Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Obama’s proposed NSA reforms prove he doesn’t understand checks and balances

President Obama delivered a speech on Friday outlining his plans to address the widespread outrage over the domestic surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. However well-intentioned, the president’s proposals indicate he just doesn’t get the constitutional notion of delegated powers.

Implicit in the Fourth Amendment is the principle that the government should remain powerless unless and until an individual is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime. It isn’t even allowed to search one’s person or papers (viz. phone records, emails) to collect the proof it needs until it persuades a judge that it has probable cause.

The only reason the Fourth Amendment offers any protection is it prescribes an adversarial process. The judicial branch is predisposed to refuse to issue a warrant until the executive branch provides sufficient evidence of probable cause.

Furthermore, the judiciary represents a separate branch of government with its own independent powers. When the judge refuses to issue a search warrant, it’s not a recommendation. It’s an order for the executive branch not to search.

Most importantly, court proceedings are supposed to be held in public, so the people can verify directly that the courts administer justice and their orders are followed by the executive.

Thus, the courts check the executive and the people check the courts. Both the executive and judicial branches are bound by Congress, which is checked by the people via the Constitution.

All of these checks rest upon the assumption that power will be abused if it is not forcibly limited. In the president’s own words, “it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us.”

These checks and balances don’t exist under current FISA law. The FISA court operates in secret, so the people aren’t there to verify directly that they administer justice properly. Neither can they see for themselves that the executive actually carries out the court’s instructions.

Full article: http://dailycaller.c … checks-and-balances/

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