A small piece over at The American Spectator today, my first offering of the new year, makes the point that FISA is no more competent or judicious than NSA in monitoring wiretapping. All that is lost by not including them in a decision is one check-and-balance, not some fount of new wisdom.
Here's a tidbit:
Do you and I have any clear indication which of the two alphabet-soup divisions of government has the better judgment? Nah. It's just that there's a check-and-balance involved in having the NSA from the Executive branch be answerable to FISA of the Judicial branch -- and no one likes a canceled check or a zero balance. We would all like to see the I's dotted and the T's crossed, the round pegs in the round holes and the square in the square, but if someone skips a step occasionally we needn't lose much sleep. Even if a court eventually determines that it's not a proper deployment of Executive power, this is a technicality, not an abuse.
The more important question may be, is it working? That is more than the ends justifying the means. If it is working, it shows us that this partnership between NSA and FISA is balanced properly. When things are urgent, NSA acts unilaterally, at least for a few days. When a suspicion is less pressing, action is not taken until the FISA folks get to examine it more minutely. All in all, it adds up to an effective division of duties, like a good marriage.
And on the Abramoff front, permit me to immodestly remind folks that I jumped on that early, right behind Andrew Ferguson (whom I credited), to be exact. Here is my column of last Jan. 12, almost exactly a year ago.
Okay, if you insist, here's a tender morsel from that stew:
Is this as good as it gets? Do we have to adopt cynicism as our new realism? Perhaps we should sit around the bar of an evening, laughing hollowly over our second bottle of hooch, mumbling about how power corrupts. If large sums of cash belonging to goofy tribes and sleepy taxpayers are sitting in unmarked bills in a satchel with the note "Hold for collection by Rostenkowski," does the still-new Republican majority feel obligated to pick it up? After all, we must maintain continuity in governance.
It's starting to smell like a rodent and the miasma is bad for my asthma. The time has come to stanch the stench. This needs to stop, and stop now. If Republicans want to keep the public trust, they need to clear the air and clean the lobby. We know that these folks started out as good people: Jack and Armstrong, the all-American boys. They came as greenhorns to Washington; then, they could not resist trying to horn in on the green. We need to do a gut check and follow our own credo of respecting the taxpayer's money.