Today's Note from a Madman
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Help! Help! Police (State)!
The first step toward a dictatorial government in which religion is not only frowned upon, but is regulated and even outlawed is the establishment of a police state. We are perilously close to that police state with the admission of President Bush that he has suspended the Constitution as irrelevant in regard to the privacy of the average American.
If history has taught US one thing, it has taught US that after a police state is established, and civil rights and liberties are "suspended" (for whatever reason they feel like applying), the ultimate leader, the one claiming the "power" to do as he sees fit "to protect his citizenry" will eventually elevate himself to "deity" status and claim that he should be worshipped as God. It has happened in ancient as well as recent history. All one has to do is look at various Caesars of Rome; adolf hitler; and a multitude of middle eastern Arab leaders to realize the path we are now on in the United States is the wrong path at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Learning Lessons and Getting Started
If the Bush administration has taught US anything, it has taught US that if you say it often enough, some people will take it as the truth. In fact, some will take it as Gospel!. Take note of this one: "Everyone thought Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction." How many times have we all heard that? In the past week "G"lobal "W"arming Bush has presented a multitude of speeches and has even held an impromptu "Press Conference", that nearly extinct dinosaur, in order to impress upon the average American the lies they want US to belief as the truth.
It all begins somewhere. Maybe if enough of us got our collective acts together, we can have the political parties changed from the inside. Go to your congressional and senatorial debates. Question the candidates about their stand on campaign finance reform. Demand of them that, if elected, will they work to eliminate lobbyists.
We will stay a corrupt society of political parties until we get rid of all lobbyists.
And to those of you who will call me naive or a "political idealist", it must start somewhere.
If not now, then when. If not here, then with who? (Or is that whom? I never get that one right.)
As far as I can tell, then, there are some close and complex issues here, contrary to the impression the MSM has tried to create. And, as usual, most of the best analysis is taking place in the blogosphere. That, at least, is where I'll keep looking as I test the conclusions I've reached so far and continue to struggle with the remaining issues.
UPDATE: Mark Levin (a conservative WABC radio talk show host) rejects the argument that the "necessary and proper" clause can be read to limit the president's inherent authority to collect intelligence regarding foreign enemies.
Mr. Levin made some very cogent points in his piece on struggling with the legality of the President's NSA eavesdropping program. Mr. Levin did a very good job of introducing the pertinent legal points. I disagree with him in his analysis of the President's war powers and would like to add a few thoughts on how technological change seems to have effected the fourth amendment guarantees.
As a legal matter, it seems clear to me that the President has seriously overstated the authority granted under the War Authorization Act, that had to do with the ability to undertake serious consequences against the Saddam Regime, and is not nor should it be read as tantamount to a declaration of war.
Without a declaration of War and in the absence of an attack precluding one, the President's justification of the spying program as a war-time power is specious.
Nevertheless there is still an undefined legal area in this matter. This undefined legal area stems from the technical facts pertinent to the surveillance. Our understanding of the fourth amendment guarantees of security within our persons and effects may have affected by these technical developments.
Apparently, the NSA surveillance is in the nature of intelligence gathering. The NSA monitors all the satellite transmissions made and enters them into some gigantic data-base. The transmissions are then filtered with specific terms like bin Laden, terrorism, al Qaada or whatever filters are pertinent to current intelligence.
When these terms are employed in a conversation, it triggers recording and analysis. Obviously analysis may involve monitoring several successive calls and perhaps calls by one or both parties to others not involved in the original call.
One can imagine that in most cases the calls that are monitored are harmless and that the analysts are bored and busy working on algorithms that can be used to filter casual, academic or other types of innocuous calls.
Apparently, when the monitoring detects sinister calls the analysts have been able to key in on people presenting us threats. One would infer that when such threats are detected, NSA would go to the appropriate court,seek and obtain the necessary judicial authorizations to proceed in a lawful manner against the suspects.
The grey area comes in the initial collection and screening of calls when the NSA is casting a broad net and listening to everyone. The broader issue is not searches, but our constitutional right under the fourth amendment to security within our persons and effects.
Our jurisprudence concerning telephones comes from the thirties when they were located in homes and private business offices and connections were made by actual human operators. Under such conditions confidentiality was at a premium and operators had to show all the discretion of professional Butler. Back then, jurists were not so much concerned with the question of proper searches as they were with the broader concept of security within our persons and effects. They were willing to make precedents that protected us in this respect.
This model was successful even after phones became common-place and automatic dialing took over, because tapping a particular instrument meant that its owner was effectively tapped.
The cell-phone has changed that, and one of the few justifiable measures of the PATRIOT Act was to allow courts to slap tapping orders on people rather than on phones. This was important because under the old law, criminals could thwart wire tap orders simply by buying a new phone.
The NSA's use of specific words or phrases (or however they do it) to trigger eavesdropping is problematic for the courts since they cannot justifiably issue warrants for words or phrases. By its very nature this procedure entails the NSA eavesdropping on many, many innocuous calls. Thereby creating a potential legal conflict with our fourth amendment rights to security within our persons and effects.
Perhaps a more cogent way of viewing this would be to change our thinking of calls. Rather than viewing calls as private, in camera, conversations, perhaps we should begin viewing our calls as shouted messages carried over the ether through electromagnetic waves, rather than through the air as sound waves.
Using this doctrine if the authorities hear us shouting something improper, they can step in.
Of course, this doctrine deals a body blow to electronic communications. If they are not an instaneous, in camera, confidential conversation between two people doesn't that mean all protected information must be passed in person or in sealed physical documents? By resolving the fourth amendment violation of the security of our effects in this manner we are relegating ourselves back to seventeenth century communications protocols.
It also rather boggles common sense to think that sophisticated, high level terrorist are talking to each other in terms that are so transparent and common that we still need the sort of open-ended triggering codes that NSA apparently had been using.
If there are a discrete set of triggers (e.g., bin Laden, terrorism, al Qaada), that the NSA needs to keep in effect to discover new cells perhaps they have or could develop electronic protocols that would surveil these conversations and only bring those that hit a certain threshold up for analysis. This threshold should be high enough to warrant legal authorization for the analysis. Then it could be determined if warrants were required. The rest would remain sealed in the NSA file, assuring confidentiality.
President Bush and the other mavens on National Security have been remiss to the point of negligence in failing to bring these matters into the open for public debate.
The attitude of the President and his supporters that the public is too ignorant to share in all matters pertaining to security is completely unacceptable. There are ways to explain things in terms that allow the public to understand the meat of the matter without giving away critical secrets. That is a critical part of the President's job.
Overall, this is yet reflection of the moral spinelessness and slipshod leadership that has characterized this President and Administration.
Spin, Iran and a Dangerous New Majority
How is it that when the Iraqi Shi'ite majority runs an election with over 1000 complaints and 35 that are serious enough to "change" some election results that President Bush and his "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party claim a "victory". But when those same elections cause an uprising that kills over two dozen people and a US Serviceman, it is just "pooh-poohed" as the "last throes"?
It is so uncomfortable for the Sunni minority (those are the ones WITHOUT ties to Iran) that they had to meet about it in neighboring Jordan.
"We will resort to peaceful options, including protests, civil disobedience and a boycott of the political process until our demands are met,"
-Hassan Zaidan al-Lahaibi, of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, from Jordan
Yeah, yeah... I know that the Sunnis, under Saddam Hussein (a Sunni himself) kept the majority Shi'ites under their thumb physically, as well as mentally. I also know that under Hussein the Iranians and Iraqis fought an awful war where WMD's were used by the Iraqi dictator against the Iranians. And I do realize that much of those weapons were supplied by the United States under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (daddy). But now what we have is a possible alliance between the new Iraqi majority, the Shi'ites and their new "friendly neighbors", the Shi'ite Iranians.
Does anyone think that the new rulers of Iraq, given the chance, will not attempt at keeping the Sunnis down? And is it possible that anyone would actually believe that the new Shi'ite majority will not align themselves with the "Axis-of-Evil" leaders, the Iranians?
The Iranians are creating an atmosphere where they will have the ability to create a nuclear weapon. They have already stated their opposition to Israel and their wish that the only true Democracy in the middle east would be driven into the sea. They have no problems buying enriched uranium from Russia (and GW's good friend Vladimir Putin); nor do they have any problems lying about how they plan to use their new-found nuclear "stuff".
And here is the funny thing ("funny" as in ironic, not "funny" as in ha-ha): because of how thinly our troops are stretched throughout Afghanistan and Iraq and the fact that new enlistments are simply not meeting expectations, we are powerless to do anything about the bravado the Iranians are showing. Our "allies" in Iraq, other than England, are a CINO (coalition in name only) and our "other allies", countries like Germany and France want to have nothing to do with the middle east at all.
Of late, Bush's overall approval rating rose by 4-5 percent. He has conducted an Iraq war PR campaign yet the approval rating on the war did not improve.
So, where is Bush getting new support?
Most likely from the
culture war right wingers who were
disenchanted by Harriet Miers but
approve of Alito. One example is
Pat Buchanan who will no longer speak
out against the Iraq war. He is more
interested in culture wars and Alito
is his type of warrior. Buchanan even predicted that
2006 would be a good year for "intelligent design". Keep in mind
that Buchanan also predicted a
victory for Doug Forrester.
A Powell Quote
"My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants, And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that. For reasons that the president has discussed and the attorney general has spoken to, they chose not to do it that way."
-Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
General Powell was also left out of the loop on this one. It seems that anyone who might question the president's means is not allowed into that ever-closing circle of influence. Listening to these words by Powell, one has no choice but to conclude that President Bush, Alberto Gonzalez (either as General Counsel or as Attorney General) and the rest of the most corrupt-minded and out-of-touch with the American People "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party, by not asking the advice of the person who holds the highest post in the cabinet, knew that what he was doing was wrong. And by wrong. And by WRONG, I mean breaking ILLEGAL. And by ILLEGAL, I mean "HIGH CRIMES and MISDEMEANORS.
If a policy's secrecy doesn't include the Secretary of State's having knowledge of it, let alone approval; excludes congressional oversight; and does away with a judicial process that was designed just for that purpose, then what are we to conclude about it?
Bush and Cheney broke the law. Inquiries, censure and the exploration of a possible impeachment are in order.
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