Monday, June 01, 2015

Work the Problem, Okay?

The Obama administration is fighting hammer and tong to keep the Bush-era Patriot Act alive:

The legal authority for U.S. spy agencies' collection of Americans' phone records and other data expired at midnight on Sunday after the Senate failed to pass legislation extending their powers.

When the breathless reports of the program came out during the Bush years, I wasn't overly concerned about the collection of meta-data (time, location, and duration of calls but not the content of the calls). The Left went ballistic over it.

So I'm enjoying the spectacle, a bit.

Not that it isn't possible to disagree with the policy, but it is not unconstitutional. I recognized that what was legal when the meta-data was in a file cabinet on a 3 x 5 card is far less significant than meta-data in digital form that is searchable.

So we can make changes to a constitutionally allowed collection to account for this effect of technology without wasting time on whether the basic practice is constitutional, as Rand Paul (whose only saving grace is he isn't as bad as his dad) is doing.

I felt the same about waterboarding. I don't think it is torture. But if we decide to accept the risks, we can limit it further than we did or even ban it without having a pointless debate about whether it is torture.

Anyway, I'm certainly on board an effort to deal with the meta-data issue in light of technology changes to keep a legal collection from being abused by a government that is prone to pushing the boundaries of legality too far (and this isn't an attack on the Obama administration in particular).

The debate on whether the meta-data program is constitutional is pointless--the courts have said it is allowable. And I'm not going to change my position just because the Obama administration defends the Bush-era program.

It should be possible to come to an agreement on this issue and others that have put post-9/11 laws in question. Statutes are amended all the time without rushing right to the constitutionality issue.