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From New York Times, August 26, 2007

Who Will Keep an Eye on the Spies?

Published: August 26, 2007
New York Times

To the Editor:

Re ''The Warrantless Debate Over Wiretapping,'' by Philip Bobbitt (Op-Ed, Aug. 22):

Mr. Bobbitt displays a casual disregard of legitimate concerns about abuse of power by the executive branch with the passage of a new law that expands its powers of surveillance.

He discounts the Fourth Amendment issues raised by critics of the law by claiming that in the past warrantless searches were upheld ''where there is no legitimate expectation of privacy.'' This implies that Americans have no legitimate expectation of privacy in their phone or electronic communications.

Critics of the law are fashioned into straw men who ''believe that there is in fact no real threat.'' Recognition of the threats this country faces is not at odds with valuing our liberties and desiring cautious deliberation and vigorous oversight of the methods used to protect our country.

Mr. Bobbitt argues that instead of legislating oversight, it's best for Congress (and the country) to trust this administration with broad powers and programs that remain undefined.

He says the defense-intelligence team of Robert M. Gates, Mike McConnell and Gen. Michael V. Hayden is ''about as good a team as it is possible to imagine.'' But he left out other team members -- like President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales -- who have proved themselves as untrustworthy as possible to imagine.

After years of lies and fear-mongering, I'd prefer oversight over blind trust.

Gregory Wright
Brooklyn, Aug. 22, 2007

To the Editor:

Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of central intelligence, may be the fine people that Philip Bobbitt suggests.

But why should they be permitted to operate beyond judicial scrutiny if, as we unceasingly tell ourselves, we are a nation of laws not men? Time and again, the American public discovers, after the fact, that whatever free rein it gives the intelligence agencies is abused.

If the leaders of these agencies, as well as Mr. Bobbitt, understood fully the premise on which our government is based, they would welcome, not skirt, judicial oversight.

Geoffrey K. James

Arlington, Va., Aug. 22, 2007


January 6, 2008

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