"You Can Fight The War And Lose Everything"
When the story broke about the Bush administration's FISA end-around, I had one simple question: Why was the FISA court inadequate in certain situations? I've never heard a convincing answer from the administration or anyone else. Royce Lamberth, district court judge in Washington who was appointed by Reagan and named chief of the FISA court in 1995 by William Rehnquist, commented over the weekend:
"But what we have found in the history of our country is that you can't trust the executive," he said at the American Library Association's convention.If the system worked on 9/11, it can always work. But for some that's never really mattered, has it?
"We have to understand you can fight the war (on terrorism) and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war."
Lamberth said the FISA court met the challenge of acting quickly after Sept. 11. Lamberth was stuck in a car pool lane near the Pentagon when a hijacked jet slammed into it that day. With his car enveloped in smoke, he called marshals to help him get into the District of Columbia.
By the time officers reached him, "I had approved five FISA coverages (warrants) on my cell phone," Lamberth said. He also approved other warrants at his home at 3 a.m. and on Saturdays.