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King George Again
America escaped the tyranny of King George, only to fall under the tyranny of King George Bush. Fantastic column in the Miami Herald by Robert Steinback, "Fear destroys what bin Laden could not." Go to the link and read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt:

President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, "What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?''

Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference to the ''war on terror'' -- a war, it should be pointed out, that can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or it will strike again.

Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights.

Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?

via BoingBoing

Posted by aalkon at December 27, 2005 7:23 AM

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Comments

Although this plays into your Bush paranoia it's not going to win you any elections. They weren't listening in on your phone calls to France. They were listening (not wiretapping) to international calls to people outside the U.S. with known or suspected terrorist ties.


Posted by: nash at December 27, 2005 8:30 AM

Then why, nash, was did the administration not follow up to get court orders for the wiretaps? From what I understand, FISA is not stingy with granting approvals. Regardless of who they were or were not spying on (and we'll never really know now, will we?) what they're doing is illegal and it amazes me the contortions the right will go to in supporting this untrammeled Big Government power grab.

Posted by: deja pseu at December 27, 2005 10:45 AM

It's alway national security that is used as a justification for spying on you. Then again, there were no terrorist attacks in Stalinst Soviet Union, or Maoist China, were there? So it must work!
Pretty soon we'll all have telescreens built into our homes, for our protection. Perhaps, already Amy has been vaporized, since she committed thoughtcrime.

Posted by: The Mad Hungarian at December 27, 2005 11:05 AM

I have to side with the Bushies on this one.

There does need to be serious oversight on this, but national security is also the job of the president. If there is evidence that an overseas phone call may provide information to prevent an attack, I am all for it. Of all my phone calls overseas, I would not care a twig if my government listened in.

That said, the real issue here is the detainment of individuals without being charged. I think the "check and balance" lies there, not in eavesdropping, which as Deja alluded to, and was granted 98% of the time. But time being of the essence in these situations, have a bipartisan Congressional oversight committee, and look at this on a regular basis.

Politics is the issue here, not the eavesdropping.

Posted by: Eric at December 27, 2005 6:50 PM

I have to disagree with Eric. I've heard "national security" used as a justification for a lot of things, and I think it's dangerous.

Critizing the Patriot Act was described by Ashcroft as aiding the terrorists. Here's the exact quote:

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends."

-- John Ashcroft, December 2001

I don't accept that. I never will accept that. And I think anyone who does accept that is a danger to the nation. There is no provision in the Constitution for free speech being curtailed at a time of war. On the contrary, it is during times of crisis that our liberties must be protected most of all. If you don't like the Patriot Act, you have the right to say so. If you're misinformed about it, you even have the right to publically make misstatements about it. And those who are better informed have the right to correct your misconceptions.

By the same token, there is no provision in the laws of our land for the right to eavesdrop on private citizens in a time of war. If we feel there should be, then we have the right to have our elected officials vote on it. However, in absense of such a law, those that violate this must be prosecuted criminally. If we decide to acquit and make a law that allows this, so be it. However, just because you don't happen to care if the government eavesdrops on your conversations without a warrant, that doesn't change the fact that it's illegal. Is it suddenly okay to break the law because YOU personally don't happen to care how these broken laws effect you personally? I say not. And I further say that's very dangerous thinking. We can, as a people, be desensitized to an awful lot of things. If the majority of people in this land can be desensitized to, say, microchips implanted in the skin, so the government can know where you are all times, is it all right to do it? Would you voluntarily submit to this if you thought it outrageous? Too damned bad. The majority of people have been duped into believing that it's a good thing, therefore you must cooperate with it, or be vaporized, miscreant.

Posted by: Patrick at December 27, 2005 7:31 PM

Well said, Patrick. Thanks.

To all: if you get the chance to visit DC, go to the National Archives. At present, on loan from the UK, the Magna Carta is on display. I hope that everyone who is able will see that document, and recognize that it's nearly 800 years old, that it changed the world, and that the idea that the king is subject to law, like any commoner, is still so good, so true, so powerful, that it still rings today, as it did then.

Over-simplified, perhaps; but that's really what all of this boils down to: are we a nation of laws, or of men?

Posted by: mbm at December 27, 2005 9:37 PM

I agree with the need for law to control the government. (I wish we had a written constitution in the UK!) In general US citizens are a law-abiding lot. So why does the US refuse to support the International Criminal Court? (See www.usaforicc.org for example.) For a nation in America's position in this world, such disregard for international law does not set a good example. It makes it easier for rogue states to disregard it similarly. Is the message "do as I say, not as I do?"

Posted by: Norman at December 28, 2005 2:51 AM

As most of the longtime readers/contributors here know, I have no love lost for the Bush administration. And certainly I am no fan of Ashcroft. I agree that all branches of government should be checked and balanced, and held to standards of law. At this point I have not been anywhere nearly convinced that the Bush administration has broken any laws, since the calls monitored have taken place outside American borders.

I really do not see this as a freedom of speech issue. This does not in any way prevent the lawful airing of ones opinions or grievances. As for there not being any provision for eavesdropping, there is, with a court order. As Colin Powell said, this whole situation could have been easily avoided with readily available (though time consuming) court warrants. My point above was that if time is of the essence, and a quick decision may mean the prevention of an attack, or even the gathering of vital information, then that is a power I would be comfortable with my government having. A Congressional oversight committee can decide if this power was abused or not.

I am open to both sides of this argument, but I believe we need to be flexible to adapt to the ever changing communications environment. It seems to me much of the arguments above are projecting this into a worst case Orwellian scenario, which hobbles common sense approaches to domestic security.

I would be curious to know how the British or Israeli intelligence community is similarly managed on this issue...

Posted by: eric at December 28, 2005 8:55 PM

Quick thought Eric:

I too have no problem with such a power being exercised if it is necessary to gather intelligence, but neither does the FISA. They only require that a post-action report be made to obtain the approval. What is troubling to me is that Bush specifically removed the need for such a procedure. While it may have cut down on the paperwork, it also removed the factor of accountability from the process.

In other words, he already had a mechanism in place which allowed him to do exactly what he claims was needed, thus invalidating his justification for the program. THAT is what worries me. Why was this necessary if not to avoid responsibility for the output of the program?

Posted by: Brian M. at December 29, 2005 9:00 AM

Excellent point Brian.

Posted by: eric at December 29, 2005 12:52 PM

One of the toughest things to explain to the layman is the transitory nature of crime.

Joe and Susie Sixpack do not believe that criminals act legally more than 99% of the time, that they are responsible for defending themselves, that laws apply to them, and that they are irrevocably part of the problem with or the solution to any question about rights. To wit: it does not matter that you do not engage in any conversation which can be considered criminal TODAY -- you must insist on Constitutional limits on government because of what government has been shown capable of TOMORROW.

But people get the government they earn. Anyone who sits quietly allows others to determine what they may legally do. Already, regardless of your training or station, you may not possess an effective weapon to defend yourself and your family in hundreds of thousands of places nationwide, while in those same places your bank may protect mere money with deadly force. This situation has come about because people did not wish to deal personally with self-defense issues, preferring to let "government" do that for them.

As the primary purpose of any organization is to preserve its own existence, and government seeks to expand its powers further, data collection methods will indeed become more comprehensive.

And some people will never think it's too much to tell BB everything.

Posted by: Radwaste at December 29, 2005 2:59 PM

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