Friday, August 24, 2007
Spies Like Them
“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time."
George Orwell, “1984”
It was hoped that with the restoration of a liberal opposition party to power in both houses of Congress, that the Bush administration’s assault on our civil liberties would finally be put to rest.
But hope dies last.
The “New York Times” reported last week that Congress may have actually given the administration broader powers to snoop on us than it asked for in “updating” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“Updating,” by the way, is right-wing talk for encroaching on democratic principles to the benefit of authority.
The Democrats know this and were not really interested in updating FISA, but terrorism is the new communism and the (r)epublicans were threatening to call them soft; something Democrats can’t screw up the courage to confront, ever.
Bush threatened to take away their vacations, god forbid, and they caved...worse than even expected (or suspected).
It was, in the words of “Times” reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau “in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble,” that Democrats agreed to “allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records.”
Instead of rushing home, they should have stayed working, because as former congressman Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif.) points out, that’s the only time Bush is able to staff government positions. The president, who loathes the idea of checks-and-balances, has made a habit of granting “recess appointments” for people Congress doesn’t like.
Van Deerlin’s article is about a man named Stickler who, as an executive in the mining industry, used to give federal safety regulators the run-around on a regular basis. When Bush nominated him to be the top mine safety cop, Congress naturally balked and he waited until they were, yep, ON VACATION, to slip Stickler into the job.
Van Deerlin’s point is that the recent rash of mine-related deaths is no coincidence with this industry lackey at the wheel and he’s probably right.
It’s not just the administration. As the wonderful author B. Traven once noted, when you have a dictator at the top, you find them at every other level, and so it goes in America these days.
The “San Diego Union-Tribune” recently reported the American Civil Liberties Union’s concern over the widening use of cameras to monitor our behavior and movements.
It was actually the San Diego Imperial Counties ACLU, which produced a report entitled, “Under the Watchful Eye,” which, according to author Jeff McDonald, “concludes that public surveillance programs should be stopped until they are thoroughly evaluated.”
Not surprisingly, that sainted organization finds the use of surveillance cameras to be in violation of our constitutional rights to privacy and against unlawful search and seizure without probable cause.
highwayscribery wonders how many candidates, Republican or Democratic, will go to bat for that in one of the endless pending debates.
We ourselves promise to read the report in short order and provide a summation, as much was we are against doing your thinking for you.
This arrangement, naturally, travels a one-way street with the administration.
Long ago a gentle fellow named Jimmy Carter signed the Freedom of Information Act, which created a process for looking into what those who govern us are looking into when it comes to our own lives.
It said if they’re snooping on you, if they’re keeping files on you, you have a right to see them, and other peoples' files too. The long battle to get the FBI dossier on Beatle John Lennon comes to mind.
And guess what. The “Washington Post” reports that the administration has decided that the Freedom of Information of Act doesn’t apply to them because, as we know by now, they answer to no one.
And so on and so on. Congress cannot subpoena them and Vice President Cheney belongs neither to Congress or the executive branch, and the Republican judges they have stacked the federal judiciary with are wont to rule that they have no right of review over surveillance programs since they are a murky backwater of security secrets.
And, as Orwell would probably note at this late stage,
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.