Insert random, relevant Orwell reference here.

It’s a fairly effective standard by now that I’m against whatever the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board agitates in favor of. I’d never surrender critical thinking and dismiss its essays without reading the arguments. But if I did, I’d be wrong less often than I’d be right.

For example:

As the Bush Administration winds down, one of its main tasks is preserving Presidential war-fighting powers against poaching by a hostile Congress and expansive judiciary. On this score, last week’s Senate “compromise” on warrantless wiretaps is at best a mixed achievement. In return for Congress’s blessing to continue this surveillance, the White House is ceding some of its Constitutional authority to unelected, unaccountable judges.

Presidential war-fighting powers apparently include the ability to ignore the Fourth Amendment. I missed that in the text of the Constitution, but I’m sure it’s there. Maybe it’s in the Ninth Amendment. Oh, wait…

I do love the mention of unelected, unaccountable judges. Anyone who supports President Bush in his quest for a dictatorial reading of the Constitution has no business challenging anyone as unaccountable, but set that point aside. Judges are certainly accountable to the Congress. And should they really be elected? Opening the rule of law to politics isn’t a particularly conservative position. Of course, the Journal’s editors aren’t really conservatives, in the limited government sense, so the talking point in place of an argument is unsurprising.

On the topic of telecom companies complying with warrantless government requests for information:

The larger principle is whether private individuals or companies should be punished for doing their patriotic duty when requested to do so by the government.

And we’ve reached the point where I stop taking them seriously. We all have a patriotic duty to serve our government. I can’t imagine a more un-American concept.

In the wake of 9/11, President Bush and the Attorney General asked the telecom companies to cooperate in what they told the companies was a legal program.

September 11th? Check. Blind faith in the benevolence of President Bush? Check. Government is always right? Check.

For centuries, the common law presumption has been that private parties should have legal immunity if they comply with such requests.

This sounds suspect, but I’m not an attorney. Wouldn’t companies have attorneys smart enough to request warrants? If they don’t know or ask, they should be immune simply because the government asks? This doesn’t sound correct.

In the absence of evidence that the government’s request is illegal, private actors should be given the benefit of the doubt for cooperating.

Again, obedience should be the default. It’s interesting that the government should always be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Don’t we have our republic specifically because we figured out that such an assumption was foolish?

Of course, if we’re using the preposterously low “in the absence of evidence” as our guide, shouldn’t the telecoms have asked the government to produce a warrant? Wouldn’t the absence of a warrant (“Don’t you worry about that”) be the absence of “the absence of evidence” that the government was engaging in shenanigans?

Imagine a society in which everyone refused such requests for fear of being sued: No airplane passenger would dare point out suspicious behavior by another passenger, and no subway rider would speak up about a suspicious package.

I wonder what they’ve named their straw man. They have to have named him by now, because I’m sure he’ll be around for a long time. It would be tedious to constantly say “hey, you, straw man”.

The airline passenger should and would point out suspicious behavior, but how did that get involved here? The issue is whether the government may instigate – without a warrant – an investigative search of data for alleged suspicious behavior. Set the scenario honestly. The government is going to the individual/company, not the other way around.

[The bill] includes a six-year sunset provision, which makes no sense against a terror threat that is likely to continue for decades.

A decades-long war. Hmm, why would anyone be concerned about setting aside a key Constitutional amendment to give the president broad powers? Gosh, I’m confused.

The great irony here is that, in the name of checking “secret” Presidential power, Congress is giving enormous authority to judges who will also make decisions in secret and never have to answer to the voters.

Unchecked, the president (in general, but President Bush, definitely) would make this decision in secret. When would he answer to voters for his secret exercise of this alleged power? I’m supposed to feel better with less oversight, as long as the kept-in-the-dark voting public can vote with information it doesn’t have? The Constitution is up for a vote?

Yet if the President won’t protect the Presidency, who will?

If the president won’t protect civil liberties, who will? If the Congress won’t protect civil liberties, who will? If the courts won’t protect civil liberties, who will?