Friday, July 14, 2006

Negotiating Away the Bill of Rights

There are some lines that should never be crossed. There are some principles that should never be compromised. Never. Our rights under the Constitution are not up for bargaining, and never, ever should be. Those rights are the bedrock of this democracy. This is basic fourth grade civics, folks. Apparently Arlen Specter was absent that day, because he is proposing to do just that. From the NY Times:

After months of resistance, the White House agreed Thursday to allow a secret intelligence court to review the legality of the National Security Agency’s program to conduct wiretaps without warrants on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists.

If approved by Congress, the deal would put the court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in the unusual position of deciding whether the wiretapping program is a legitimate use of the president’s power to fight terrorism. The aim of the plan, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told reporters, would be to “test the constitutionality” of the program.

The plan, brokered over the last three weeks in negotiations between Senator Arlen Specter and senior White House officials, including President Bush himself, would apparently leave the secretive intelligence court free to consider the case in closed proceedings, without the kind of briefs and oral arguments that are usually part of federal court consideration of constitutional issues. The court’s ruling in the matter could also remain secret.

The court would be able to determine whether the program is “reasonably designed” to focus on the communications of actual terrorism suspects and people in the United States who communicate with them. That determination is now left entirely in the hands of the security agency under an internal checklist.

If the court were to rule the program unconstitutional, the attorney general could refine and resubmit it or, conversely, appeal the decision to the FISA appellate court and ultimately perhaps the Supreme Court, officials said.

...Some critics of the program saw the White House’s reversal on that issue as a significant concession. But Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, who leads the intelligence subcommittee that oversees the National Security Agency, said Thursday in an interview that she found the idea of the court ruling on the legality of the entire program “a little odd.”

“That to me is not what the FISA court is set up to do,” she said. “The judges approve warrants — they’re not there to rule on matters of constitutionality.”

Ms. Wilson plans to announce a legislative proposal of her own on Friday that will seek to toughen Congressional oversight of the program and “modernize” electronic surveillance tools.

In a separate interview, Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she saw the Specter-White House agreement as an “end run” around the FISA law requiring the approval of individual wiretapping warrants.

“I have great respect for this guy,” she said of Mr. Specter, “but he hasn’t been briefed on this program, and he’s giving away in this legislation a core Fourth Amendment protection by basically saying that the FISA court has permission to bless the entire program, which will abandon as best I can tell the requirement of individualized warrants.”
[Emphasis added]

Secret court proceedings and secret findings have no place in this country, and they certainly have no place in this country when dealing with our most basic and sacred rights. Certain evidence may have to be viewed in camera, but the arguments and especially the holdings require the light of day. We (as in "We, the People") are entitled to know what our government is doing.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very true, but unfortunately not the present cabal's way of thinking. If you're doing something you're proud of, you want the world to know. Otherwise, NOT.

from Ruth

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there has to be a legal challenge to stop this madness.
our constitution is being flushed byt bush and this congress.

6:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home