A Philosopher's Blog

Executive Privilege and Spying

Posted in Ethics, Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on April 6, 2007

In the face of the inept lying on the part of Attorney General Gonzales, President Bush has decided to invoke executive privilege.

While this alleged power to invoke executive privilege is not specified in the Constitution, the gist of it is that the President can refuse to provide the public with information that he deems as privileged. This power is often invoked in the name of national security but is also justified by the claim that a President’s minions need to be able to freely provide advice without being worried that such advice will be made public. Thus, the justification is based on consequences: such things must be kept secret for the good of the country.

Oddly enough, while Bush and his minions are very much in favor of keeping their conversations secret, they are quite willing to violate the privacy of other people. The Bush Administration’s exploits in what amounts to domestic spying are both numerous and well documented.

When pressed on the matter of such intrusions, the standard justification is national security: by violating peoples’ privacy information can be gained that will help protect America from harm.

From a moral standpoint this practice can be justified on utilitarian grounds. To be specific, the harm inflicted by violating privacy can be justified by appealing to the fact that this practice prevents far greater harms.

Although the Bush administration has little to show for all its privacy violations, this moral logic is reasonable and can be presented as a moral principle: privacy can be violated when doing so will protect America from harm. Now, let us return back to executive privilege.

Bush and his minions have proven to be incredibly damaging to America and the world.

In the case of Iraq, Bush and his minions have directly contributed to the deaths of thousand of Americans and Iraqis. Further, America is wasting vast amounts of money and resources that could be be used to do good-such as providing health insurance to the millions of American children who lack that coverage.

In the case of Katrina, their bungling caused untold harm. In the case of their environmental policies they have continued America on a path towards disaster. In the case of their tax policies, they have helped the very rich and placed the burden of supporting the government on the middle class.

The list of harms could go on, but it is evident that Bush and his minions have hurt America more than bin Laden and all the terrorist in the world could ever dream of doing.

So, if it is acceptable to violate privacy in order to protect America from harm, then it is perfectly acceptable to deny Bush his executive privilege. After all, exposing what he and his minions have really been doing might very well help prevent further acts of Bush terrorism against this great country. The American people need to know what he has been up to…it is a matter of national security.

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  1. [...] on executive privilege based on the political party of the president,  I have been consistently critical of the practice. As such, I can recycle much of what I have said in the past about this [...]


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