspected of terrorism, people from certain foreign countries, and just about any non-citizen they wish via the patriot act. Making it legal to wiretap everyone and filter through the information...surely you jest.


Can you possibly engage in conversation without namecalling and bullying to get your point across.

I don't 'hate' anything. Interesting how you try to dismiss others points of view by putting your interpretation on them.

I see nothing wrong with giving up some poersonal privacy if in the big picture we ALL become safer. There have been abuses of power since some started having power. To only look at the negatives of any situation is short-sighted and that was my contention.

Your statement "who cares how it has been violated yet" is telling. Seeing as there has been no misuse documented to this point this can be your only rallying point. What are you afraid of? Why was this of no concern to you when Clinton was doing it? When Clinton was doing it in a non-war time?
This goes beyond that kind of nonsense. These are serious times.

How about instead of huffing and puffing and name calling, you get into a true intellectual debate and explain to me how you can make your argument based on "who may decide to misuse it in the future" instead of how it may aid us in the present.


The person who "committed" the felony. He and a friend were actually just joking about a felony case they heard on TV, but the person doing the wire tapping did not realize they were bullshitting. So they sent an armed SWAT team to his door, broke in believing he was an armed felon, instead of an accountant. After disrupting his entire family's life and weeks of investigation and attorney fees, they realized they made a mistake, so they apologized. No harm no foul. The grandfather who had a heart attack wasn't going to be around that long anyway.

Funny part is, it isnt even funny. Its probable cause and checks and balances that help minimize mistakes, but hell lets start tapping everyone and act as best we can on it.

But you know what would make more sense, videos. If you installed a video in everyone's home, that subtle body language that would have allowed you to see someone was joking, could now be observed.


Typical extremist.

I don't want/agree with/ or any other bs with wiretapping the general population. I realize this is the excuse people like you fall back on when expressing your dislike for the protection of our country, but that is not the current policy nor is it the current situation.

Nice job with the analogy though. That really makes me think about this more seriously. Do You really think---forget what I was going to say--you obviously don't. You just want to create ridiculous circumstances--say how they could possibly occur--how could anyone argue against that position--and then say this is why we shouldn't do it.

With all of your fancy checks and balances mistakes are still made, so your argument for perfection is flawed from the beginning. I've never said all liberties should be given up or this system is fool-proof. It's another tool that has been around for some time.


Funny, I thought the same about you. Actually I have voted almost strictly Republican. My definition of a Republican is fiscal responsability, low taxes, preserve individual rights, no more gun control, though I am more of a liberal on social issues. Someone who scares so easily that he is willing to start giving up his individual rights, does not meet my definition of a Republican.

Not yet anyway. But why are they asking for more powers when they are already tapping many suspects as I previously stated, or did you not read that part either.

Yep they make mistakes. As I said in my post, the point is to minimize them.


This has nothing--NOTHING to do with Republican or democrat. That is always the crux of having any meaningful 'discussion' on this board. I doesn't and shouldn't always come down to political affilliation.

It has nothing to do with scaring. And once again has NOTHING to do with political favorites.

It's about utilizing a tool to help insure future safety. We don't know when or where our next bit of info will come from that may thwart any type of terroristic attack. What is the harm of monitoring known suspects? Oh that's right--someones grandpa might die.

If you can point me to any request that anyone is asking to monitor anything or anybody not related to Nation security, I will gladly review. Until then, don't fabricate nonsense to validate your opinion.

Minimixe mistakes!! In your world we just sit on our hands and react after the fact. No thanks, I prefer a much more aggressive stance. The making of mistakes can not be minimized and for those caught in such a position must be terrible. My position is not un monitored unrestrained all access type listening. But those that wish to do us harm should know that we may be listening.



It is amazing to me that what we are talking about here is targeting phone calls from outside the country into phones suspected to be used by Terror cell members. Yeah some dolphins will get caught in the tuna net, but you can adjust for that.

To be willing to seek hypothetical "privacy" over the ability to stop a WMD attack(yeah, they had them and still got em)is lunacy. Ask one of the famous 911 widows if she would trade somebody listening to her cell phone for her husband back. Knowing those ditzes, maybe a bad analogy.

Funny, i didn't hear the left wanking about privacy when Congressman Jim Mcdermott, D-Wash 7th, paid some Democrat activists to trail John Boehner's car in Florida and record his cell phone conversations with Gingrich, or old Hillary having all those FBI records in her office.

Spare me the false concern. This is a political matter to gain back power, and if that means letting terror cells operate without FBI-CIA interference(like Jamie Gorelick advocated)i guess that is OK with the left.



Namecalling and bullying? What names were you called? You called the act of looking for future possibilities "shortsighted". It is a comment that makes no sense. It isn't "namecalling" to point that out. You can NOT look to the future and be shortsighted at the same time. The fact that you took that as a point to focus in on is lame and shows you have no real leg to stand on.

Isn't that what you did to my previous post above? I didn't write anything about Bush, yet you accused me of "hating" the man. You did what you just accused me of. Why can't you see this?

No one is ONLY looking at negatives. Once you lose rights, how do you get them back? Should fear of terror lead to us being monitored on a regular basis just in case one of us happens to be a terrorist? Why avoid taking this to the extreme in order to point out how it could be misused? Why do you trust the next president and the next and the one after that to all use this advanced power all to your own satisfaction? This has NOTHING to do with Bush and everything to do with how whoever jumps into power could eventually misuse it. Why is it you can only see "Bush"?

If I had any knowledge of anyone doing it I would be upset unless the proper legal protocols were inacted. I don't remember this ever being in the news as a kid or while Clinton was in office. Therefore, how could I get upset about something I didn't know about? I know about it now so who cares about Clinton? Why do you care so much about Clinton?

What names were you called? You have brought this up twice and nowhere were you called any names at all. Describing an action made as "retarded" is not name calling. You can't look to the future and be shortsighted. It is impossible yet that didn't stop you from stating it. You expected someone to not point that out? Wow.


No problem at all with that. I have a problem with this

"When: U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, in the Southern District of New York, ruled on Dec. 20 (click here for PDF).

Outcome: Cell phone tracking permitted.

Summary: Federal police may monitor the locations of Americans by constantly tracking their cell phone signals without providing evidence of criminal activity, a magistrate judge has ruled.

In a surprise ruling that differed from recent decisions by three other judges, Gorenstein said his reading of federal wiretapping law and the Patriot Act permitted police to obtain location-tracking orders without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Gorenstein also said that because the cell phone user's location is only available to police when a call is in progress, and because the location information is only a rough estimate, such tracking is permissible under the Fourth Amendment. That amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, prohibits "unreasonable" searches and monitoring.

The Justice Department has argued that it should be allowed to monitor Americans without having to show "probable cause"--that is, at least some evidence of criminal behavior. Instead, federal prosecutors say, all police need to claim is that the information obtained might in some way be "relevant" to a criminal investigation. "

Note, criminal investigation, nothing to do with terrorism. Isn't living in a dream world blissful.


Define name calling and bullying as you wish--you've done both and quite frankly I could care how you rationalize it in retrospect.

Using the word 'future' and saying shortsighted is most certainly possible. In your case you have used the 'future' as your only reason/focus for disagreeing with this action. THAT is shortsighted. To my knowlege, mine nor anyone elses civil rights have been violated at this time. There is and has been for some time the ability of the President to listen in on potential National security calls.

What rights are you losing, then of course why would you care if you get them back. If your actions don't meet national security criteria you have lost no rights. You have given up nothing. To then spotlight that this MAY lead to (x) or (y) is a nonsense argument. The gov't and police always have the potential to abuse power. I wouldn't give them carte blanche here, there would be oversights and regulations.

I don't care about Clinton, my reference was simply this is not new or even clandestine. This power was given to the office long ago. Why an issue now? If you really believe it is because of some red hering like individuals rights you are mistaken. This was purely political to bring this out to the publics knowlege and now you are all wrapped up in the loss of your precious rights. It was in fact going on before--what rights have you lost.


How do you know? Do you even know who this system has been used on specifically? I don't. I also would never claim to know it is being used the right way now in all circumstances.

To my understanding, there still needs to be protocol followed and warrants obtained. Is this not the case suddenly?

What if "national security criteria" is used broadly to cover anything suddenly dubbed "a threat"? Isn't the whole problem the perception that "oversights and regulations" were bypassed?

If it was going on before and it is viewed as wrong, then it was wrong then as well. Does that mean we ignore any new issues that pop up now? Could you please bring up specific instances where this was used in the past that circumvented court authority?


Yeah, i forgot, you lefties aren't wild about going after anything "relevant to a criminal investigation".

Seriously, you had better come up with a better platform than this or you are really gonna get schwacked in November, and 08 too.

i seriously want a sharp democrat to make the election interesting and about a clear choice in direction.

Right now you offer unmonitored cell phone calls(LMAO), dead babies on demand, and letting off Tookie lookalikes. That won't push the right hard enough to matter.