Thursday, August 17, 2006

Terminological Inexactitude

Once again the controversial NSA interception case is in the news, and all the bloggers are discussing it. Opinions differ widely on whether the program is legal, or even constitutional, but one thing is clear: the communications that are being intercepted are international, not domestic. There is no "NSA domestic surveillance program", or at least if there is one it hasn't yet come to light, and isn't at issue in this case. Most of the commentary at Volokh calls it the "NSA Eavesdropping Program", Instapundit calls it the "NSA communications intercept case", and the AP calls it a "President Bush's warrantless surveillance program"; even the NYT calls it "Warrantless Wiretapping" and "the Bush administration’s eavesdropping program". Whatever their opinion of it, they are calling it what it is.

Which is why I'm disappointed at Orin Kerr for repeatedly referring to it as a "domestic surveillance program". Ironically, he doesn't think much of the opinion that calls it illegal, so one would expect him to be more careful in defining what it is.

UPDATE: Dr Kerr defends his usage. According to him, while the calls were international, the surveillance itself was domestic, because physically it took place in the USA. I don't see how it matters where the wiretapping equipment was located; I can't believe that's what the fuss is about, or that many of the program's critics would change their mind if it was proven that the taps were outside the USA. But read the exchange and decide for yourself. I'm just honoured that he took notice of my comment...


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have responded to your comment here. I look forward to your response.

Fri Aug 18, 02:10:00 AM 2006  

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