In Judges and Albuquerque We Trust

National security run by judges.

National security determined by Albuquerque as The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger writes:

The issues at the center of this dispute [over surveillance of terrorists] are in fact intellectually interesting, having to do with separation of powers, legal rules versus legal discretion, and competing interpretations of the Fourth Amendment and Article II of the Constitution.

But let us here consider something that tends to fall outside legal considerations–effective management. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said, “You can’t take 535 members of Congress and tell them everything and protect the nation’s secrets.” Mr. Cheney was reflecting the view, which arose at the time of the Founding Fathers, that foreign policy was disorganized under the Articles of Confederation and belonged under a strong executive. A primary reason for calling the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was the mess Congress had made of managing foreign policy.

Then later in the week GOP Rep. Heather Wilson suddenly became famous for presumably dissenting from the White House line and demanding a “complete review” of the surveillance program. Rep. Wilson, who chairs a House intelligence oversight subcommittee, is rightly regarded as one of the House’s savvier and more serious members on national security issues. But . . .

Rep. Wilson is in a neck-and-neck re-election fight back in her New Mexico district with state Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Rep. Wilson is under pressure because her district is heavily Democratic; the opposition’s primary line of attack has been that Rep. Wilson isn’t sufficiently “independent” of the Bush White House. Right after her highly publicized NSA declaration this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee got out a statement that “Rep. Wilson is now and has always been a rubber stamp for the policies of the Bush-Cheney administration.”

What this means is that the local politics of Albuquerque is now setting national security policy. Why them? Why not accord the same overweighted political status to the Third District in North Carolina, which happens to house Camp Lejeune? The primary argument against letting Albuquerque set national security policy through Rep. Wilson’s political problems back home is found in that earlier statement from the 9/11 Commission: You simply cannot disperse policy formation in this area across all branches of government in the guise of checks and balances and then expect efficient management in, say, stopping terrorists. Nor can you present the paperwork required to satisfy “probable cause” before a FISA judge prior to every proposed antiterror wiretap and not risk flipping the competition’s outcome in favor of the terrorists.

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