Saturday, August 19, 2006

Alas, Poor John. We Know Him Too Well

Take the case of John Yoo. You remember, he's the erstwhile Bush administration lawyer who came up with the rationale which gave the Bush administration cover in establishing torture as an acceptable tool in the war on terror.

Now, in the Los Angeles Times, Yoo is at something again (It doesn't fit--this topic is a new wrinkle for John). Now he wants to revive the debate on data mining, and establish something like the deserted Total Information Awareness program of a couple of years back.

Yoo argues that criticism of the TIA was overreaction. He could be correct. TIA could be a good weapon in our surveillance arsenal.

A problem for Yoo is that since he made such a mess of the torture argument, and his attempt at logic flew in the face of opposing "experts," that it's almost foolish to believe anything he offers today.

Yoo argues "Data mining could be controlled and developed so that it protects us from terror and maintains our privacy." He goes on to offer "A warrant could still be required to investigate the content of communications or the purpose of purchases." The key words there are "warrant could still be required." That, in itself, might be a step in the right direction for Yoo.

Unfortunately, this administration's disdain for warrants has been established. Yoo has a lot of work to do to convince us this president and this administration can be trusted to follow the rules of law. Several hundred "signing statements" don't exactly instill confidence.

If Yoo is correct, and TIA/data mining are essential, it behooves him to assume a mantle of humility. That would be a rare moment for him and this president, but if he truly believes the program is for the good of the country, maybe he'll take a step for the good of the whole.

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