I'm frightened now. Fear is building in my bones. An internationally illegal war, torture, affronts on civil liberties via the Patriot Act, domestic failures on every front, tax cuts for the rich, children left behind, New Orleanians left behind, unchecked environmental destruction, investigations into administration officials - all of these failures will haunt the legacy of the Bush Administration. But nothing compares to George W. Bush's latest achievement. From the BBC:
"President Bush has revealed he authorised a US intelligence agency to eavesdrop within the United States without court approval."
My own realization of this disturbing development in the war on terror has been burning in my gut since the New York Times revealed the story. I feel like someone has injected a puddle of molten metal into my stomach. This weight is crushing me and the burning alerts me to the magnitude and urgency of this gross affront on civil liberties.
Battles were raging in Congress this week over the USA Patriot Act. Democrats and a handful of Republicans (including Idaho's Larry Craig) were filibustering the bill, holding out against Bush's heavy rhetoric, which was being echoed by GOP leaders in the Senate. The Senate has since passed a six-month extension while the House agreed to only a five-week extension. But these concerns and battles over the Patriot Act, as with every other offense of the Bush Administration and the GOP Congress, now seem lightweight in light of domestic spying.
It is still unclear to what scope this executive order is utilized. And that is what is frightening. This domestic surveillance of international phone calls is done without any judicial oversight. The specifics of the program are classified. There is no check on the president's power. Bush suggests, in offense to the basic American values of dissent, that the American people should entrust him to protect us while upholding the law and civil liberties. He claims this executive order will only be utilized against known terrorists. We have, however, no guarantee but his, and that is not sufficient.
But Bush's justification for this egregious violation of law and liberty is certainly the most alarming development yet in this new storm clouding Washington. After September 11th Congress granted the President the power to use all necessary force against terrorism. Armed with this act and the second article of the constitution Bush seems prepared to go to any length in his crusade against terrorism. According to the administration, extrajudicial domestic surveillance was implied in the act passed by Congress after September 11th. Law professor Greg Maggs told NPR's All Things Considered on Tuesday, December 20th, clarifying the administration's position, that the 'Use of Force Act' utilized in Afghanistan and Iraq also "supersedes FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act]". Louis Fisher, however, told All Things Considered that "it is not appropriate to take from a general statute like the 'Use of Force Act' some implied amendment to an existing statute" like FISA.