January 24, 2006

a long tradition of wartime enemy surveillance...

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez made a great speech today at Georgetown University Law Center. Worth reading.

As one who's interested in history, I liked this, which is dead on:

...In 2004, the Supreme Court considered the scope of the Force Resolution in the Hamdi case. There, the question was whether the President had the authority to detain an American citizen as an enemy combatant for the duration of the hostilities.

In that case, the Supreme Court confirmed that the expansive language of the Resolution —“all necessary and appropriate force”—ensures that the congressional authorization extends to traditional incidents of waging war. And, just like the detention of enemy combatants approved in Hamdi, the use of communications intelligence to prevent enemy attacks is a fundamental and well-accepted incident of military force.

This fact is borne out by history. This Nation has a long tradition of wartime enemy surveillance—a tradition that can be traced to George Washington, who made frequent and effective use of secret intelligence, including the interception of mail between the British and Americans.

And for as long as electronic communications have existed, the United States has conducted surveillance of those communications during wartime—all without judicial warrant. In the Civil War, for example, telegraph wiretapping was common, and provided important intelligence for both sides. In World War I, President Wilson ordered the interception of all cable communications between the United States and Europe; he inferred the authority to do so from the Constitution and from a general congressional authorization to use military force that did not mention anything about such surveillance. So too in World War II; the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt authorized the interception of all communications traffic into and out of the United States. The terrorist surveillance program, of course, is far more focused, since it involves only the interception of international communications that are linked to al Qaeda or its allies...

Espionage and intelligence-gathring is as intrinsic to war as slugging it out on the battlefield. We have, in past wars, fought the secret battles ruthlessly and savagely. As we should. The current notion put forth by lefty losers that we should apply the constraints proper to criminal law to cases of espionage or terrorism is fatuous nonsense and partisan buncombe.

Posted by John Weidner at January 24, 2006 5:07 PM
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