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, March 14, 2007

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear in Bushworld
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Here’s an artifact of archaic, pre-9/11 thinking I stumbled across on
the Internet: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable
cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Readers
who remained alert through high school may recognize the Fourth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Awfully stuffy, don’t you think? Who
says “shall” anymore? “Particularly describing,” indeed. No red-blooded
patriot would use the phrase. It reads like something written by sissies
in powdered wigs. Besides, who’s to say what’s unreasonable if not our
glorious leader, George W. Bush? In Bushworld, if you have nothing to
hide, you have nothing to fear. In Bushworld, we don’t need no stinkin’
warrants. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales emphatically assured
Congress in November 2005 that a Washington Post article suggesting
widespread misuse of so-called national security letters, or NSLs, by
the FBI was substantially false. A veritable parade of administration
witnesses assured congressmen contemplating the re-enactment of the
Patriot Act that stringent Justice Department supervision prevented it.

NSLs are a potential police-state tool, essentially granting
investigators sweeping powers previously enjoyed by such innovators in
security as the Soviet KGB. Issued entirely without judicial
oversight—no prosecutors, judges or grand juries—they allow the feds a
secret peek at intimate aspects of our lives.

“The records it yields,” wrote the Post’s Barton Gellman, “describe
where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived
before, how much he gambles, what he buys on-line, what he pawns and
borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and
reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at

NSL recipients, like banks and telephone companies, are forbidden to
notify customers that their records have been copied into FBI databases.
Combined with widespread wiretapping conducted by the National Security
Administration, they render privacy rights all but nonexistent.

And here’s the beauty part: It’s all top secret. Nobody can contest
these abuses in court because nobody can prove they have legal
“standing.” It’s not just George Orwell’s “1984” that needs frequent
rereading, but Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”

So now we learn, courtesy of a report by the Justice Department’s
inspector-general, that the Post’s 2005 series greatly understated the
FBI’s systematic abuse of NSLs. Exactly as those periwigged Founding
Fathers, having had their fill of arbitrary seizures and arrests under
King George III, would have predicted.

Unregulated executive powers not limited by courts or legislatures will
be misused. Every single time. That’s why they designed a government of
laws, not men, and why the cult of authority surrounding this White
House, consisting equally of fundamentalist religious zeal and craven
fear of terrorism, so endangers American freedom.

It seems the FBI’s been handing out NSLs like popcorn—at least 47,000
through 2005, often in cases bearing no relationship to national
security whatsoever, and substantially without meaningful supervision.

The inspector-general’s report documented serious abuses: “We found that
the FBI used NSLs in violation of applicable NSL statutes, Attorney
General Guidelines and internal FBI policies.”

“Of just 77 files reviewed by the inspector-general, 17—22
percent—revealed one or more instances in which information may have
been obtained in violation of the law,” the Post noted.

Furthermore, raw “intelligence” in FBI databases has been made available
on-line to 34,000 government employees. I wonder how many are named
Scooter Libby or Karl Rove.

Possibly mindful of Libby’s fate, Glenn Greenwald suggests in his weblog, Justice Department apparatchiks have been writing to
Congress admitting that sworn assurances they gave in classified
hearings have been rendered, um, inoperative.

Something we’ve also recently learned is that White House political
operatives, including Rove, directly influenced the firing of eight
GOP-appointed U.S. attorneys. But why, for the sin of prosecuting too
many Republicans or not enough Democrats? Nationwide under the Bush
administration, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans investigated is
7-to-1. It would be interesting to learn exactly how many of Rove’s
political enemies have been targeted by illegal NSLs. Don’t expect the
authoritarian Gonzales to inquire. Last January, the attorney general
casually suggested during a Senate hearing that the right of habeas
corpus, guaranteeing a fair trial to every American, might not exist.
“The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or
citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus,” he
placidly observed. “It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall
not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion. How long
before Gonzales reminds us that the word “privacy” is not there, either?


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