Candidates Differ On Stances For Wiretapping, Habeas Corpus

This story was written by Nick Hasty, Iowa State Daily


Both presidential candidates share some views on national security, but there are distinct differences in some of their policies.

The differences are small in comparisons to the similarities, said Dirk Deam, a Iowa State University senior lecturer in political science who specializes in Constitutional rights. The issues here are primarily Constitutional in their implications.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has taught Constitutional law he was a senior lecturer on the subject at the University of Chicago, Deam said. For this reason, he said, Obama is very much attentive to the Constitution.

He keeps the Constitutional implications of those policies close to his heart, Deam said. I think [his issues] make complete sense in this context.

Deam suggested that Obama has a constraint of being attentive of the Constitution, while Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may not be under this constraint.

McCain is probably less concerned with that and probably more concerned with the threat of protecting the country from al-Qaida and terrorists, Deam said.

He said McCain is not purposefully ignoring the Constitutional implications of these matters, they just arent in the back of his mind like they are with Obama. Even so, Deam said he doesnt think of McCain as reckless, and Obama still has room for advice in the realm of Constitutional implications of national security policies.

McCain can be expected to be attentive, too, but not with the same perspective or insights, Deam said. John McCain has been a senator, not a lawyer. His background is primarily with the policy implications.

Obamas views on domestic security are good because they look out for the best interests of the American people, said Teresa Tompkins, vice president of ISU Democrats and sophomore in political science.

He chooses his stance, on issues, on whether or not they benefit the American people, Tompkins said. He took out parts of the PATRIOT Act that werent beneficial if the proposed security measure wasnt helping national security by catching terrorists or protecting the people, Obama didnt vote for it.

Protection from terrorist attacks is the key rationale behind McCains domestic security policies, said Corey Becker, executive director of ISU Republicans and junior in political science.

I believe we live in a very odd time, as a committed group of 19 people could bring down a nation for a day, Becker said. John McCains vote to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and surveillance is vital.

Becker said the continuation of the PATRIOT Act is important because it is working. He referred to a CNN article that said the PATRIOT Act policy has prevented 10 terrorist attacks since 2002.

We havent had a terrorist attack since 9/11 and thats a milestone in and of itself, Becker said. Right after 9/11, the consensus was that we were vulnerable to another hit theyre trying to hit us constantly.

Obamas neutral stance of surveillance is good because he doesnt necessarily have to be in full support of things and he can still have some means of security that are effective in benefiting Americans, Tompkins said.

He should look at each type of surveillance and make a choice based on whether or not it benefits the people in this country, Tompkins said.

Obamas stance on domestic security is dangerous on some accounts, Becker said, such as Obamas neutral position on surveillance.

Hes tip-toeing around the issue, Becker said. He cant be neutral he has to have a solution.

Becker said Obama is neutral because surveillance is a hot button issue.

If you say youre not for it you come off as a pacifist, Becker said. If you say you are for it, you want more government oversight I think he needs to have a stance on it.

Tompkins disagrees with McCains stance on continuing to wiretap American citizens.

We shouldnt wiretap the entire United States, Tompkins said. Its more effective to wiretap the people who pose a threat to national security.

Wiretapping most citizens is impractical and a waste of time, Tompkins said.

If its just a regular person in the suburbs, they shouldnt be wiretapped thats just a waste of time. We should be focused on those who pose a serious threat, Tompkins said.

Becker doesnt see any problem in using wiretapping or domestic surveillance for protection against terrorism. He said the government is doing these things for a good cause.

You cant expect a government to protect the people if you dont give them the proper tools, Becker said. Find me cases of abuse. I havent found any and I havent heard of any.

Concern for the privacy of citizens is not a valid argument against the PATRIOT Acts wiretapping policy because only potential terrorists need to be concerned, Becker said.

The government isnt targeting the average citizen, Becker said. Its a very small group of people unless youre making daily calls to Afghanistan or Iraq, you have nothing to worry about.

Habeas corpus the right of prisoners to seek release if they have been held unjustly without due legal process has been complicated when terrorists come into the picture, Deam said.

Terrorists are enemies that can be both foreign and domestic. How do we treat them? As wartime enemies who traditionally have few, if any, habeas rights? Or as criminals, who traditionally do have habeas rights? Deam said.

McCains stance on not extending habeas corpus to Guantanamo Bay prisoners doesnt make sense, Tompkins said.

I think [the detainees] should be tried in a civilian court or a military court, depending on the offense and locality to the court, Tompkins said. Its not as though theyre going to walk away without punishment I dont see how trying cases strictly in military courts will affect the outcome of the punishment.

Obamas support of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo Bay detainees is downright dangerous, Becker said.

How do you try someone for a crime who is not an American citizen, who did not commit a crime in the United States? Becker said. You have to think about what they do to our prisoners they chop off our heads and torture us.

McCains view of not extending habeas corpus to Guantanamo Bay detainees is agreeable because the U.S. Constitution does not reserve rights for those people, Becker said.

Its a very gray issue, Becker said. The government is afraid were going to release these people and they would end up back where they were caught and be a threat to American troops.

The main argument of the issue is over the non-American status of the detainees, Becker said.

The main issue is that theyre not American citizens, Becker said. Those rights are reserved for American citizens.

Some Republicans have a problem with defining national security policies, Deam said.

The problem for the conservatives is that they have a double allegiance here, Deam said. They find themselves in a dilemma because they need to have strong national security measures and at the same time they are supposed to be concerned about limitations of government power.

Concern for the power of presidents is important in regard to their ability to make changes in government, Deam said.

We want to be careful about the unilateral definition ofthe criteria by which the presidents act, Deam said. We want to be careful about allowing presidents to define for themselves the circumstances under which they claim authority to have extraordinary powers.

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