You’d think I was referring to cognitively impaired benchwarmers like Clarence Thomas, who struggles to follow the complex logical argument implied by the series 1, 2, 3, 4…? (until Antonin Scalia explains it to him). But I just learned that “special needs” is a term for a “special” doctrine the FISA court has been using (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/us/in-secret-court-vastly-broadens-powers-of-nsa.html?hp).
The special needs doctrine allows courts to make exceptions to the 4th amendment’s requirements for search warrants. The camel first stuck his nose under the tent in 1989 when drug testing of railway workers was allowed, and then later expanded to permit drunk-driving checkpoints and airport screenings. Now, the doctrine has become the workhorse of the FISA court to allow whatever government intrusion they want (such as that of the current brouhaha about storing data on all of everyone’s emails and phone calls) as long as they can convince themselves that the haystack they’re searching theoretically just might perhaps contain a needle “relevant to a terrorism investigation or other intelligence activities.” “Other intelligence activities” is pretty broad, don’t you think? So what else are they snooping in? Well, it’s secret (I mean, that’s the whole point of having a secret court. It wouldn’t be secret if everyone knew what you’re doing.) But if you think that all they’re doing is storing metadata, let’s you try a little experiment. Call up one of your friends (not me!!) every couple days and talk about how to make a dirty bomb. See what happens. Think you’ll find a lot of friends willing to help in this experiment? Does the idea of doing this make you just a teeny bit nervous? No? Bet your house and your job? Thought so. Even those of you who really trust the current administration now have a little twinge in the back of your mind about what you say.
“Special needs.” Right. “We ‘specially need to ignore the 4th Amendment because it’s kinda inconvenient to keepin’ tabs on all you numbnuts out there.” If we really think it’s a good idea to amend (or repeal) the 4th amendment, well then shouldn’t we just man up, debate the issue publicly, decide what the exceptions to needing search warrants are, and then hold a state-by-state vote, just like the Constitution requires? But then the exceptions wouldn’t be secret! The evildoers will know what we’re doing!
A word about secrecy. Some of you may be old enough (or well-read enough) to remember the “secret” bombing of Cambodia in 1970 during the Vietnam war (triggered the deadly Kent State protests). Do you think that the thousands of tons of bombs falling on their heads was “secret” from the North Vietnamese sneaking through Cambodia? From the Cambodians whose country was being carpet bombed? No, they all thought it was pretty damn obvious! It was actually only “secret” from us, from we-the-people in whose name it was being done. Same with the snooping and spying. Every evildoer who didn’t just walk down from the goat pasture knows that he’s likely to be: followed, bugged, wiretapped, watched by satellite, listened to by directional mikes, have every electronic communication monitored in real-time, and probably tracked by genetically-engineered mind-reading wolves that understand Arabic. They assume all that! It’s we who must be kept in the dark.
These “special needs” programs to circumvent the Constitution are bullshit. I don’t know if this is how the terrorists win, but I sure know it’s how Americans lose.