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December 18, 2005

Gets Worse and Worse

By Ezra

From the Post (emphasis mine):

In November, The Post disclosed an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, using FBI demands for information known as "national security letters." Created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, the letters enabled secret FBI review of the private telephone and financial records of suspected foreign agents. The Bush administration's guidelines after the Patriot Act transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

The Post reported that the FBI has issued tens of thousands of national security letters, extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
Most of the U.S. residents and citizens whose records were screened, the FBI acknowledged, were not suspected of wrongdoing.

So what, exactly, compelled us to investigate them? Awkward social graces? Blatant refusal to watch NBC's must-see TV? Connections to George Soros? I'd like to think there's a good reason that passage shouldn't scare the bejeesus out of me, but given the definition of the word "suspected," I'm having a tricky time locating one.

Also, the Washington Post analysis that graf comes from is a great big picture piece, inserting the spying scandal into a larger context of encroaching police powers and executive discretion. A sample:

[A]nxieties about unknown threats have ebbed and flowed since World War I, according to a bipartisan government commission chaired by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. President Woodrow Wilson warned against "the poison of disloyalty" and another loyalty campaign created black lists of accused Communists in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Army and the NSA collected files and eavesdropped on thousands of anti-Vietnam War and civil rights activists.

Congress asserted itself in the 1970s, imposing oversight requirements and passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said FISA "expressly made it a crime for government officials 'acting under color of law' to engage in electronic eavesdropping 'other than pursuant to statute.' " FISA described itself, along with the criminal wiretap statute, as "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted."

Let's be careful not overstate the case, I'm sure its drafters simply forgot to append "unless the president doesn't wanna."

December 18, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Either the Congress forces Bush to back down (control of the budget, etc.), or a case makes it to the SCOTUS and the court rules that the law was broken, or King George Rules! Neither of the first two choices appear to be in the cards.

The hard question to answer is whether the term President yields to the term Caesar, King, Emperor, or whatever - 'big brother' is probably not the BushCo term of choice. 'President' clearly doesn't do justice to the extent of these executive powers, and is now overused by lesser leaders of lesser countries.

"Good night, and good luck" sounds so appropriate as the signoff to our experiment in freedom.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Dec 18, 2005 3:46:52 AM

Also, the Washington Post analysis that graf comes from is a great big picture piece, inserting the spying scandal into a larger context of encroaching police powers and executive discretion.

I, for one, don't like it and would like some standard that doesn't change. And just *WHO* is surprised that these powers have been expanded? Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. During the depression FDR did things that were clearly unlawful, including price and wage fixing and an attempt to pack the Supreme Court. And, of course, there's the ever irritating 'Executive Order' which as taken on the trappings of law, but is an edict from the president with no democratic process. Take a look at the courts if you wish to see expansion of powers. It has become the defacto rulers of this nation and has greatly expanded it's powers by new and novel interpretations in order to allow a predetermined end. Currently, any federal meddling can now be justified by the interstate commerce clause.

This should be a wake-up call to all about how far the entire system has drifted from the original vision of federalism. I am not apologizing for Bush. This should be looked into and I believe it will be. But you should also be upset with the courts as well as the executive branches for its breach of its fiduciary responsibilities. I believe the difference in the left's attitude on these issues is for the last half century, the breaches of the courts have helped the left's agenda and the breach of the executive branch hasn't....ergo the currentj wailing and whining about this new issue.

Where were you when Brown or Roe was decided, both admittedly bad legal decisions?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 18, 2005 9:57:29 AM

there is and has not been any over sight of this White House. They hold all the power. We the people have no rights any more.

Posted by: bygraves | Dec 18, 2005 12:09:13 PM

"During the depression FDR did things that were clearly unlawful, including price and wage fixing and an attempt to pack the Supreme Court."

These initiatives were sent to Congress, Fred, FDR did nothing in the cases cited unlawful. I would consider the wage and price controls of both FDR and Nixon very bad policy, and possibly against the spirit of the Constitution. But SCOTUS, at the discretion of Congress, could have 100 sitting members. Why, or why not that would be bad, could be open to discussion.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 18, 2005 1:11:25 PM

"Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus."

Did Lincoln do this, or did he ask for an act of Congress, ala Lindsay Graham? There is a whole lot of President-worship, on both sides of the political spectrum. Reagan did not increase defense spending a dime, nor did Clinton decrease the size of the military, save in their limited capacity of not vetoing Congressional bills.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 18, 2005 1:16:39 PM

Did Lincoln do this, or did he ask for an act of Congress...

Did Bush go to war or was it voted on by Congress?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 18, 2005 2:58:41 PM

"Did Bush go to war or was it voted on by Congress?"

Others around here may choose to quibble on details, but yes Fred, Congress did vote to authorize war-powers to the President, with offensively vague language. Bob Byrd was offended. I was offended. Congress was foolish to trust a Republican President.

Typical look-over-there stuff I should not respond to.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 18, 2005 5:10:47 PM

Meta Fred: I'll see your reasoned historical point and raise you a non sequitur!

Posted by: Ezra | Dec 18, 2005 6:04:53 PM

What happened under Bush's watch appears to stink and I, for one, would like some answers. It's not too much to ask what authority he used to spy on Americans.
However, it seems weird not to understand and consider the larger picture of drift of all branches. I guess it's easier for the left to jump on this much needed political fodder than to address or even acknowledge this larger and more desperate problem that Libertarians have been pointing out to you for decades.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 19, 2005 8:27:01 AM

Did Lincoln do this, or did he ask for an act of Congress, ala Lindsay Graham?

Lincoln did not askl for an act of congress.

"President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War, and his decision was upheld by Congress—despite protests by Chief Justice Roger Taney that such suspension was not within the powers of the President."

http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/h1/habeasco.asp

Bob, you are either a lying bastard or stupid. Take your pick.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 19, 2005 3:29:32 PM

Meta Ezra: I'll support any liberal, even if their historical point is bullshit.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Dec 20, 2005 12:34:08 PM

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