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On Privacy

When it comes to the debate over electronic surveillance and privacy, there seems to be no reasoned middle ground. Intelligence officers are woefully inadequate in their explanations of what is going on; privacy advocates who are ignorant of how intelligence works wear their paranoia on their sleeves and are consequently prone to over-blowing things.

In this case however I think we should be demanding that at least an effort be made to nominate a board.

The Bush administration has failed to nominate any candidates to a newly empowered privacy and civil-liberties commission. This leaves the board without any members, even as Congress prepares to give the Bush administration extraordinary powers to wiretap without warrants inside the United States.

The failure rankles Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), respectively chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee.

"I urge the president to move swiftly to nominate members to the new board to preserve the public’s faith in our promise to protect their privacy and civil liberties as we work to protect the country against terrorism," Lieberman said in a statement.

If congress doesn’t want to consent to the appointment of various members, that’s on them. Nominating a board however, at a minimum, reduces the sting of charges that the nation’s secret archives will now contain files of our whispered sweet nothings uttered over our cell phones (which they won't). Best-case scenario: practitioner concern about oversight helps reduce the most severe cases of misuse and abuse of intelligence derived from electronic surveillance that can plague otherwise well-intentioned efforts to defend the nation.