Wednesday, August 8, 2007

FISA BS Part I: Generally

As you may have noticed, my 3 part series on the US Attorneys firings has bogged down. I have lost interest. While the use by a thoroughly corrupt WH of the government's prosecutorial machinery against their political opponents is clearly an important issue worthy of great concern, the legislative repeal of the 4th Amendment just as clearly takes precedence.

So here is the FISA catastrophe in a nutshell:

FISA is a law enacted in 1978, the purpose of which is (was) to codify the 4th Amendment's prohibition of illegal searches and seizures in the context of federal "intelligence" surveillance. FISA contains (contained) an outright prohibition on the use of intelligence capabilities against Americans through "electronic surveillance". Any electronic surveillance of Americans, under FISA, is (was) a felony in the absence of a specific warrant issued by a court.

Due to certain technical advances, FISA was deemed to have a "hole" in that it prevented collection of certain purely foreign intelligence when the target communication was routed through the US for technical reasons having to do with how the communications infrastructure operates. Ok, fine.

So then a few weeks ago BushCo ramps up the fearmongering level, and says that this hole in FISA must be fixed immediately or we will all die (Trent Lott actually advised everyone to leave DC during the month of August (too lazy to find the link, but that's pretty much word for word what he said)).

So everyone in DC agreed it needs to be fixed, and the Dems came up with a very targeted fix, while the WH proposed a ridiculously sweeping bill that was a "fix" only in the most non-literal sense of the word. There's a lot more political color that I won't fill in here, but long story short, the Dems capitulated in a MOST cowardly fashion and gave the WH everything they wanted on their (Congress') way out of town for a month's vacation.

The law that was passed is called (I kid you not) The "Protect America Act". It is nothing less than a wholesale legislative repeal of the Fourth Amendment as concerns intelligence gathering (though probably none of the intelligence gathered under the Act will be allowed as evidence in a criminal trial (but you never know)). The fact is, the government is now free to wiretap the phones and intercept the emails and text messages of all Americans, essentially without any restriction or any oversight whatsoever. Actually, I take that back. The person put in charge of "oversight" is none other than the Attorney General, Alberto R "Judge" "Fredo" Gonzales, who, as we know, is the possessor of unrivaled credibility and integrity. So you should put your mind at ease. Because of that.


bgirl said...

The thing that gets me (even more than a corrupt administration passing the Fuck America Act - because from their point of view, why not?) are the everyday citizens who say things like, "I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I worry about it?" or "I'm not a terrorist, so why do I care?" That shit burns me up. I haven't read parts II-V, so you may have already addressed this.

HHL said...

Heh. The "Fuck America Act". Funny!

You make a good point, and that really makes me angry as well. I want to slap those folks upside the head - people who say that stuff aren't exactly deep thinkers, so making rational and abstract arguments to them is generally a waste of time.

And that's partly the reason that I didn't specifically go into rebutting those types of attitudes. I'm just gonna assume that people reading this blog have a basic understanding of why it is bad to have your phone calls listened to and your emails read even if you've "done nothing wrong".

HHL said...

Oh and by the way, "wrong" is a highly subjective term these days, especially in the context of Fed criminal law -- do you really want these people making this determination? Really? When a simple misunderstanding has the possibility of getting you secretly arrested, transported to a secret facility, and held there indefinitely without any communication with the outside world, and without any legal recourse or access to the courts?

And, don't forget: rightwingers have been VERY vocal and unequivocal in stating that opposing views on the GWOT and the Iraq war are harming America and helping our enemies. So under their way of thinking, your average ordinary everyday disagreement with them on certain issues is akin to providing aid and comfort to the enemy. Now do you want to let them listen to all your calls and read all your emails and let them decide whether you've "done something wrong"?

HHL said...

Um... I guess I have lots of stuff yet to say on this.

Next thing: I have no doubt that most people with the attitude mentioned by bgirl above secretly, actually, at the very heart of it all, think to themselves: "this police state stuff is obviously only directed at 'them'; I have nothing to worry about".

And of course by "them" they mean brown people. And there is still a not insignificant segment of our population who - if not actively rooting for bad things to be done to black people - do not give a flying fuck what happens to any brown person.