Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Have Americans lost the guts?

Have Americans lost the guts for democracy?
Gene Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Every time George W. Bush gets caught in a tight spot, he does the same thing: He plays the 9/11 fear card, wraps himself in the flag, emits jawdropping falsehoods and all but accuses his critics of treason. So it is with the stunning revelation that the White House has ordered the illegal, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens in brazen defiance of federal law and the U. S. Constitution. If allowed to stand, Bush’s actions will have taken the United States a long way down the road to military dictatorship. Indeed, that’s essentially what his legalistic enablers, starting with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney, argue: that in wartime, the commander-in-chief can take any action he deems appropriate to protect the nation,
bypassing Congress and the courts to assert the primacy of the presidency until declaring victory in the “war on terror.” As terrorism is not an enemy, but a tactic—a vile, cowardly tactic, but by definition not subject to being defeated—the metaphorical war against it could last indefinitely. And as long as it lasts, the commander-in-chief rules by fiat. Our constitutional rights exist at his sufferance.

If the president, any president, can unilaterally declare the Fourth Amendment forbidding unreasonable search and seizure null and void, why not the First Amendment protecting a free press? Why not the Second
Amendment? We can’t let terrorists have guns, can we?

Far-fetched? Today, maybe. Tomorrow, maybe not. This drugstore cowboy won’t be president forever, you know. Anyway, I take it to be roughly those things that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam war veteran,
meant when he emphasized that “I took an oath of office to the Constitution. I didn’t take an oath of office to my party or to my president.”

But there are a great many Americans who either don’t comprehend what’s at stake or cannot bring themselves to believe it. And many in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who hesitate to order breakfast without
consulting opinion polls. That’s the reason for Bush’s deceptive sound bite during a recent visit to an Army hospital in San Antonio, where he claimed that the only communications the National Security Agency monitors are from foreign terrorist cells to the United States.

Adopting a pseudo-folksy tone that makes him sound as if he’s reading “My Pet Goat” to third-graders, Bush allowed as how “If somebody from al-Qa’ida is calling you, we’d like to know why.... I think most
Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy’s thinking.”

Well, no kidding. No sane person opposes that kind of surveillance. A couple of years ago, I found myself receiving suspect messages emanating somewhere in the Middle East using a hijacked, defunct e-mail address.
I went directly to the FBI. Who wouldn’t? For that matter, I’m pressing the authorities to shut down my own pet stalker, a nameless coward making what he imagines are anonymous threats.

Of course, the secret FISA court (for Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act ) required by federal law to authorize wiretaps would issue a warrant in 30 seconds flat to monitor al-Qa’ida-related communications, even several days after the fact. It’s rejected roughly a half-dozen of almost 20, 000 applications since it was set up in response to the Nixon administration’s illegal spying upon war protesters, civil rights activists and political opponents.

Indeed, the Bush White House had to “clarify” the president’s remarks, which he repeated several times. Bush’s wiretaps are known to monitor both incoming and outgoing calls, but are exponentially larger in scope.
Moreover, as The Washington Post has reported, NSA has been not only “data mining” millions of communications foreign and domestic, but passing on the results to other government agencies such as the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security.

The way TV news works, however, many Americans would only get to hear Bush’s dishonest sound bite, as phony in its way as Bill Clinton’s denial of “sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky,” a technically truthful statement calculated to deceive. See, there have to be reasons the administration kept its actions hidden. Right now, we don’t know what they are. But we do know that Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had personally prosecuted al-Qa’ida terrorists, refused to sign off on White House wiretaps, as apparently did former Attorney General John “Let the Eagle Soar” Ashcroft. It’s up to Congress, the
courts and a hitherto easily intimidated free press to find out why. Under Gonzales, the Justice Department now plans to investigate the whistleblowers who exposed Bush’s defiance of the rule of law. A more
upside-down situation can hardly be imagined. How can this great nation have been brought to such a pass by a few thousand stateless fanatics hiding in caves? Have Americans still got the guts for democracy? Whatever happened, I wonder, to “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?

Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.
Have Americans lost the guts for democracy?

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