Paranoia Strikes Deep
By: Mark W Adams

Show of hands.

After the last election, after the celebrations was over and you were smelling the Thanksgiving turkey, who really thought that with the Democrats taking over Congress the war would be over by now?

Anyone ... anybody ... Beuler...?

How about a rollback of Bush's NSA wiretapping program? Closing Gitmo? Seriously, weren't you pleasantly surprised that Rumsfeld was actually fired, finally, especially since the timing was backwards and could have helped the GOP more if it came before the election?

The absolute best we could have hoped for is that there would now be an honest check on the White House, that things wouldn't get worse...

...that the war wouldn't escalate...

...that the Administration wouldn't be able to finagle a way to get even more power to abuse our civil liberties because any new expansion of Patriot Act and NSA wiretapping would be DOA with the new Congress...

...that hard won seats in red districts that now have a Democratic representative could no longer be counted on to rubber-stamp George Bush's misguided policies.

Zack Space, Charlie Wilson, thank you so much for living up to expectations ... the expectations of all the people in your respective districts who don't think there's a hair's difference between a donkey and a 'phant, that all politicians are pathetic stooges who put their own self-interest above all else and worship at the alter of the highest bidder.

Space, Wilson of Ohio Vote for Bush Eavesdropping Amendment: "Two of Ohio's 18 Congressmen, Zachary Space and Charlie Wilson, both new and both Democrats, were sent to Washington last year as Ohioans turned out one political party for another. The duo, Space from Dover and Wilson from St. Clairesville, both representing fiscally and socially conservative rural districts, cast their votes for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which critics opposed to President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics said should be defeated because it would give much-needed legality to his administration's unrivaled and unchecked power to perform surveillance on persons overseas and within the United States."

This is the third strike for Space, and I'm done with Charlie too. If even Hillary Clinton knew it was not in her self-interest to support this measure, the same Hillary who has spoken about having wanted her husband to have had more power similar to that confiscated by the current administration, wimps like Space and Wilson are irredeemable.

This broad statement by Meteor Blades applies directly to you Messieurs Space and Wilson:

Because, frankly, you epitomize weak. Your every pore exudes feebleness. You are surrender monkeys. And you’ve just casually tossed away a basic protection as if it were a banana peel.

When it comes to votes that mattered, votes that highlighted a respect for principle instead of continuation of power, high profile votes that would have exemplified the courage of your convictions -- you both have proved you have none.

The Big Tent Democrat formerly known as Armando sums it up nicely:

The entire purpose of this provisions is to enhance the power of the executive and to free it from any checks and balances. It is clear that the Bush Administration, an Administration that has no basis for asking for any trust, has played the fear card to attack our Constitutional balance and overset the vision of the Framers of our Constitution.

For what it's worth, while I noted that as long as there are safeguards mindful of basic privacy expectations of ordinary citizens, I had no real problem with amending the FISA legislation per se. However, because of the very nature of this sensitive law, we really don't know all the nuts and bolts that went into it. (Unless, you know ... you actually read it (pdf) -- unlike most of our Congress Critters).

What we do know is that the circumstances surrounding its approval are highly suspects and ring of the same old notions that if you stand in the way of the President's demand for more power, you will be branded as a coward to your electorate come next fall. What we do know is that the deal Congress worked out with the National Intelligence Director was overruled by Bush himself (or more likely his alter ego in the Vice-President's office). That alone tells me that the current law goes beyond that which was necessary and proper. Any Democrat who voted for this ought to be ashamed.

Whereas the law previous insisted that the administration get FISA Court-approved search warrants to eavesdrop on communications involving Americans citizens on U.S. soil, this new law changes the landscape. If the federal government wants to spy on someone, and the target is "reasonably believed" to be overseas, a warrant is no longer necessary. [And the belief is not "clearly erroneous" - Mark]

This is just another bill, like the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act, and the "emergency" supplemental authorization for funding the "surge," this law was yet another example of something pushed down our throats with no real time to deliberate or consider the full ramifications. Enough Democratic Congressmen and women capitulated to the White House scare tactics to give the Administration exactly what it wanted -- and unbelievably expanded the prerogatives of Alberto Gonzales -- one of the most (if not the most) reprehensible political tools ever to run the Justice Department.

Consider this statement by Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post (via Glen Greenwald):

To call this legislation ill-considered is to give it too much credit: It was scarcely considered at all. Instead, it was strong-armed through both chambers by an administration that seized the opportunity to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law -- or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions.


The government will now be free to intercept any communications believed to be from outside the United States (including from Americans overseas) that involve "foreign intelligence" -- not just terrorism. It will be able to monitor phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens or residents without warrants -- unless the subject is the "primary target" of the surveillance.

Instead of having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court ensure that surveillance is being done properly, with monitoring of Americans minimized, that job would be up to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The court's role is reduced to that of rubber stamp. . . .

Not convinced that this "fix" went far beyond what was necessary to simply allow us to intercept communications that were between terrorists whose network happened to cross through the United States. Not convinced that the rights of US citizens are going to be abused by design?

Maybe this report by James Risen of the NY Times, who's been on the NSA wiretapping story from the beginning (again, HT Glenn):

President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.

Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.

They also said that the new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens.

“This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington, who has studied the new legislation.

I don't for one minute believe that Congressmen like Space and Wilson were elected with the expectation that they would support expansion of the Unitary Executive with full Congressional approval.

And if you think that this really doesn't have any consequences to you or me, put yourself in the place of a father whose home was raided, and the computers of his children as well as his own were confiscated, merely for letting the world know that the administration was violating the law all this time. Illegal acts that now are legal.

Six month's sunset provision? Kabuki ass covering, nothing more. If you really though it mattered which party was in charge of our National Security State, you're living in a dream world where memories of a representative republic protected basic liberty are simply quaint.

Mellisa has more reactions. Does it really need to be said that if Powerline thinks Congress did the right thing, it's ghastly wrong.