Posted this on 6/19/08. I have no idea why anyone would now be shocked and outraged at the idea that the NSA is collecting data on all of us. We lost this fight years ago.
The Democratic led Congress has decided to bring a so called "compromise" bill on the FISA law. I have previously called the Democrats to task for their capitulation to the Bush administration's continuing attack on the Constitution, but by proposing this compromise (which is not really a compromise since it gives the administration everything they want), they have sent a clear signal that they have officially crossed over to the dark side.
The fourth amendment of the Constitution guarantees that American citizens are protected against illegal search and seizure. If the government wants to spy on a citizen, it is supposed to prove probable cause and get a warrant. In a nutshell, FISA(Foreign Intelligence Security Act) set up a separate court to review evidence and grant warrants for electronic surveillance. FISA expired in February with much gnashing of teeth from the administration, along with claims that if the act lapsed, we would be in imminent danger of terrorist attack. There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, the US Government doesn't need a warrant to bug any calls that originate outside of the United States. And secondly the Bush administration has been engaged in a program of warrantless surveillance headed by the NSA for years ( the interesting fact about that is the FISA court basically rubber stamped every request for surveillance. The NSA initiative was put in place to get around any oversight regardless of how perfunctory it may have been). An amendment to FISA made those warrentless searches "legal" in August of 2007, but as I said earlier, FISA expired in February of this year.
This "compromise" bill that the Congress is going to introduce not only revives FISA as amended, but would essentially protect the telecoms from prosecution for their role in any illegal wire tapping that took place under the NSA initiative before the passage of the amendment in August of last year. The Bush administration has been pushing hard for this immunity because along with shielding the telecoms from prosecution, they believe that it would also shield them from any prosecution over illegal wiretaps. So what Congress would be doing, in fact, is forgiving the Bush administration and any who aided them, for trampling all over the 4th amendment.
The Democrats in the House and Senate are not only willing to give the Bush administration practically unlimited power to eavesdrop on whoever the hell they please, but they are also willing to turn a blind eye to any wrong doing that may have occurred in the past. This is what Nancy Pelosi meant when she said that "impeachment is off the table". We have documented some of the failings of the Bush administration in this blog, but clearly we have let the now Democratic party controlled Congress off far too easily. I am literally amazed every day by the balls of this administration and it's utter lack of respect for the rule of law, but now the Congress is about to become more than just a silent partner in this disaster. Up until now, the Congress has just held it's nose at the multitude of Constitutional trangressions of this administration, but if they take this step, they will become a willing participant in the soiling of the Constitution.
I can only imagine what the founding fathers would think of the current state of politics. While they were no strangers to personal attacks and backstabing in politics, they would no doubt be appalled by the absolute disregard for the system of checks and balances that they worked so hard to perfect. The problem that we face is that most people in this country aren't aware that the rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution have been severely restricted. As with the Iraq War, most people are willing to view it as "someone else's problem". The "Low information voter" (a term which provided me and Sandy with a lot of laughs last night), has no idea what this administration has taken away from them. Hell, they don't have any idea what's even in the Bill of Rights.
Currently Congress is not acting in the best interest of the people (even low information voters deserve protection). They are acting on behalf of other politicians. I know that there won't be a great national outrage at what is about to happen, but I for one can't remain silent. I never thought that I would ever be a witness to the wholesale disregard and destruction of the most sacred document that this country has ever produced. Democrat and Republican politicians have very little that they can agree on, but in their mutual disregard of the Bill of Rights they seem to have found fertile ground for a new alliance.