- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Financial Times

President Bush’s wiretaps

LONDON — President George W. Bush’s admission that he ordered a secret wiretapping program monitoring international calls by U.S. citizens suspected of links to al Qaeda, bypassing the system of judicial supervision established by law, has ignited a firestorm in the United States and threatens the renewal of important sections of the Patriot Act. Rightly so.

This is not a question of what powers U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies may need to combat the threat from terrorism. It is a question of who should authorize any necessary curtailment of liberties established in the Constitution and elaborated by legislation and precedent.

In declining to seek authority to do so from Congress, and ignoring the courts, the White House has made an extraordinary claim of executive prerogative. It appears to assert the unilateral right to alter the legislated balance between civil liberty and national security for the duration of a war on terror that could last generations. …

The United States has a system for authorizing wiretapping, created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and modified by subsequent legislation. Normally, officials seek a warrant from a special court. However, in an emergency, the president is empowered to order wiretaps on his own authority, provided officials go to the court for retrospective sanction within 72 hours. This process does not appear onerous: Requests for wiretaps are hardly ever refused. It ought not to cause delays and it should not jeopardize investigations, since the court meets in secret. …

The Founding Fathers made Congress, not the presidency, the first branch of government. It must reassert its sole right to frame the rules that govern the relationship between government and citizen or risk sliding into constitutional irrelevance.

Asahi Shimbun

Japan’s monetary policy

TOKYO — As signs grow that the nation’s economic health has improved, the focus of economic policy debate is now on the issue of when the central bank should terminate the monetary-easing program it introduced in 2001.

Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor Toshihiko Fukui has dropped hints that he wants to discontinue this unorthodox monetary-expansion policy around next spring. Many government and ruling coalition policy-makers, however, argue the time is not ripe for this step.

There are more than economic reasons for these strong reactions of politicians. Termination of the easing policy would likely lead to a rise in interest rates, and that will not only put a damper on the economy but also further inflate the government’s enormous debt-servicing cost. …

Exchanges between the government and the BOJ are good. But both sides should try to focus on accurately reading the state of the economy instead of making their own cases.

The Star

World Trade Organization

JOHANNESBURG — The World Trade Organization has managed to keep itself alive until next year at least after delegates hammered out an 11th-hour joint declaration last Sunday night.

The key stumbling blocks are still unresolved: elimination of the billions of dollars in subsidies for first world farmers, in return for developing countries opening their markets to services and manufacturing industries.

The harsh truth remains that South Africa, and indeed Africa, must continue to fend for itself on the world trading stage. Nobody in their right minds believes that French, Spanish or Irish farmers, who have enjoyed subsidies for generations, are about to surrender these privileges for the sake of the African farmer. These barriers have kept all but the resourceful and the brave out of a trading bloc that for years has been an exclusive club, perpetuating elites and exacerbating Third World poverty.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and his colleagues have to develop innovative ways to either circumvent or breach the barriers which remain. If we do not, we will forever be bound by the economic shackles of colonialism.

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