Friday, May 12, 2006

Thank you USA Today

It's times like these when I am truly grateful and astonished by the foresight of our founding fathers. They laid out principles of governance which still serve us well today.

One good example is how our founding fathers determined over 200 years ago that a Republican-led Congress, under a Republican White House, would allow our hard-fought civil liberties to be trampled upon in the name of perpetual war.

Their solution? Simple. USA Today would be granted oversight authority, and would print the truth about how the White House is violating our liberties using information obtained through intelligence leaks from the executive branch.

How could they know? It's absolutely incredible! USA Today didn't even exist until some twenty-plus years ago.

The point is, we now know we can't count on the Republican Congress exercise its responsibility to maintain oversight of the executive branch -- especially at a time when we already know the White House has been aggressively invoking executive privilege to weaken out civil liberties in the name of "Homeland Security."

The Constitution is not just a piece of paper we have to put up with when we're at war. It is precisely when our freedoms are challenged that we need to look to the Constitution for guidance.

Is anyone saying that the president shouldn't have the power to find and prosecute terrorists?

Absolutely not! I actually wish he would. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem capable of it.

I question not just the constitutionality of data-mining phone calls for connections to terrorists, I question its efficacy as a tool to find terrorists.

Recall that alarms were going off in various agencies about the possibility of a 9/11 attack, and the FBI knew who some of the terrorists were in the 9/11 plot -- BEFORE they attacked! Why did President Bush do nothing?

What we need is not more intelligence. We need more intelligent people running the White House.

Furthermore, as polimom pointed out, President Bush has defined the goals of the "war on terrah" so broadly (or failed to define them) that we don't really know when we'll have won, and we won't know how many more of our liberties will have been taken from us.

I mean really -- what's next?

Are we to believe that scanning the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans will identify patterns that connect to terrorist cells? Highly dubious. How many terrorists could there possibly be here in the United States -- if any? I suspect there are some, because I have serious doubts about the abilities of the Bush White House, but tens of millions of Americans?

It would seem to me better to trace calls made by known terrorist suspects.

Other than finding terrorists, are there other possible uses of this type of analysis?

Recall what happened under Bill Clinton's presidency in 1998. Using the same sort of phone call network analysis, Clinton was able to identify the friends and family of opponents who were trying to impeach him, and then engaged in dirty tricks to make their lives hell -- like singling them out for exhaustive IRS audits to find evidence to prosecute them.

Oh ... well, er ... that didn't really happen, but you see what I mean. What's to prevent any future president from secretly engaging in activities for political advantage, or revenge.

THAT my friends, is why we have a little piece of paper we call the Constitution. And THAT is why we need a Congress that is informed about all endeavors of the White House, so that we don't have to find out how our freedoms have been eroded by reading it on the front page of the USA Today.

Given the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showing that "63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism," it's clear that the majority of Americans are poorly informed about how this sort of erosion of civil liberties without oversight could easily be used in the future for dirty tricks, at the very least -- and at the worst, could be used to more fundamentally undermine our democracy.

Now I'm really wondering what the NSA is up to.


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