The current debacle over warrantless NSA wiretaps is kinda interesting. It's started some spirited discussions over the proper limits of executive authority. One argument I keep seeing is... well, let me quote an example:
"... anyone who [...] would rather be killed than allow the government to intercept the subject communications, they need to check into the nearest funny farm."
It's a pretty basic emotional argument, and I had all sorts of arguments undercutting the fear propping that argument up. I did blog battle and I am happy to report that I prevailed.
After it was over, though, I realized that I was using a whole bunch of lesser arguments when I could have just dropped the Big One. Here it is:
People seem not to remember the cold war anymore, but there was a clash of civilizations. The godless commies had thousands of nuclear warheads, hundreds of ICBMs, the full array of biological and chemical weapons, and a vast conventional force. For at least thirty years we assumed that they had the will to destroy us, that they would be only too happy to nuke Washington D.C. and maybe the rest of our nation without warning. All this was backed up by the KGB, a first-rate intelligence service that regularly snookered both the CIA and FBI. This was the conflict which underlay all of our foreign policy choices for fourty-five years, and this threat led to the creation of both the NSA and FISA.
But if we ever used warrantless domestic wiretaps in response to this threat, it has yet to be made public. We apparently preserved the warrant requirement for domestic wiretaps during the whole of the cold war. Why give it up now?
Is this administration seriously contending that al-qeida is a worse threat than the Evil Empire?
Use it well.