I Could Tell You Why It's Legal, but Then I'd Have to Kill You


On Monday a Justice Department lawyer, Anthony Coppolino, told the federal judge who is considering a lawsuit challenging the NSA's warrantless surveillance of phone calls and e-mail that the program is both legal and necessary to protect national security–legal, in fact, because it is necessary to protect national security, which triggers the president's inherent power to ignore laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The thing is, Coppolino added, "the evidence we need to demonstrate to you that it is lawful cannot be disclosed without that process itself causing grave harm to United States national security." The government's case seems airtight to me: If the surveillance program is vital to national security, it is legal, and since the government refuses to talk about it we know it must be vital to national security.