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A still tongue makes for a happy life
Posted: 2005-12-21 00:22
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Politics

To say that America is free is quickly coming closer and closer to being a complete lie. Last week, President Bush faced charges that he authorized wiretaps against Americans without obtaining warrants. He addressed the issue at a press conference Monday, defending the program and saying that a "shameful act" has been committed by whoever leaked the program to the New York Times.

The fact that the government monitors phone conversations is not new; the NSA is alleged to have been recording and listening to international phone conversations for years. After it was revealed that the NSA has been spying on American citizens during the 1960s and 1970s, however, its authority was limited to exclusively international calls. Down the road, FISA was passed, which spelled out the requirements for legally obtaining a warrant to tap into conversations with an American citizen as one party. One of these provisions is for warrants to be approved retroactively up to three days after the conversation is recorded. The FISA process is also extremely likely to lean in favor of the government's request; since its inception, the FISA court has only rejected four warrant requests, out of tens of thousands.

In spite of this, Bush is claiming that he has the "constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country" against "the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill our American citizens." Furthermore, he claims that such spying is "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution" and that "it has been effective in disrupting the enemy while safeguarding our civil liberties."

There is simply no way to correlate this gross violation of the Constitution and FISA with any safeguarding of our civil liberties; in fact, this goes to further erode them.

As angry as that makes me, it's nothing compared to what came later in the press conference. As reporters continued to question Bush's expansion of presidential power, one brought up calls by Democrats and Republicans alike for an investigation into whether the program ran afoul of current law. When asked if he would be willing to explain the program to Congress, and support an independent investigation into it, Bush replied with something I still cannot believe. In his reply, Bush said that, "any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, 'Here's what they do. Adjust.'"

In effect, Bush is saying that to even discuss programs that appear to be blatant infringements on the civil liberties of Americans is to help the enemy. Certain sections of the law make it illegal to provide "material support" to terrorists; to apply this to what Bush said means that anyone who discusses certain actions by the government could be imprisoned as a terrorist supporter.

This bears repeating: the possibility exists that, by trying to ensure a discussion of governmental programs and our civil liberties, we could be labeled and imprisoned as terrorist supporters.

The idea is not limited to just one remark by the president in a press conference; over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on Fox News that "[t]he more we get the exposure of these very sensitive programs, the more it undermines our ability to follow terrorists, to know about their activities." To talk about these programs is to make it easier for terrorists to strike.

This is wrong on so many levels; it cuts right to the heart of what America is and what it stands for. This country has survived, and flourished, for over 200 years, in part because of the great freedom afforded its citizens to criticize the government. It should never be considered a "shameful act" to discuss the government; instead, it should be encouraged, for "democracy dies behind closed doors," as the saying goes.

The more our government operates in secret, the less accountable it needs to be. We must not allow fear of terrorism to let those in power steamroll our rights, for without those, this would not be America.


Comments

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Posted: 2006-02-27 10:01:53
Author: jay

David Cole pretty much summed up the whole situation quite neatly here: <br /> <br />http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/25/155217 <br /> <br />Of course, its 2 months later and little has happened. It's pretty up there on the "worthy of impeachment" scale.

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