There’s nothing better than a good spy story these days.
We get them from movies (the upcoming The Bourne Ultimatum should be the most explosive of the adaptations of the Robert Ludlum espionage series), from books, and not wanting to be left out of the fun, President George W. Bush.
The president jumped in head first by wiretapping Americans’ phone lines without court approval. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration tapped my phone lines and read e-mails with some of the things I’ve written over the years.
In his weekly radio address, Bush called for a change to FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 — that provides legal basis for the U.S. intelligence community to poke their noses in suspected terrorists’ business without violating Americans’ civil liberties.
He said, in essence, that if the law is not updated, America will be caught with its pants down and another 9/11 will happen. He said al Qaeda is using its growing strength in the Middle East to throw another stone at our glass house.
“Our intelligence community warns that under the current statute, we are missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country,” Bush said, according to CNN.com. “Congress needs to act immediately to pass this bill, so that our national security professionals can close intelligence gaps and provide critical warning time for our country.”
The law set up a secret court that met to review applications from the F.B.I, the National Security Agency, and other intelligence-collecting agencies to wiretap and search the homes of terrorist or espionage suspects in America.
Here’s the problem with FISA – it’s already a breach of our civil liberties. Need we forget that Bush has already had to answer questions about his use of warrantless wiretaps? The administration’s answer to breaking the law was that it needed to act more quickly to prevent 9/11: Part Deux. It also said the president had the power to wiretap anyone without court oversight in the Constitution.
In a strange turn of events, the administration also said they have cultivated the first flying pig.
In recent testimony on Capitol Hill, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said the tweak to FISA is to adjust it to the revolutionized way we communicate today. By following the law as is, he said, the U.S. is missing a chunk of what’s going on in the private lives of its citizens – oh, sorry, I meant a huge chunk of what’s being plotted against the United States.
So, to change the law means the government can become more voyeuristic. Heck, they already wanted to change what goes on in the bedrooms of consenting adults by changing the Constitution to say marriage is only between a man and a woman.
But, cooler heads are prevailing, as Democrats are saying they don’t want to move too quickly to change the law because civil liberties are on the chopping block. Also, Democrats don’t want to give Bush the ultimate power to spy on people.
“To date, our review has uncovered numerous inefficiencies in the current FISA system,” Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said earlier this week. “It is not yet clear whether changes to the statute are necessary, but if they are required and justified, we will address them.”
The change to FISA would mean that Big Brother (no, not the incredibly stupid television show) would get even bigger. There really is nothing better than a good spy story, until that story invades our privacy.Powered by Sidelines