Thursday, October 09, 2008

Abuse of Power and Appeasement

While we have all been running around stashing our acorns for the coming apocalypse, there has been no let up in the government's campaign of spying on American citizens. In a piece of perhaps unsurprising news, two low-level NSA employees being interviewed for a forthcoming book on the warrantless wiretap program said in interviews that they routinely intercepted the phone calls of average Americans-Red Cross volunteers, aid workers, etc. and transcribed those calls at the request of their superiors. These are not people suspected of any terrorist activity, simply people overseas making calls to their families. On more than one occasion, phone sex calls were intercepted and transcribed.

I don't have the best of memories, but I seem to recall Bush swearing on live television that the only calls that were being intercepted were those of, hmm, how did he put it..........oh yeah, "It’s phone calls of known Al Qaeda suspects making a phone call into the United States. " It turns out that he was lying. Another surprise. Since listening in on phone calls of American citizens without a warrant is actually a felony, one would think that the Congress would have something to say on the matter.

Alas, the Senate Intelligence Committee (har har) which was created in the 1970s because the U.S. Government was abusing its surveillance power then, did nothing. They knew what the administration was up to because the administration told them what they were doing, and they did nothing. As Glen Greenwald points out in his excellent post on the subject over in Salon, "the Senate Intelligence Committee never bothered to investigate what the Bush administration was doing with its secret, unlawful spying powers, whether those powers were abused, which Americans were spied upon, and how they were selected. To this day, they have never bothered to investigate those questions. "

The "to this day" part is important because at the time the initial abuses were made public the committee was run by the Republicans. Since 2006 it has been headed by Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who has still decided to let the issue lie.

Let's be clear, we are talking about MAJOR abuses of civil rights. Again from Greenwald, "the extent of the abuses disclosed here is substantial — “hundreds of Americans”; journalists, Red Cross and aid workers; military officers speaking to their friends and families — these disclosures are from only two relatively low-level individual NSA linguists at one NSA facility in Georgia. If just these two individuals are aware of this level of abuse, just imagine what the true extent of the abuses is — both quantitatively (how many innocent Americans had their conversations eavesdropped on?) and qualitatively (who, beyond journalists and aid workers, were listened to?)."

I think if the Democrats want to earn their seats in Congress they have to stop acting like little Neville Chamberlins and more like an opposition party. Their failure to act to stop the dismantiling of the Constitution will not be kindly remembered by history.

3 comments:

Smelly Belly said...

Mark,

It's dark times for our constitution and our society as a whole. Remember it's the Chinese curse to live in interesting times. Mr Wang can probably confirm that. K'hole is running a speaker series, put together by a new guy who's a civil rights attorney, with all the lefties. M. Parenti just spoke and Peter Irons is coming up. I take issue with Parenti by the way. Is the Patriot interested in attending and/or meeting Professor Irons?

Anonymous said...

They had come a long and difficult journey, and now when the journey was nearly finished, and they learned that the main thing they had come for had ceased to exist, they didn't do as horses or cats or angle-worms would probably have done -- turn back and get at something profitable -- no, anxious as they had before been to see the miraculous fountain, they were as much as forty times as anxious now to see the place where it had used to be. There is no accounting for human beings.
I couldn't make it all out -- that is, the details -- but I got the general idea; and enough of it, too, to be ashamed. It was not fair to spring those nineteenth century technicalities upon the untutored infant of the sixth and then rail at her because she couldn't get their drift; and when she was making the honest best drive at it she could, too, and no fault of hers that sh=e couldn't fetch the home plate; and so I apologized. Then we meandered pleasantly away toward the hermit holes in sociable converse together, and better friends than ever.

Mark said...

One of my anonymous readers is apparently off his or her meds...............