Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Extraordinary rendition of the Fourth


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.

- Fourth of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights

Earlier this month Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act, one in a long (eight years now) series of assaults the Bush administration continues to make on the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, U.S. law, international law, the concept of the rule of law, the Geneva Conventions, the environment, human rights, world peace, economic stability, economic justice, democracy, diplomacy, freedom, decency itself and "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects..."

FISA gives the government the power of warrantless wiretapping of its citizens; it permits the government to not keep records of its warrantless searches and to destroy existing ones; it provides retroactive immunity to AT&T, Verizon and other communication companies against more than three dozen pending law suits alleging they violated their customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct warrantless spying. FISA eviscerates the Fourth Amendment and makes the other nine of the Bill of Rights less secure. Without a warrant, a defensible reason or any system of accountability people you will never meet and who do not care about your lives can and will monitor your most private electronic communications. Warrantless fishing expeditions in the name of national security. If its citizens are not secure in the privacy of their homes and private communications, the nation itself cannot be secure.

Sadly but not surprisingly, all of Idaho's Congressmen—Crapo, Craig, Sali and Simpson—voted for FISA.

With their vote they sold out the Constitution and betrayed the people that Constitution was meant to protect—you and me, among millions of others.

That's really disturbing.

But these Congressmen—Crapo, Craig, Sali and Simpson—were voting with the majority. The majority of the U.S. Congress just sold out the Constitution and betrayed the people who elected them. Such dunghill dereliction of duty by Congress would seem to indicate that the entire body is in the advanced stages of degenerative spinal disease. The prognosis for recovery is grim.

That's even more disturbing.

Most disturbing of all is that the majority of Americans don't appear to care, or know, or appreciate that the Fourth Amendment has just been ambushed by the people most responsible for protecting it. If the people don't care, why should the Congress? If you don't care about your own privacy, why, for instance, should Larry Craig care about anyone's privacy?

There are a few signs of hope and willingness to fight for the Constitution, but the same administration and Congress that brought us Iraq, Guantanamo, $4 a gallon gasoline, extraordinary rendition, a collapsing economy, the ethics of Karl Rove, the compassion of Dick Cheney, the competence of Donald Rumsfeldt, the eloquence of George Bush and the disappointing Congressional leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are formidable opponents.

Yes, 'opponents' in the fight to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

That's beyond disturbing; it's dangerous and, as indicated, disappointing.

Among the good signs are an ACLU lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Act in which it is pointed out that gutting the Fourth Amendment has a built in and obvious chilling effect on the First Amendment, which guarantees our right of free speech the way the Fourth used to guarantee The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. It is a lawsuit to be applauded, followed and supported.

Before she voted against the FISA Amendments Act Congresswoman Barbara Lee explained to her constituents that she opposes the bill "...because it does not strike the proper balance between protecting the national security and preserving our cherished civil liberties. It gives the Executive Branch more powers than are necessary and it does not contain the safeguards necessary to protect the liberties of the American people from the abuse of those powers.

"I know how important these protections are from my personal experience as a victim of unwarranted domestic surveillance and wire tapping during the J. Edgar Hoover period. The Government's infamous Cointelpro program ruined the lives of many innocent persons. Others, including myself, had their privacy invaded even though they posed absolutely no threat to national security. We all remember how Dr. King and his family were the victims of the most shameful government-sponsored wiretapping. We must never go down this road again."

But we are going down that road again.

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