A pattern is emerging

Short version: Congress has given Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the power to spy on Americans and foreigners with little to no oversight.

Long version: I’ve written a bit about the destruction of the 4th Amendment that is the NSA wiretapping scandal. I’ve wanted to write about this particular story since Friday night. It’s just so maddening and it’s not exactly a simple situation to explain, but here goes. In response to the Nixon administration’s abuse of wiretaps (he was spying on political opponents), Congress created the secret FISA court which was tasked with approving wiretaps. Since it’s inception in 1978 it has denied less than 10 warrants while approving more than 18,000.

While not a robust check on executive power, it was a check. Shortly after 9/11 the President created an NSA program that was authorized to spy on Americans and foreigners to search for evidence of terrorist activity. This program did not go to the FISA court for approval for the eavesdropping despite the court’s clear jurisdiction. So, because the government is conducting this spying in secret, we have no idea who they are spying on. This is precisely the situation that the FISA court was designed to prevent.

After this program’s existence was uncovered by the NY Times, Bush admitted its existence and very clearly stated that he would continue the program in violation of existing law (definitely grounds for impeachment). The Bush administration also made it quite clear that it sought no changes to the FISA court until, of course, the 2006 election season rolled around. Then it became a top priority, but Congress resisted.

Fast-forward to last week. The President and Republicans in Congress are suddenly is predicting doomsday is at hand and that the FISA law must be amended. The amendment is quickly written, hardly debated, and passed this weekend by the Democractic Congress.

Of course the law is terrible. It totally guts the power of the FISA court. To be wiretapped you no longer have to suspected of being a terrorist or foreign spy, you only have to be suspected of being foreign or talking to someone who is suspected of being foreign. And guess who makes that distinction. Yes, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Just the man who we should be giving more and more power to. The FISA court’s role has been reduced to that of a rubber stamp. They don’t approve or disapprove of wiretaps on an individual basis, they can only approve or disapprove of the process used to determine who is being wiretapped. Genius!

Check this link to see which Democrats voted for the gutting of the 4th Amendment and the FISA court. Vote them out.

6 Comments

  1. Ian

    So um, I hate this government. What can I do to change it? Don’t tell me vote Nader…

  2. Ian

    OK, so I found a pretty good response on The Onion:

    The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill that will allow wide-ranging domestic and foreign eavesdropping that would be authorized by a secret court. What do you think?

    “You won’t need to eavesdrop to hear this: I voted for you assholes because you said you were against shit like this.”

    http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/congress_approves_surveillance

    Like a good little researcher, I site my sources.

  3. Ian

    But, like a poor speller, I can’t spell cite.

  4. Michael van der Galiën

    Chris: haven’t visited this blog in a while but got to say: good design.

  5. I agree with Michael, nice design, good content, will take awhile to get through it.

    For your viewing entertainment:

  6. It did not place my link:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=LQYyPooETcI