Doug Holtz-Eakin, senior policy adviser to John McCain, wrote in response to this Washington Post article to clarify McCain’s stance on warrantless wiretapping. There’s also coverage at BoingBoing and Wired.
The letter explains that John McCain will continue George Bush’s interpretation of Article II: in wartime, the executive always trumps the Bill of Rights. From the letter itself (emphasis mine):
Here is the bottom line: Senator McCain supports the FISA modernization bill passed by the Senate without qualification. He believes no additional steps should be necessary to secure immunity for the telecoms; both the 109th and 110th Congresses have conducted extensive evaluation and examination of this topic and have satisfied the public’s need for appropriate oversight; hearings purportedly designed to ‘get to the bottom of things’ have already occurred; and neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Senator McCain has never stated, nor does he believe that telecoms should only receive retroactive immunity in exchange for congressional testimony about their actions. We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.
For decades telephone companies prided themselves on protecting the privacy of American phone calls. Eavesdropping operators would quickly find themselves fired. This pride flowed out of an expectation that “the right of the people to be secure in their…papers and effects” extended from postal mail to phone calls and later email and Internet traffic.
I believe that this basic right for security and privacy should be provided for by the Fourth Amendment. Not only do I believe that this is an issue of civil liberties, but it is an area for concern for Christians as well. Christians of many kinds expect the secrecy of the confessional to be morally absolute and further expect the confidentiality of conversations with their clergy. These expectations are rooted in the ministry of Jesus himself, who trusted his disciples with the secret of his true identity (Mark 3:12, 7:36, 8:30, 9:9) and with the secret interpretation of his parables (Mark 4:34).
For people who are both Christian and American, we have a world-view that private conversations should stay private. This is rooted in both Biblical testimony and the Bill of Rights. To see warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity upheld offends this double sensitivity.
Perhaps it’s time to put a Stop the Spying banner back on this page.