Monday, December 19, 2005

A shameful act

Since October 2001, president Bush authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on thousands of Americans' private phone and email communications domestically without a court order. At a press conference today, president Bush said that leaking information about his executive order to do so "was a shameful act." How could any American construe the leak as the shameful act?

Only an American who has not read the Constitution could do so -- and Bush is clearly one of them. This is all the more ironic when you consider that he twice vowed to uphold the Constitution, the most basic decription of his job. If he had simply read the Bill of Rights, he would've seen that Amendment IV grants all Americans the right to privacy:
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.
Bush cited Article II of the Constitution of the United States as permission for his acts. This citation only reinforces the observation that he has not read the Constitution. Nowhere does Article II permit him to spy on American citizens. However, if he had read it, he would've seen that it says, "The President ... shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Violating the civil rights of thousands of Americans clearly qualifies as grounds for impeachment, so his activities should lead to articles of impeachment coming out of Congress soon.

Bush also claimed the USA PATRIOT Act authorized his action. However, this directly contradicts what he said of the Act and wiretapping at an event he held in Wisconsin in July of 2004:
"A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."
Granted, the Act does authorize law enforcement officials to secretly tap telephone communication without getting a subpoena beforehand. However, they must request a warrant shortly thereafter, something Bush still has not required years after his spying activity started. Perhaps this is what allowed freedom-loving Senators to prevail in their filibuster to prevent extension of the most controversial sections of the Act (although Bush considers this "inexcusable"). Fortunately, they will expire at the end of this year if congress goes into recess for the holidays with the filibuster still active.

Bush tried to dodge the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as the appropriate vehicle for spying on Americans. He knows full well that it would require a judge to issue a warrant before law enforcement officials could tap a phone line or intercept email communications from the US. His excuse was that using FISA would not permit quick action. However, Bush said "I have re-authorized this program more than 30 times. I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat." Regularly renewing his executive order for years on end does not indicate activity requiring quick action. That's strike three.

Bush called the leak of his spy program a shameful act but he didn't stop to think why someone in his administration would do that. If he did, Bush would have to face the probability that the whistle blower did so because he or she got fed up with the president acting as if he is above the law. Law-abiding American citizens are also fed up and they consider the president spying on them a shameful act.

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