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[Time to segue from dog crap to Congressional crap.]

Big Brother is not only watching you, he may be listening to your phone calls and reading your emails and text messages. And no, Big Brother doesn't need to get a warrant first.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have voted to hand President Bush huge new warrantless eavesdropping powers on a silver platter. U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who helped lead the challenge against this dangerous new law, declared, "It's one of the greatest assaults on the Constitution in the history of our country."

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which started a legal challenge against the new law the minute Bush gleefully signed it, "The bill allows the warrantless and dragnet surveillance of Americans' international telephone and email communications. It plainly violates the Fourth Amendment" of the Constitution, which is meant to protect us against unreasonable search and seizure.

It also, as Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman noted, doesn't even have to involve suspected terrorism at all. "The new statute permits the NSA [National Security Agency] to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda -- indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security." (Professor Lederman made a point of emphasizing the words from "even if there is no evidence" all the way to the end of that sentence.)

Think of all the ways this power can be abused. Think of all the ways your privacy can be invaded.

Think of the fact that the Congress just went ahead and let it happen. We're talking every single Senate Republican there that day and every House Republican but one, as well as a substantial number of Democrats in the Senate and the House who caved in to the Bush White House, despite having a majority in both chambers.

And (this may be the worst of all) think of the fact that our two major-party presumptive Presidential nominees, Barack Obama and John McCain, approved it -- with Obama voting for it, and McCain supporting it but not showing up to vote on it at all.

Obama, as a former Constitutional Law teacher, should not only have voted against this monstrosity, he should have led the charge against it to make the case clear to his fellow Senators and to all Americans. In addition to letting George W. Bush continue to break the law (which Bush has done for years by spying on Americans without warrants), this law gives a "get out of jail free" card to telecommunications companies who helped Bush break the law by letting him spy on their customers. Obama, who previously pledged to filibuster against any immunity provision for the telecoms, has now helped Congress wipe out any lawsuits against the telecoms. Apparently the rule of law does not apply to AT&T, Verizon or BellSouth any more than it does to Bush.

"Change we can believe in," Senator Obama? I don't think so.

Trust me when I say I am unbelievably saddened and betrayed by Barack Obama, by my state's Senators Bob Casey (a Democrat) and Arlen Specter, and by my Democratic Congressman, Joe Sestak. I urge each and every one of you who shares my outrage to write your Presidential candidate and your Senators and Representatives if they voted for this bill, and urge them to stand strong in future for the Constitution and the rule of law. Hold their feet to the fire. And if your elected official did vote against this dangerous legislation, by all means write to him or her and thank them. My special thanks go to Senators Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd, for fighting the good fight for us all, even though they did not prevail.

Glenn Greenwald's excellent blog (see my blogroll for the link) lists the Senate Democrats who voted unfortunately for this bill, and those who defended the Constitution by casting their ballot against the bill (note that this latter group includes Hillary Clinton, although we will never know how she would have voted had she been the nominee). Here is the list:

"Democrats voting in favor of final passage of the FISA bill: Bayh - Carper - Casey - Conrad - Feinstein - Innuoye - Kohl - Landrieu - Lincoln - McCaskill - Mukulski - Nelson (Neb.) - Nelson (Fla.) - Obama - Pryor - Rockefeller - Salazar - Webb - Whitehouse.

"Democrats voting against final passage of the FISA bill: Akaka - Biden - Bingaman - Boxer - Brown - Byrd - Cantwell - Cardin - Clinton - Dodd - Dorgan - Durbin - Feingold - Harkin - Kerry - Klobachur - Lautenberg - Leahy - Levin - Menendez - Murray - Reed - Reid - Sanders - Schumer - Stabenow - Tester - Wyden."

There's a good chance that Barack Obama was worried the Republicans would have turned a "nay" vote on his part into an ad that he was "weak on terrorism." I've got some news for you, Barack: They're going to say it anyway. It would have been better to have stood for the Constitution you hope to promise on the Bible on January 20, 2009, to "preserve, protect and defend."

Sen. Dodd observed after the vote, "It is my hope that the courts will undo the damage done to the Constitution."

It is my hope, too. But until then, we are all in danger. Not from terrorists -- but from our own government. The blog American Street put it well: "....the biggest threat to this nation is not al-Qaida. It's political representatives who try to usurp the laws protecting us, because they slowly chip away till there's nothing left."

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
The only way to hold their feet to the fire is to vote them out of office, which is what's going to happen to my *DEAR* Democratic Senator from Nebraska Ben Nelson if I have any say about it.

God bless Barbara Boxer - whenever we need a pit bull the most, she's there, and I wish to hell she had a few more teeth.
Jul. 16th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
why do I feel like this country is always "on the brink" on turning back to the stone age? It scares me silly!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )