You Forgot to Dot an "I"-- In Triplicate
In an essay concerning FISA's 72 hour rule to obtain an emergency order to approve electronic surveillance, Pat Santy discusses the complexity of government rules, regulations, and paperwork and obtaining a timely, positive outcome.
"This was dramatically brought home to me as I was reading about the West Virginia mining tragedy yesterday. It is now known that the trapped miners were alive for at least 10 or more hours after the explosion that trapped them. Rescue workers did not get to them until 41 hours later. When asked to explain why it took so long, one official said that they were trying to follow the reams of state and federal government regulations about mine rescues which are in place to protect rescuers; and which prohibit going into the mine when it isn't completely safe."
I often argue against situational ethics, but that is in the areas of morality based activity. In the case of the mine tragedy, the situation called for actions by experienced, skilled miners, not the wisdom of OSHA bureaucrats. Perhaps the outcome would have not differed or even may have caused more injury or death, but we'll never know.
In much the same way, NSA surveillance that bypasses the FISA rules may save lives or may cause harm to someone's rights. The helpfulness or harmfulness of the 72 hours difference is something we may never know. The terrorist threat is certainly real and serious contravening measures are necessary.