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Saturday, August 04, 2007

More thoughts on the new Wiretapping Bill

Some more thoughts on the Democrats that voted for George Bush's bill and what we really got for the last election from PoliBlog:
In regards to Democratic voters who thought they were getting change out of the new Congress, I suspect that the Majority Leader’s words will sound a tad hollow:
“My Republican colleagues chose to rubber-stamp a flawed administration proposal that fails to provide the accountability needed in the light of the administration’s past mismanagement of key tools in the war on terror,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
Last time I checked, Reid was the Leader and the Senate was in Democratic hands. I am not sure, therefore, that Reid can peg this on the Republicans, per se. Some of those 60 “yes” votes came from the Democrats–not to mention that if the majority really wanted to find a different solution, they could have worked a little harder at it.

In all honesty, it is rather stunning that they actually have voted here not just to continue a controversial program, but to expand it:
Privacy advocates accused the Democrats of selling out and charged that this bill gives the government more authority than it had under a controversial warrantless wiretapping program begun in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Under that program, the government could conduct surveillance without judicial oversight only if it had a reason to believe that one party to the call was a member of or affiliated with al-Qaeda or a related terrorist organization. This bill drops that condition, they noted.
The only saving graces are that the legislation, as currently written, requires legislative review in six months and apparently does seek some controls over certain activities:
White House and intelligence officials have sought a broad overhaul of the act to allow spy agencies to listen in on terrorism suspects quickly, without having to apply for a court order, as is required for surveillance that targets U.S. residents. But Democratic leaders say the administration’s proposals could lead to broad searches of phone calls and e-mails by ordinary Americans without judicial review.
I know many of my readers, and many, many citizens will find any concerns about the government and surveillance to be unfounded. After all, this is just the government trying to keep us safe, right? However, I would submit to you all that in the grand scheme of things it is always more likely that human being are more likely to make mistakes and abuse powers than they are to do precisely what they ought. As such, the more we empower the federal government in these matters, the more we allow for some monumental errors to take place. This is, after all, the administration that held a US citizen, captured on US soil as an “enemy combatant” for years without charges and without basic legal rights just because it thought it needed to do so.

And to appeal to the Reagan Republicans in the audience, I would note his famous quip: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m here from the government and I’m here to help.’” He was there speaking mainly of things like fiscal policy. The matters we are discussing here go well beyond with how the government might spend tax dollars, but to how it treats its citizens.

As a slight digression, and as I ponder the politics of the situation, I wonder what hardcore Second Amendment types think about this kind of behavior. After all, they typically argue that one of the main reasons why they ought to be allowed to keep whatever weaponry they wish is to protect against tyrannical or abusive government. As such, that is a segment of the population that one would think would be concerned about expanded police powers in the hands of the federal government. However, I suspect that they are unconcerned, as they tend to also be stronger pro-defense (which is ultimately rather ironic, actually, as a stronger defense mechanism means a more powerful state that could more easily disarm the even heavily armed citizen.)

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