NSA Wiretaps Ruled Illegal

NSA sealThe Bush Administration’s war against the American people took another blow Thursday when a Federal judge, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Detroit, ruled that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of American citizens is un-Constitutional. Republicans are aghast that a terrorist sympathizer could have wound up on a Federal bench without anyone realizing it. Okay, so they haven’t gone that far yet. But they’re beginning to ramp up the tired old “activist judges” argument. They haven’t come right out and called Taylor that just yet, but they’re already pointing out that she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter (a godless Democrat if they’ve ever seen one), as if that’s all the damning evidence that’s needed.

“There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” Taylor said in finding that the administration’s wiretapping violates an array of constitutional rights and a 1978 law requiring court warrants for electronic surveillance related to terrorism or espionage. She granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide injunction halting the surveillance (which President Bush secretly authorized shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks). The president acknowledged the program’s existence only after it was disclosed by the New York Times in December.

Bush said he had ordered the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected members and supporters of al Qaeda overseas. The president claimed authority under his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, but most specifically under a post-Sept. 11 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force in Afghanistan — an assertion that Taylor said was unfounded.

“It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights,” Taylor wrote in the decision. “The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another.”

The government argued that the program is well within the president’s authority, but said proving that would require revealing state secrets. Well, that should make us all feel better, right? I mean, it would compromise national security to prove to us that it’s legal, so we’ll just have to trust them. After all, it’s not like they’ve done anything to make us mistrust them before, right?

The Justice Department said it is appealing the ruling. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, old “torture is legal” himself, said at a news conference in Washington, “We’re going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue,” and “We’ve had numerous statements by leaders of the intelligence community about the effectiveness of the program in protecting America.”

Catch phrase alert; “protecting America.” Well, no one is debating the effectiveness of the program. I’m sure it’s mighty convenient for the government to be able to listen in on whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, without having to go through the bother of securing a warrant or explain to anyone why they want to listen in on us. Surely somewhere within the millions of phone calls the government monitors, something suspicious is bound to show up. If it does, by God, they’ll catch it, and they’ll continue to protect America.

What is being debated here is the legality and Constitutionality of the program, not the effectiveness of the program. That’s what’s inconveniencing the NSA, the Justice Department and the Bush Administration here. Quaint ideas like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration “couldn’t disagree more with this ruling. The program is carefully administered and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist.”

My question here is this; who exactly is carefully administering this program? The Bush Administration has thumbed its nose at Congressional oversight, and has, besides, largely enjoyed a rumber-stamping of everything it has wanted to do by a Republican controlled Congress. Does this mean that the NSA is over-seeing itself? You know. That is literally what he’s saying. The only oversight Congress has exercised is in the fact that they were aware of the program.

Oh, wait. I get it. We’re back to the “trust us” argument. They wouldn’t do anything wrong.

The basic problem in Snow’s statement is the whole redirection thing again. The gist of it is the phrase “suspected al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist.” See, that makes it sounds like they’re only listening in on Osama and his buddies, not Americans citizens in general. Yet the NSA cannot, and will not, explain its database of millions of phone numbers. Ooops! That’s embarassing.

This gets down the very core of this argument. Without warrants, the NSA doesn’t even need to have probable cause to listen in to your phone calls. If they decide you are “a person of interest,” for whatever reason, King George has already given them permission to monitor everything you do or say. The issue here is whether or not the President has the Constitutional authority to do that.

“Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the world we live in,” President Bush said (apparently without illiciting laughter). Bush should be commended that he could say this with a straight face, since, well, we’re talking about the boy king here.

Again, we come back to the “trust us” argument. We simple citizens couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of the world we live in. So we should just allow King George and his Neo-Conservative buddies to do as they please. Besides, I’m sure that later we can launder the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and probably even get out the stains once they’re finished wiping their butts with them.

“This country is at war,” Bush said (ever notice he reminds us of that whenever we question him on anything?). “We must give those whose job it is to protect us the tools they need. I strongly disagree with the decision. I believe our appeal will be upheld. The American people expect us to protect them so I put this program in place. If Al Quaeda is calling into the United States we want to know what it is saying.”

Well, I think we all would like to know what Al Quaeda is up to.

“No one is against wiretapping suspected terrorists,” Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said. “The question is how to bring this program within the law.”

Republican leaders, meanwhile, urged the White House to fight for the program in court. And no doubt they’re prepared to use every catch phrase at their disposal to do so.

“Terrorists are the real threat to our constitutional and democratic freedoms, not the law-enforcement and intelligence tools used to keep America safe,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “We need to strengthen, not weaken, our ability to foil terrorist plots before they can do us harm.”

After all, we are a nation at war. They’re protecting America. They’re targeting Al Quaeda and affiliated terrorists. Us ungrateful wretches should be ashamed of ourselves for denying them the tools they need to fight terrorists and protect America at a time when we’re a nation at war. You know. Tools such as warrantless wiretaps that ignore the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and support the un-checked power-grab of the executive branch.

The ACLU said the Taylor decision should force congressional action, but it fears that such action will only make the situation worse.

“Congress needs to do its job and stop the president from violating the law,” they said. “The White House has stonewalled congressional attempts to investigate the administration’s circumvention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. President George W. Bush personally blocked a Department of Justice investigation regarding the NSA’s warrantless-wiretapping program. Although Congress lacks a full understanding of the facts, several bills have been introduced that would reward the government’s illegal actions by changing the law to legitimize the program.”

Maybe we should just make Bush king. After all, this is the man who said “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier — just as long as I’m the dictator.”

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