Coming as no surprise whatsoever given the Senate’s recent action described here, the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which has proven every bit as worthless as the Democratic-led Senate, joined the upper house in selling out further vast swathes of civil liberties to the Bush Administration and passed the “temporary” FISA repeal (thereby permitting unlimited electronic eavesdropping by the federal government, as long as an appropriate official utters the phrase “it’s to protect us against terrrrrrrrorists”), rather than take a vacation in August and be called bad names by those mean Republicans.
Here’s the thing: in practical terms, the Bush Administration had apparently been doing this warrantless eavesdropping on Americans for years already, notwithstanding that it was expressly a felony and that the government officials involved up to and including the President himself should be in jail for it. Also, I think a fair number of Americans really have nothing to worry about: those who don’t use the internet, or the telephone, for example, won’t be eavesdropped upon. And given the inconceivable amount of data we’re talking about, sheer volume will keep most of us safe, unless of course we have specifically pissed off the government enough to give it an incentive to find our particular communications, by, say, criticizing it, or perhaps by communicating with those who the government has falsely accused from time to time (or their lawyers).
As a public service, I’ll just recite the Fourth Amendment from (that quaint document, widely feared to be a suicide pact) the U.S. Constitution:
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.
I’m sorry, but I didn’t see any exception for “politically expedient terrrrrrrorist thumpin'”. But that’s just me. It clearly isn’t the President, or at this point, either house of Congress. Ultimately, we didn’t have to flush the Bill of Rights to defeat the Confederacy, Germany and Japan, or to outlast the Soviet Union and its thousands of nuclear-armed ICBMs pointing at us… but 19 Arabs with box-cutters apparently constitute the ultimate existential threat to us all, for which the play-book written by our Founding Fathers must be scotched and real men like Dick Cheney and (the now green!) Jack Bauer must step up to save us without constraint by those quaint rules that civilized law abiding people must follow.
As yesterday I quoted Ben Franklin, today I’m quoting Will Rogers: “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” He also said “Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what’s going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?” And he said, “Our constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators.”
But as noted, supra, apparently it offers no protection for the rest of us.