Saturday, December 17, 2005

Time for the 'I' Word

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
If getting a blow job after hours from a star-struck harlot is an impeachable offense, what should we make of a president who repeatedly violates the Constitution by authorizing civilian and military spies to wiretap the telephones, faxes, and email message of U.S. citizens at home in the States -- without so much as asking for a court order -- in violation of the Fourth Amendment?

A little over a month ago, Florida blogger Bark Bark, Woof Woof called attention to a rare public disclosure of how the F.B.I. conducts its warrantless domestic searches under the justly reviled Patriot Act. As disturbing as that may be, at least domestic FBI surveillance of citizens was explicitly authorized by Congress.

Now we have hard evidence that over the last four years George W. Bush has expressly and repeatedly authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without congressional authority or a single judicial warrant. Not even a warrant issued by the super-secret Foreign Intelligence Court of Review, which itself has hardly been a stalwart bastion of liberty.

As Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) says of the NSA disclosure with heavy understatement, "There is no doubt that this is inappropriate."

More than that, as Newsweek and others reported several months ago, it seems probable that the fruits of NSA "intercepts and names of 10,000 U.S. citizens" have been regularly shuffled over "to policy-makers at many departments" in the Bush administration, including the "archdeacon of politicization," John Bolton, and his aide, Frederick Fleitz, who is on loan from the CIA.

You'd be mistaken if you imagine that the latest domestic spying disclosure involves only a clutch of N.S.A. techno-geeks sitting in some supercompter center in Fort Meade, Maryland, monitoring satellite signals from the phones, faxes, and computers of bad guys.

The same day the New York Times finally published its NSA-spying report, Dan Eggen of the Washington Post was reporting that the administration also has embedded "teams of Defense Intelligence Agency personnel stationed in major U.S. cities conducting the type of surveillance typically performed by the FBI: monitoring the movements and activities -- through high-tech equipment -- of individuals and vehicles... .'" [emphasis added]

The Defense Intelligence Agency is the military's version of the CIA. In its own words, it is --
"a major producer and manager of foreign military intelligence for the Department of Defense... .

* * * The Director of DIA is a three-star military officer who serves as the principal advisor on substantive intelligence matters to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
As Eggen explains:

The law governing clandestine surveillance in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, prohibits conducting electronic surveillance not authorized by statute. A government agent can try to avoid prosecution if he can show he was "engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the law.
[Emphasis added]
First, the F.B.I. ... then the N.S.A. ... now, the D.I.A. All authorized by George W. Bush, himself, to spy and wire tap U.S. citizens in their homes without any checks or balances from a court or Congress to be sure there is "probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation... ."

Until now, impeachment largely has been seen as a paranoid fantasy of the most virulent Bush haters among us. But now it's time for ordinary citizens to ask themselves if we are, as we claim, "a nation of laws not men." What does it mean for the rule of law if we excuse any Government office-holder who arrogates to himself the absolute, unchecked power to spy on Americans without "probable cause?"

And for those who in the past have had another paranoid obsession, ask yourselves this: 'How trusting would I be to have Bill Clinton exercize the same unchecked power?'

No comments: