Do the Toronto Arrests Prove Bush Right?

Obviously the big news in Canada is that 17 terrorism suspects were recently rounded up in Toronto. Jeffrey Imm of the Counterterrorism Blog has a good news round-up, if you’re so inclined. But I’ve seen a couple of right-wing blogs suggest that this “proves” that Bush was right to sidestep FISA and engage in warrantless wiretapping—because it’s the sort of thing that could catch terrorists. Just like in Canada!

Er, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, virtually no one opposed to Bush’s various surveillance programs are opposed to legal wiretapping and surveillance, which is what, as far as we know, the Canadian government appears to have done. The whole point is that Bush went outside the law. Now it also seems, if I understand things correctly, that Canada’s surveillance laws are somewhat less libertarian than our own. Notably, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 allows the government to eavesdrop on phone conversations without a warrant if one party is overseas (and the means of ensuring privacy seem rather meager), although electronic surveillance still requires judicial approval.

Again, what Canada has in place looks a bit more Big Brother-ish than even the Patriot Act—and there’s a legitimate debate as to whether that sort of thing is necessary or not—but that’s still very different from having the executive branch sidestep courts and laws and all that business to authorize wiretapping whoever it feels like.