by Max Brantley
As the Bush administration moves to ever-more intrusive surveillance of American citizens -- all the while insisting citizens can trust the Bushies not to misuse any information gathered -- it might be instructive to consider Italy. The NY Times does. The Italian government is doing more wire tapping and the results leak quicker than the identity of a CIA employee who's made Dick Cheney mad.
A significant amount of the leaking seems to be deliberate. The possible culprits are many, including prosecutors — who are aching to intimidate wrongdoers but frustrated that the court system drags on — defense attorneys, politicians, or the carabinieri, Italy's national police force. Because the intercepted conversations pass through so many hands, leakers face little threat of being discovered.
In this climate, some lawyers see a threat to basic rights. Alberto Biffani, a prominent defense lawyer, said, "This is a country where civil liberties don't exist and where no one respects privacy."
Couldn't happen here, right?