by Brian and Kyle
As a continuation of Eli's previous post about NSI wire tapping,
and as a prologue to our own, we offer the following article from the the online version of the Boston Globe.
That aside, we would ask the following question. How can you tell when a Republican is in trouble? Easy. They start to complain about William Jefferson Clinton. We're sorry, but using past abuses to justify current abuses on an even larger and more ominous scale is not an acceptable excuse nor an an appropriate debating tactic.
This may come as a shock and revelation to the far right, but the President of the United States is not a king; he does not have the right to break laws left, right, and center based on whatever whim or internal impulse he may be feeling at a particular moment in time. We are not living in Jolly Olde England where monarchs claim the divine rights of kings, although the second Bush is our George III.*
Contrary to popular belief, the President is the Commander and Chief of the United States Military, not of the entire United States; and while there may be certain individuals out there who are comfortable with the idea of a military dictatorship, the fact of the matter is that the President is not entitled to select which laws he will or will not obey. Nor does he have the right to trample on the Constitution which he swore to uphold and defend.
The manner in which Bush handled this situation is little more than another reflection of his emotional and intellectual immaturity. Had he wanted, he could have ordered the wire/email taps, and then gone to the very friendly FISA* court and obtained permission ex post facto. But he didn't do that. Instead, he behaved as if the power of all three branches of government were concentrated in his very covetous hands. Instead of handling the manner in a legal and orderly manner, Bush decided that the only way to proceed was in a contrarian manner that concentrated still more power in the office of the presidency.**
For some time now a few of us around here have wondered if this president hadn't substituted his addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to religion and personal power. And with each passing month, with each new scandal, he reveals the same addictive personality traits that he had while he was an active alcoholic.
Ironically, Bush undoubtedly knew that he had broken the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). When the scandal broke, the Demander and Thief initially lied , claiming that wiretaps had not taken place. Then, when the evidence proved otherwise, he lied again, this time through the sin of omission, by concealing how extensive the surveillance had actually been.
So why is this a problem? Why should be worrying when a president claims that he is invading our personal privacy to "protect us?"
On Monday, December 26, a CNN viewer suggested that the worst we had to worry about was the government obtaining our aunt's favorite cookie recipe. This is nothing more than a bizarre variation on the idea that we don't have anything to worry about unless we're doing something wrong, a favorite claim of totalitarian regimes on both the left and the right. But the fact of the matter is that illegal surveillance really does present a threat to freedom of speech in general. This is not about our Aunt Minnie's chocolate chip cookies. This is about the federal government creating an atmosphere in which the American people will self-censor legitimate speech-- a climate in which the citizenry will self-repress political expression out of a fear that the government will take retaliatory action.
It isn't as if this hasn't happened before. During the 1960s the Powers That Be obtained personal information on Martin Luther King and then fed the information to the press and to King's wife. During the same period the CIA infiltrated peace groups and committed acts of violence in a clandestine effort to marginalize the groups they had infiltrated; President Richard Nixon (a paranoiac if ever there was one) never forgot a political enemy and had no problem when it came to seeking revenge, ad nauseam.
The upshot here is that in addition to creating a climate in which freedom of speech and political expression are stifled. Surveillance such as the type Bush finds acceptable, invariably leads to violations of personal liberties, underhanded tactics, and (s)hit lists which are based more on political beliefs and affiliations than national security. We don't know about you, but it seems to us that J Edgar Hoover, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Alberto Gonzalez, and George W. Bush are not proper role models when it comes to the proper use of intelligence.
Let's not forget that around the same time the surveillance scandal broke we had also learned about FBI investigations of environmental groups, vegans, a Catholic peace organization in Iowa, and a group of Quakers in Colorado. (Yup, that's what we're really worried about--all those pistol-packing Quakers who might decide start an armed rebellion against the Federal government! Gawd!)
In other words, the FBI is now investigating and infiltrating domestic groups and individuals which speak out against business interests and Bush Administration policies. The message could not be more clear. Do not speak your mind; do not try to educate the public in any way shape or form or you will find yourself on the receiving end of federal surveillance.
To this, I'm sure that the Bush Regime would repeat the point that that we don't have anything to worry about if we aren't doing anything wrong, but that ignores past abuses of power which suggest that the Powers That Be have a very broad and often paranoid outlook on the situation, which all too often leads to the investigation of innocent groups and individuals--a condition which doesn't seem to bother the Bush Regime in the least. ***
*You just have to wonder: If Bush and his Neocon advisors had been alive in 1776, on which side they would have fought on during the American Revolution? From their love for secrecy, to their craving for presidential power, to their contempt for legislative bodies and courts, this administration seems to be more in tune with the Monarchy of King George III than it is with the American Patriots who fought for Independence.
And that's a frightening revelation. During the late 18th Century, the American Colonists were willing to speak out against tyranny and fight for their independence, knowing ful well that their actions might eventually lead them to the gallows or the firing squad. Would that the current generation of "conservatives" were as concerned about personal liberty. In sacrificing privacy they have in effect taken the heroic cry of "Give me liberty or give me death" and bastardized it into a cowardly whimper of "take my liberty to save my sorry ass." On other words, they are perfectly willing to give up freedom for security. On a certain level this is understandable (no one after all wants to die). but in another way it reveals how far this country has devolved since the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution. In a remark often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the patriots and framers of the late 18th Century warned us about "those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security," and how they deserved "neither liberty nor security."
Indeed, the FISA Court is so friendly that it seldom, if ever, denies a request, which leaves you wondering why the Administration wou;don't have gone through the proper channels if it weren't more interested in acquiring power than protecting the American people.
Today it seems as if a lot of Americans haven't been paying too much attention to warnings from the 18th Century.
***To complicate the matter even further, Bush regime apologists often suggest the Civil and Cold Wars as excuses for the suspension of civil liberties, but these were finite wars. In each case there was a clear winner and a clear loser, and distinct point in time at which historians could say "this is when this particular war ended." By the Bush Regime's own admission, we do not know when this war will end. There will be no formal capitulation, no specific date at which we can say "this is when the War on Terror came to an end." It could go on for twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years. The idea of raising entire generations of children who accept an Imperial Presidency and a limitation of Constitutional rights is not a comforting thought.