Dictatorship

Writing about the Angry Liberal Guy Rant yesterday allowed me to vent some steam, but then I got roiled up again by today’s news that the NSA has been monitoring billions of domestic phone calls without court approval, something that is clearly against the law. From USAToday:

The NSA’s domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA’s efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case.

Of course, it’s not the evesdropping that’s the key issue here, though that’s terrible enough (are you a possible terrorist? The government thinks so). It’s that the Bush administration has no regard for the laws of our country.

Jack Cafferty on CNN:

Cafferty: We all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cause he might be all that stands between us and a full blown dictatorship in this country. He’s vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records, and yours, and tens of millions of other Americans.

Shortly after 9/11, AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth began providing the super-secret NSA with information on phone calls of millions of our citizens, all part of the War on Terror, President Bush says. Why don’t you go find Osama bin Laden, and seal the country’s borders, and start inspecting the containers that come into our ports?

The President rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in USA Today and declared the government is doing nothing wrong, and all this is just fine. Is it? Is it legal? Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn’t have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation. Read that sentence again. A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it’s not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says ok and drops the whole thing. We’re in some serious trouble, boys and girls.”

Think that’s overreaction? Let’s put some of the pieces together: Bush believes that the President is not bound by laws; according to The Boston Globe, Bush has appended signing statements over 750 times during his presidency, “…official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law…. In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills — sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill.”

The President also has the power to declare anyone an “enemy combatant” and hold them without trial. And despite the reassurances of the White House’s military order (Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism), the government has engaged in torture and extraordinary rendition against those held as potential terrorists.

And, the White House has been actively consolidating government power under the military (most recently, transferring many of the duties of the CIA to the Department of Defense).

You say, “Well, I’m not a terrorist, and if I keep out of trouble it doesn’t affect me.” Except that it’s not your decision to determine whether you’re a law-breaker, or a potential terrorist. Maybe you spent some time in a remote cabin in Oregon (hotbed of terrorist training camps!). Maybe you were talking to a friend on the phone and mentioned that you don’t like the President’s policies. Maybe you share the name of a real suspected terrorist on the government’s secret no-fly list. Whatever the case, if the government detains you as an enemy combatant, you’re gone. No lawyer, no rights granted under the Constitution.

So here’s my prediction. I’ve not really wanted to voice this over the past couple of months, because it seems too absurd to take seriously, but now I don’t think it’s absurd at all. Bush is putting pieces into place to get around the two-term limitation of the presidency, and working to ensure that America is run (not governed, but controlled) by his people. After all, in their eyes, they haven’t succeeded in Iraq, or the economy, or [pick your Republican failure] because the Democrats, the media, or [pick your powerless boogeyman] haven’t let them. So, enough with this two-party system and three branches of government nonsense. Just rule.

We all say, “They wouldn’t do that,” because we’re rational people. But we thought they wouldn’t fabricate reasons to go to war with a country that wasn’t threatening us. We thought they wouldn’t spy on honest, law-abiding Americans.

But they have.

I wish I could just say it’s creeping paranoia, but the facts suggest otherwise.

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