As if the previous posts on FISA were not enough, Ed Brayton at Dispatches From The Culture Wars has another post that, again, reminds us that the Republicans need to keep the rest of us fearful in order to maintain control. Anyone who has studied history knows that successful politicians have been able to create threats where none exist. Brayton listened to Bush’s speech this week, as did I, and once again heard about the only message you can get from a Republican these days: “Let me do what I want and I’ll keep you safe from the terrorists”. In his speech, Bush said, in regard to the terrorists, that we need to know what they’re saying, what they’re thinking and who they’re talking to. Well, duh….does anyone think we really shouldn’t be doing that? But Brayton points out that is not the issue, and Bush and his supporters know it:
No kidding. Does anyone actually dispute this? No one that I know of. Of course we need to be listening to their phone calls and reading their emails and tracking their plans and movements. No one in the entire world denies that. The question is whether we will do so with minimal safeguards in place to prevent that authority from being abused, bearing in mind that our government has a history of abusing such authority and using it to wiretap and blackmail law-abiding, legitimate organizations that opposed their policies (if you don’t believe me, look up COINTELPRO sometime).
Protecting America has never been the object of the FISA amendments the Bush administration wants retained – having unlimited power to spy on individuals and organizations, whether or not they are actually terrorist suspects, without legal recourse to correct illegal acts of spying…that’s what the current administration wants. Brayton points out again, that the current FISA provisions allow intelligence collection with minimal constitutional protection:
When the House failed to pass an extension of the Protect America Act, Federal law reverted back to the old FISA law. FISA provided the bare minimum in safeguards against such abuse of authority by requiring that the executive ask a secret court for a warrant. And under the PATRIOT Act amendments, they don’t even have to meet the constitutional standard for warrants, which is probable cause; all they have to do is show that the warrant is part of a national security investigation and the court has to rubber stamp it.
It is simply amazing that no one arguing for FISA can address this fact and tell me why the lapsed provisions were so necessary, except to mostly eliminate constitutional protections. Brayton points this out as well:
But the Bush administration thinks that even that minimal standard is too much, that they should have the unilateral authority to listen to any phone call and read any email without a warrant and without ever revealing that they did so to any court – AND that no one has any right to challenge them in court for doing so because of the state secrets privilege. Secrecy, no warrants, no oversight at all – that is a perfect recipe for a police state.
Brayton is right on the money in that last sentence. History tells us time and time again that revolutions gain a foothold from within, not from without. Police states ultimately have to deal with terrorism 24/7 – from their own people. Walk too far down the path of stripping constitutional protections and you may be looking over your shoulder for more than just Al Queda. Our constitutional protections are the only things distinguishing this country from most others and justify the intense patriotism we feel when those protections are threatened.
Brayton further deals with the lies spun by the Bush administration and its supporters on FISA:
Four prominent Democratic congressmen wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this week blasting Bush for this fear mongering. Ever since the Protect America Act expired they’ve been trying to convince people that we’re suddenly unable to listen to the phone conversations of terrorists. That is a flat out lie. They can do every single thing they were already doing until at least August under current law…
The notion that the old FISA law was an impediment to such surveillance is patently absurd. They can wiretap anyone they want without a warrant, then go back and ask the court for a retroactive warrant to cover it. In 30 years, the FISA court has rejected a total of 5 warrants for crying out loud. This is a roadblock to intelligence gathering? Not by a long shot.
And then what’s all this about suing corporations for billions of dollars? Listen to FOX news and you assume that’s taking place on a regular basis. FOX of course, is not known for truth-telling, and Brayton asks and answers the appropriate questions:
And the new lie from the administration is that without telecom immunity the phone companies will be sued for “billions of dollars.” Bush even lied and said that it’s already happening… They are? Name the lawsuit, Mr. Bush. Name the lawsuit seeking “billions of dollars” from the phone companies. Here’s the full complaint in the ACLU’s lawsuit against AT&T over this issue on behalf of several prominent scholars. You’ll notice that it does not ask for a dime in either punitive or compensatory damages, only that if the company loses the suit they pay the legal fees. Such suits seek injunctive and declaratory relief, not “billions of dollars.” Just another lie.
I have to ask the question again: would Bush supporters and those who really believe we’ve been hampered in our intelligence gathering ability support those same provisions if a Pelosi, Reid, Obama or Hillary were currently president?
Please…let me know if a Bush supporter actually answers that question….