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Spies among us


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Even if you want to believe in the president, I simply can't see that he cares one little bit about civil liberties.

The latest issue is, of course, the president's admission that he has authorized domestic spying without a warrant. Do we really live in a world where the Patriot Act just isn't enough? This is even more astonishing given the following:

1) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court hearings are classified events;

2) If the government deems a matter an emergency, it can spy for seventy two hours without any warrant at all as long as it notifies a FISA court at the end of the seventy two hours;

3) You can already act without a warrant if you have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed or is imminent; and

4) Any terrorist worth his salt assumes he's being watched anyway.

In fine G-Dub style, the president accuses the New York Times of jeopardizing American security. This despite the Times' failure to reveal details of any ongoing investigation or operation. Again, this administration has taken the public position that a debate of administration actions in the war on terror is unpatriotic and damages the war. The president promises to keep doing this as long as we face a threat from "al-Qaeda or related groups".

I've never been a big fan of G-Dub's "foreign policy" or his crusade against evil. That said, this is just the last straw for me. I've always wanted to believe that he's just a guy making honest mistakes, that his mistakes come from flawed assumptions and not from ill intent, and that he's a good man that's trying to work within the system to deal with an issue that he just does not understand.

Well, no. In this instance, the president has chosen to ignore civil liberties indefinitely, to go beyond the Act that he defends as essential to our liberty, and to spit on anyone who chooses to ask him what he's doing or why he's doing it. Not only that, he's continuing to lie about it by telling us that all of these acts were done within the law.

I declare my complete loss of respect for anyone that honestly thinks this man cares two figs for civil liberties, due process, or any constitutional right other than his own position as Commander in Chief. It may well be that he's right that these actions are necessary to our protection. I emphatically deny this, but recognize that it is a legitimate argument to make.

But don't lie so boldly and so openly. Don't tell me that you care about civil liberties when you're willing to authorize these actions with absolutely no regard for the law, especially after you've shoehorned a law through Congress that gives you unprecedented power to act legally. At least admit the obvious: there is no case in which you, George W. Bush, will choose civil liberties when they conflict with your agenda in the war on terrorism.

That might even be a defensible position. Bush's claim that he's interested in protecting the Constitution is not.

Adlai Stevenson once said of Richard Nixon that he's the sort of man that would cut down a tree, mount the stump, and give a speech for conservation.

I only have one thing to say about that: at least Nixon did a thing or two right.


24 Responses to “Spies among us”

  1. Anonymous RoastedTomatoes 

    I am also frightened by the 5-year crusade that we've experienced to expand executive power. We now seem to be involved in torture, we no longer respect habeus corpus for some categories of people, and we can now be spied upon with no warrant. It's not like the process of getting a warrant for espionage purposes was burdensome or anything in the first place; I wonder why the president's people have decided that they need to circumvent that process? Who are they spying on?

  2. Anonymous Chad too 

    D-Train:

    Amen.

  3. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    He goes further than making the arguement for protecting the Constitution, he says he's authorized by the Consititution and by Congress via the War Powers Act; that he has also run the idea of spying on US citizens by Congress several times and always had the A-OK.

    Three more years? We're screwed.

    BTW, I'm related to a crew of people who think this Preznit is God's man...and you know what that means: NOTHING he does can be questioned.

    We are screwed.

  4. Anonymous Mike 

    Did you hear the news conference today.

    first I have to say that I am kind of baffled (and somewhat impressed) by the administration's recent willingness to open the president up to question and answer- and to unscreened questions for that matter.

    He handled himself ok- but he really does seem kind of out of touch (but who knows- maybe I'm just an out of touch liberal)

    He really seems to be baffled that people aren't just falling in line- he sincerely seems to just not comprehend how people would be opposed to this stuff. It just makes logical sense to him, he doesn't think it is sinister- he just thinks it's what is needful.

    So is it scarrier if he's scamming the American people or if he really just buys all of this?

  5. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    Scariest thing? I vote for "he just buys all this" (that's the kind of low regard I have for the man)...as for Cheney, he's scamming. As is the rest of the administration. This last speech was written by a master liar and Ezra Klein has the unavoidable comparison with Goebbels' Total War speech. Harsh? Shrill? I'm losing my faith in the moderate view of this administration.

  6. Anonymous D-Train 

    Roasted Tomatoes: You win the point of the day. If you're spying without a warrant, it probably means one of three things:

    1) You can't be bothered because of the immediacy of the problem. In this event, FISA probably covers you, what with the 72 hour window and all.

    2) You feel that the most pliant judge in the District of Columbia is still a security risk sufficient that you simply can't talk to him, given the high probability that he's got Osama on line three. This sort of paranoia could quite possibly land someone in a straitjacket.

    3) You don't even have enough dirt to get a warrant, despite the Patriot Act standards and the relative ease that law enforcement finds in getting a warrant anyway.

    I'm guessing this is born of a lot of arrogance born of number one and a lot of number three. Who are these people that we need to be spying on that a judge simply can't grant a warrant to search?

    This executive power blossoming is worrisome to me as well. Especially given that we've declared victory in Iraq and he's STILL claiming we're "at war".

    Walt: Yeah, I'm baffled by the legal justifications that we're hearing from Bush. My guess is that these aren't sincerely thought to be legal justifications, but that they're just spin for now. However, the "I care about civil liberties and I'm gravely worried about what the Patriot Act might do" line has been out there for three years and shows no sign of relenting.

    Walt/Mike: He definitely buys all of this. I don't know that Cheney is scheming; rather, I think he buys it on a level that G-Dub just doesn't understand. Bush thinks these things are necessary and that we really are at war; Cheney knows that the war can't ever end and thus these civil liberties restrictions can't be temporary. Walt, the Bush speech to which you link is actually quite moderate in terms of "don't criticize the administration". The press conference and Bush's initial statements directed at the Times were, in my view, much more bitter and intended to silence discourse than this one. I see the parallel between the Bush/Goebbels speeches, but I must say that the rhetoric seen there is common to nearly all wars. I hestitate to single out Bush for comparison to a Nazi since so many other speeches by so many other leaders (including many that I respect) would also fall in line. That said, what worries me most is that the guy actually thinks we're in a war. Well, with who? With what?

  7. Anonymous Watt Mahoun 

    D-Train wrote: what worries me most is that the guy actually thinks we're in a war. Well, with who? With what?

    Yes, exactly.

    And your idea about this rhetoric being common to nearly all wars. That's exactly what it is; war rhetoric dirceted at an enemy that is so loosely defined that it could be anyone, anywhere, including our own citizens. You can't buy the kind of power that this type of fear and paranoia generates. So you have the terrorists, the axis of evil, the Muslim faith, liberals, homosexuals, Democrats, poor people, etc...all these labels for people that have no face but pose a threat to national well-being or want to destroy us. This isn't the stuff of so-called just war...this is the stuff of tyranny.

  8. Anonymous Mike 

    I still just don't see how any one would think that all of these things are needed.

    You know how many times a warant has been turned down by FISA courts? 5
    and that's not 5 out of a few hundred, that is five out of thousands.

    OK- so maybe point to one of those 5- show that they then committed an act of terrorism and maybe, only maybe we can even talk about this as having any semblence of legitimate need.

    blows my mind

  9. Anonymous annegb 

    D-Train, I agree. I have supported and liked the president. "Liked" seems so unintelligent and stupid, but that's how I decide who I support. I like them. I liked Bill Clinton. How embarrassing is that.

    But you are right. I would rather take my chances with a crazy terrorist than give up my privacy and freedom. Screw that.

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