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Another Reason for Civil Liberties Activism: Security Court Rules in Favor of Warrantless Wiretapping

The path taking America back to constitutional governance just got steeper. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Review Court, a panel of judges picked for their sympathy toward government prerogative, has unsurprisingly ruled it to be perfectly OK for the United States to search, watch and grab information on people without warrants, despite the mandate of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution that such activity can only be done with a target-specific warrant written out on the basis of probable cause. The general gist of the argument, we’re told, is that it’s OK because the law uses the word “foreign,” and it’s OK to do these things to foreigners. Never mind that under the Protect America Act and subsequent FISA Amendments Act, surveillance tools can be turned on Americans for periods of two months or longer without any warrants, much less any consequences for government agents who do so. The law has the word “Foreign” in it, and the government can do what it wants to a foreigner, so the government can do anything to an American as well.

No, I can’t get too particular about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Review Court ruling. Why? The text of the ruling is being censored and redacted, of course, for citizens’ own protection. Journalists have very nicely asked the Justice Department and the authoritarian FISA court to comment, and the Justice Department and FISA court have very firmly ignored them. So that’s all you’re going to know, citizen.

While the ruling itself will be redacted and censored, the effect of this ruling will be visible. Watch for Senators, cabinet members and Presidents to spring to the ruling, citing its conveniently invisible existence as a justification for the continuation of warrantless surveillance programs. Constitution, schmonstitution: a three-judge panel has said it’s all OK! And so the force needed to counter all this, to undo warrantless wiretapping will be even greater.

This is why it’s a bad idea for Americans to place ice packs on their worn-out voting finger, sit back, relax and depend on any politician — any Senator, any Secretary, any President — to restore respect for the Constitution in the policies and practices of our government. With every additional ruling in favor of warrantless wiretapping, the weight of consensus against the Bill of Rights grows heavier. People who care must get off their plush barcaloungered behinds and push, push, push in the opposite direction. A lot of people have to do this to achieve any effect, but it’s only a lot of people who can. There’s no superhero to fly in and employ magic superpowers to save the day; the Great Spandexed One voted against warrants.

So if you can make it, yes, come to the Inauguration Demonstration next Tuesday at the SW corner of Pennsylvania and 9th Street and as you watch our new President walk to his Oval Office remind him of his vow to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” And if you can’t make it, write a letter to the editor of your local paper about the FISA Amendments Act and your desire to see its damage to the supreme law of the land undone. After you’ve done that, head over to President-Elect Barack Obama’s Citizens Briefing Book entry calling for the repeal of the FISA Amendments Act and vote it up.

Then… well, think of something else! Visit Get FISA Right, post here, tell everyone about your idea, and get them moving on it. The vacation’s over. Get active.

8 thoughts on “Another Reason for Civil Liberties Activism: Security Court Rules in Favor of Warrantless Wiretapping”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    I’ve gone and done my part – and anyone can go over there and find out what my first initial stands for.

  2. Jon says:

    I believe that Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus also, a move that you probably would have considered a threat to the “constitution”.

    The right of writs of habeas corpus are granted in Article I, Section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution, which states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

    I would imagine that a dirty bomb being detonated in a few US cities would be a public safety concern. Or would you rather wait until after that happened.

    I take it that you don’t have the same concern for the degradation of the second ammendment, or the ninth and tenth as you do for the fourth.

    This beggs the question: Do foriegners have the same protection as a citizen? What about a citizen that plots sedition?

    1. Jim says:

      Why are you bringing up habeas corpus in a piece about the 4th amendment?

      Why do you assume I don’t support the other amendments of the Bill of Rights? Search for “second amendment” on this website.

      For the answers to your final questions, read the Constitution.

      How sad that you are so frightened that you prioritize your perception of safety over your freedom. Would you sacrifice the Constitution to stop traffic accidents, which kill many more every year than terrorism ever will?

  3. Jon says:

    Traffic accidents and willful acts of terrorism are worlds apart. One is by definition an accident, the other the premeditated and precisely planned attack on innocent civilians, by foreign agents with the potential help of seditious Americans. It is not the place of the Federal government to protect us from random accidents or self destructive behavior.( Contrary to some insipid do-gooders). It is however well within the Just powers and responsibilities of the Fed to protect us from foreign aggression. I have the faith that the powers you are fixated on will be removed when the crisis is over. I don’t live a a tightly wired world of paranoia. This country during wartime has in the past limited personal freedom to protect the population. Unlike some of the more egregious violations of the public trust that have happened in the name of Progressive policies, they were all repealed.

    I brought up habeas corpus and Lincoln to illustrate the point that in times of War and serious concerns around public safety there are valid and justifiable restrictions of Constitutional freedoms.

    As for searching you site, since it has changed I can’t find your search engine.

    I wasn’t asking what the Constitution says. I asked what you think it says. People of good faith have differed in their interpretations since the beginning.

    1. Jim says:

      Fine, let’s go with your restrictions for the sake of argument. Are you willing to suspend the Constitution because Americans commit homicide — many more than die in terrorism.

      It is not within the right of the federal government to violate the Constitution. The Constitution is very clearly set out as the supreme law of the land in Article VI. Article VI mandates that any laws by which the government acts must be in pursuance of constitutional standards.

      The Constitution is very specific in its distinction between people and citizens. It grants rights to people under its jurisdiction, and in very particular instances further limits rights to citizens. See Article I for examples of the very clear language.

      Search engine is at the upper right.

      1. Jon says:

        It’s not at the upper right of my screen. I changed zoom to see if it was outside the viewed area. Also your dialog boxes are truncated, I only see most of your reply.

        It could be argued ” more than die in terrorism” only because of the successful use of this program.
        Funny I though you would see the Constitution as a “living Document”. Most progressives do!

        I think if a cunning and malicious opponent is able to use the land of this land to confound us, then we bend the law.

        Your good intentions could cost us more than a few million lives.

        1. Jim says:

          A meteorite could hit the earth, too. Do we suspend the Constitution to build a buffer of asteroid-blasting space weapons?

          It could be argued that “more die than in terrorism” only because I so effectively pray to Jesus every night. You could argue it, but unless there’s empirical evidence for it I won’t take that argument seriously. There is no historical evidence for terrorism against the United States ever matching the murder rate.

          We all are going to die as individuals some day. Your fear of death could cost the American experiment with freedom its life. I think the latter is more important.

  4. Jim says:

    btw, thanks for the feedback on the design, which is new as of yesterday. The search engine currently only shows up on the home page. I will have to fix it.

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