Pope Francis is certainly a good choice for Time Magazine's Person of the Year, as whistleblower Edward Snowden would have been also. But my own nominee for Person of the Year is District of Columbia Federal Court Judge Richard J. Leon, as he may well be the man who has saved America from itself, and from essentially turning into a dictatorship!
Judge Leon recently ruled courageously against all of that nasty NSA record-keeping of the phone calls of all Americans. According to the New York Times, the good judge found that "the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans' phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as 'almost Orwellian' and suggesting that James Madison would be 'aghast' to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way."
This was the first successful legal challenge brought against this monumental spying-on-the-innocent program since it was revealed in June after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, who praised the ruling from Moscow, where he has ironically secured temporary asylum from none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin, an arch-enemy of freedom of the press and public disclosure in Russia. It seems that when it comes to the American government spying both on our own citizens and foreign leaders, the Putin shoe is on the other foot -- whereas, in seeking to have Snowden extradited so he can be figuratively drawn-and-quartered, the Obama Administration's collective shoe is in its collective mouth, or perhaps in another part of its anatomy.
The legal groundwork for all of this unconstitutional spying on our own people has an even more bizarre twist -- it is based upon a 1976 Baltimore purse-snatching case, in which Michael Lee Smith, the purse snatcher, was prosecuted via phone records tying him to the crime. Eventually, upon reaching the Supreme Court, it was ruled that the government had the right to collect Smith's phone records to be used against him. Think: PROBABLE CAUSE. What possible relevance that case might have to what the NSA (and probably other federal spook tanks) has been doing, i.e. collecting telephone and email data on all Americans and some foreign citizens with virtually zero probable cause, is hard to fathom. In fact, Stephen H. Sachs, the former Maryland attorney general who defended the use of phone records in the Smith case, stated recently: "For present purposes, you have to say that the trapping of information from one suspect is different, for God's sake, than trapping the data of every American who uses a telephone or the internet." Amen.
Reinforcing the well-justified opposition to all such NSA and NSA-type telephone and internet spying on our own people, a panel of outside advisers, appointed by the White House, has now urged President Obama to impose major oversight and restrictions on the National Security Agency. This panel made forty-six major recommendations to the President. Most of them need to be implemented at once, to rein in the NSA and limit its abuses.
It is vital that the President and Congress hear from all of us who place the United States Constitution ahead of such phony counter-terrorist actions, which are not only demeaning to our privacy rights, but totally ineffective as well. The real terrorists out there know just how to avoid such obvious traps as those represented by the NSA's data-surfing fishing expeditions. Thank you, Judge Leon, for helping to save America and Americans from our own government! Our president, being sworn to uphold the United States Constitution, now has no choice but to do so, the sooner the better.
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Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)