Monday, December 19, 2005

Such an angry man

God, I wish I had a videotape of today's press conference. Because the President totally lost his cool this morning, and sounded bitter that we expected him to work within the law. He wants America to sign over all their rights to him so he can fight the "war on terror" that has yet to slow down the pace of terrorism, and he wants us to excuse Nixonian behavior on his part, behavior that the Supreme Court rejected in United States vs. United States District Court of Eastern Michigan (1972).

And, there's this line from Bill Arkin at the Washington Post, which sums everything up nicely.
"What has happened since the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is as pernicious and as damaging as any abuse or panic or misstep of the past: We must pledge allegiance to a certain post 9/11 Order, abandon the rule of law, compromise our values, turn against our neighbors, enlist in a clash of civilizations, all in the name of defeating the terrorists.
We are being asked to destroy our country in order to save it. "

Indeed. There isn't statutory authority for what he's done, let alone constitutional authority. It is obvious now that this President does not respect the law, and briefing a court or Congress is not equivalent to getting their legal approval. Congress never passed a law allowing this, and the FISA court didn't approve a warrant. He simply told them he was doing it. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not allow him to eavesdrop without a warrant, either. Specifically, "Title 50, Chapter 36. FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE Sec. 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order
(a)(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a courtorder under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence informationfor periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies inwriting under oath that--(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at-- i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party. "

Wait, what did I just write? The law? Oh, yes, I forgot, this President thinks the law is whatever he says it is, because 9/11 happened, God thought he should be president, and he knows so much more than Congress or Americans, except with the Iraq war, where everyone saw the same(not the same), (manipulated) intelligence, then he's just as smart as anyone.

This is giving me a giant migraine. I just cannot take this abuse of power and this flouting of the Constitution. I know that some of you will say, there he goes, he's become a liberal moonbat, yadda, yadda, yadda, and my response is that you'd be repeating what the defenders of Richard Nixon said before they saw that he truly did abuse the office. And by the way, the Cold War was infinitely more dangerous than terrorism. The Soviet Union could destroy us in an hour's time with nuclear missiles. But even under that far greater threat, we believed in the law. Apparently, in Bush's world, terrorists with car bombs are scarier than nuclear destruction. Thankfully, Arlen Specter is seeing the light and is going to investigate. Hopefully more in Congress will follow.

From KGB to NSA, the story remains the same

I wanted to wait awhile before writing a post about this subject, because I wanted to say something that mattered, truly, to many people. This subject has been blogged ad nauseum for days now, and it's hard to sort it all out. But, I cannot sit back and say nothing about one of the greatest violations of the Constitution in recent history, let alone the nasty precedent that this president has set.

I'm talking, of course, about the spying on Americans by Americans.

The New York Times reported on Friday that in 2002, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order giving permission for the National Security Agency, an agency previously tasked to spying on other nations' communications, to spy on Americans who might maybe perhaps possibly be terrorists or terrorist aiders. No evidence, no review by a judge, no warrant, no NOTHING. The Fourth Amendment clearly protects us from unreasonable and/or warrantless searches and seizures, a measure clearly violated by the Executive Order.

There is a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, a panel of judges who can give immediate hearings in national security emergencies and has, as history shows, usually amenable to government requests in these cases. It's not great that they agree so often with the executive branch, but at least we've followed the law and judicial review has taken place.

Now, in the years following the signing of this Executive Order, the FISA court has rewritten more warrant requests and denied more warrant requests than at any other time in its existence. If the executive is having more trouble proving its cases, is frequently being rejected and/or revised, why should we trust the executive in this case? Why should we believe that our "national security" is truly risked by the revealing of what is unconstitutional, illegal spying?

It is said that executive orders, until ruled otherwise, are the law, and that the law is whatever the President thinks it is until such matter is decided in the judicial system. The flaw in this is that what the President did in this case is not just ruling on the law, it put him in the position of deciding what the Constitution means, and that is a power that said Constitution clearly enumerates to the judicial branch. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of what the Constitution means, and this President chose to ignore the very document that he swore an oath to God to "preserve, protect and defend."

The rule of law holds until it is broken and no one cares or does anything about it. I don't like using this example, because it makes everyone think tinfoil hat, but let us not forget that Hitler and the Nazis passed many laws in the Reichstag that were unconstitutional in the Weimar Republic, and because everyone's fear prevented them from doing anything, we had to fight a war against the Third Reich and a race was nearly exterminated from the face of the Earth. Hitler was able to solidify power because his violations of law were not challenged.

This is really a watershed moment in American history. We last faced such a crossroads in 1972-1974, during the Watergate scandal, which showed a large degree of lawbreaking on the part of Nixon administration officials. The secret wiretapping of reporters and others without warrants, the break-ins at the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist and of the DNC, the constant use of "national security" as a cover-all reason for why the American people should allow an administration the right to do what they wished. The American people put their foot down and the President resigned facing certain impeachment and conviction.

Today, we have a President who has used an intelligence agency to spy on Americans guilty of no crime, a President who at the very least allowed people in his administration to lie about a threat that has been proven to be nonexistent, a President who has placed politics above all, a President who in response to an attack on our nation pushed through Congress a law that undermines our civil liberties before even retaliating against our attackers, a President who has broken several international and bilateral treaties that we are signatories to, a President who condones torture, elsewise he wouldn't have fought so hard to prevent its total banishment by Congress, a President who has mortgaged our future to other nations, some of whom wish us ill, and a President who has little respect for the very fiber of our nation, the Constitution.

Tell me, how is this man preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution?

This order needs to be challenged in federal court, and ruled on by the Supreme Court. I am willing to bet the ACLU is looking for someone affected by this, and they well should. If the Court strikes down this order as a gross constitutional violation, again, as they well should, then I believe Congress would be fully within fair boundaries to begin an impeachment violation, because this was clearly an obvious attempt to subvert the law and the Constitution. There is no way the President and his lawyers could argue with a straight face that they didn't know surveillance and searches on American citizens without a warrant constituted a violation of the Constitution.

If a President is allowed to do this, then there would be no restrictions on what could be done with this power. Spying on political opponents, using data collected as blackmail to get his agenda through, is just one way this power could abused. Nixon bugged his political opponents despite already having major political leverage over them. It's happened before, it could happen again, and the threat to democracy is too real to ignore. At the very least, the VERY least, a congressional censure is in order. This is where we take a stand, or we can kiss off democracy as we knew it for good, and that isn't paranoia, it is true this time. Those who would sacrifice liberty for a little safety deserve neither.