A little more of that iceberg is beginning to bob above the surface: “Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report.”
The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system’s main arteries, they said.
Distracted by the bogus Iraq front in the so-called “War on Terror”, Americans are only beginning to notice how much of this war is being fought on our home soil, against our own citizens. Should our nation eventually ease itself into dictatorship (no doubt a uniquely American form of dictatorship), it may be impossible to look back and determine the exact turning point; like Nazi Germany before us, these things can happen gradually — even innocently — with good, well meaning citizens blindly handing over their freedom to a corrupt autocracy, out of a mix of fear and patriotism.
I know, I know… some of you will malign me as paranoid and hyperbolic for even imagining a United States sliding towards totalitarianism. Yet those who would put a tin-foil-hat on my head are the very same folk who choose to believe that the greatest economic, political, and military power in the history of the world, is so threatened by a bearded, turbaned, dialysis patient, that we should willingly surrender the fundamental liberties set forth in the Bill of Rights… the most sacred document a secular nation has ever produced.
Do not kid yourself that Americans are somehow special or that our system of government is somehow immune to the excesses of executive power, for our nation’s history is filled with examples of presidents unconstitutionally crushing our civil liberties, particularly in time of war: Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, Wilson’s notorious Espionage and Sedition Acts, and of course, Roosevelt’s shameful internment of Japanese-Americans. Those absolute defenders of Bush — those defenders of unbridled American empire — should study their history: Rome did not fall to barbarian invaders… it collapsed from within.
But enough of my pontificating. Instead, I’ll leave you with the pontificating of the New York Times editorial board, who warns today about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, and recently released memos on illegal wiretaps and overriding legislative intent.
With the Bush administration claiming sweeping and often legally baseless authority to detain and spy on people, judges play a crucial role in underscoring the limits of presidential power. When the Senate begins hearings next month on Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, it should explore whether he understands where the Constitution sets those limits. New documents released yesterday provide more evidence that Judge Alito has a skewed view of the allocation of power among the three branches – skewed in favor of presidential power.
These memos are part of a broader pattern of elevating the presidency above the other branches of government. In his judicial opinions, Judge Alito has shown a lack of respect for Congressional power – notably when he voted to strike down Congress’s ban on machine guns as exceeding its constitutional authority. He has taken a cramped view of the Fourth Amendment and other constitutional provisions that limit executive power.
The Supreme Court and the lower federal courts have had to repeatedly pull the Bush administration back when it exceeded its constitutional powers. They have made clear that Americans cannot be held indefinitely without trial just because they are labeled “enemy combatants.” They have vindicated the right of Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their confinement. And they will no doubt have to correct the Bush administration’s latest assertions of power to spy domestically. The Senate should determine that Judge Alito is on the side of the Constitution in these battles, not on the side of the presidency – which the latest documents strongly question – before voting to confirm him.
Read the whole thing. And worry.
In a powerful editorial that describes President Bush’s actions as “an invitation to tyranny,” conservative business weekly Barron’s (published by Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones), has printed an editorial calling for Congress to investigate impeachment:
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
I’d say when the folks at Dow Jones are talking impeachment, the shit has finally hit the fan.