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Bush: I'm Commander In Chief, Screw Your Rights

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"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." - 4th Amendment to the Constitution

On August 17 in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled that Bush's warrantless Terrorist Surveillance Program is in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Separation of Powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

President Bush, however, is determined to spy on us without a court order so it's not surprising that he voiced his profound displeasure with the decision and has declared his determination to appeal the ruling. As expected he is trying to salvage whatever political advantage he can out of this judicial denunciation of his audacious power grab. With the help of Carl Rove , Ken Mehlman and the rest of the RNC he is circulating the blatant lie that Democrats are opposed to wiretapping terrorists. They're not.

Bush first told us that warrants were obtained for all wiretapping; that was a lie. Then he said that taps were conducted only if one of the parties was in a foreign country; that too was a lie. Now he says that we're at war and he doesn't need a warrant under any circumstances. This is, of course absurd on the face of it. The problem is that Bush doesn't want a sworn record of whom he's tapping and why.

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Obtaining a warrant from the FISA court is a simple, even routine matter; only 4 of more than 20,000 requests have ever been denied in FISA's 27 year history. However getting a warrant is more than a mere technical nuisance; it furnishes a sworn record of the reasons for the need to wiretap and it gives assurance that it is not a capricious intrusion on civil liberties.

Let's get something straight; neither I nor any other liberal Democrat I know of has any serious objection to government eavesdropping in the legitimate pursuit of criminal activity, especially potential terror attacks. If surveillance is conducted without a sworn record of the reasons for it then how are we to know that the tap isn't made simply because Bush or an agent acting under his direction has a "gut feeling" that those being surveilled are up to no good? Or for political reasons or even for personal enrichment? Should I trust him? Should anybody? The constitution says that we don't have to, he must satisfy a court that there is probable cause to believe that the person being wire-tapped might be doing something wrong. It's clear to anyone who has a healthy skepticism of government that the only reasonable explanation for Bush's desire to evade this requirement is that he's spying for purposes other than national security and he's loathe to leave a paper trail that would expose his political or even criminal intent.

I don't trust the government to have unchecked powers over individuals - regardless of who the President is - that's why the Bill of Rights was included in the Constitution. If a President has the kind of authority over us that Bush claims then the nation the founders created is dead and its citizens are nothing more than feudal vassals. It makes little difference to the serf whether he's captive of a domestic tyrant or a foreign one, his enslavement is the same.

 

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Bob is a retired engineer and lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He contributed significantly to the post-Challenger redesign of the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle.
He has taught engineering at several universities and was (more...)
 
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