Friday, December 30, 2005

Am I Seeing Clearly?

King George III of England

Perusing antiwar.com this morning for real news, I came across an op-ed piece about Emperor Bush written by Martin Frost. The opinion of a former member of Congress normally would be of little interest to me, but Frost's discussion of King George W. Bush is groundbreaking in its singular distinguishing feature -- it was published on foxnews.com. I realize it is early in the morning, but is Faux News really saying something critical about the Emperor?


King George W. ?
Monday, December 26, 2005
By Martin Frost

Was it Richard Nixon with his willingness to break the law to hold onto the presidency? Was it FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who bugged Martin Luther King Jr. and anyone he considered to be a political enemy?

And then it struck me. President Bush most closely resembles King George III of England. You remember him -- he’s the guy whose high-handed rule led to the American Revolution.
I went back and re-read our Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers cited King George’s various acts of tyranny-- including housing foreign troops in the homes of colonials against their will.

The American Revolutionary War followed, which eventually led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill or Rights (the first 10 amendments). And there it is in black and white: the fourth amendment. Let’s take a moment to look at the exact words of the fourth amendment to the Constitution adopted more than 200 years ago:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

Not bad for a group of farmers who were creating a new country -- one that has survived for 216 years and is the oldest continuous democracy in the world.

Now the "new King George" would have us believe one of three things: (1) the president’s powers as commander-in-chief supersede the fourth amendment during the war on terror (2) the resolution adopted by Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack can be read to give the president the authority to conduct domestic wiretaps against American citizens without going to court to seek a warrant and (3) modern technology is such that the founding fathers could never have anticipated the need to conduct wiretaps without a warrant.

Let’s look at each of these arguments.
First, it takes a very broad reading of the commander-in-chief clause to justify any conduct as superseding the constitution. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeus corpus during the U.S. Civil War, an action that was very controversial at the time; it is hard to equate the ongoing war on terror with the American Civil War, which threatened the very existence of the Republic.

Second, I was a member of Congress when we passed the resolution giving the president the authority to use all force necessary against the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Congress clearly meant this as authorization to go into Afghanistan and find Usama bin Laden. No one ever thought this authorized our government to wiretap American citizens in our own country without court approval. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed piece in the Dec. 23rd Washington Post detailing how the Bush administration proposed last minute language to the 9/11 resolution which would have given the president the power to engage in domestic spying without a search warrant, and that this language was specifically rejected by the bills’ authors.

And third, the modern technology argument is an interesting one but is not very persuasive. Congress in 1978 passed legislation permitting spying inside the United States under certain circumstances. That law created a special court that can respond within hours to a request for search warrants. And the law also contained an exception, permitting the Attorney General to authorize wiretaps in an emergency situation and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.
And so the question remains, why did the president set up a system of wiretapping of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA) without a warrant?

Does he simply want dictatorial powers? Does he so mistrust the court system (even a secret one specifically set up to make it easier to wiretap people inside the United States) that he doesn’t want any of the traditional checks on the power of the executive to violate basic civil liberties? Does he just want a political issue that makes him look tough and opponents (Democrats and some Republicans) look weak?

I used to think that extreme right wingers out West who wanted to arm themselves and undergo paramilitary training to be ready to resist tyranny in their own country were crazy. An argument now can be made that they were quite sane.

Let’s hope that a bipartisan political coalition is able to restrain this administration from actions that are inconsistent with the framework of liberty established by our founding fathers. Let’s don’t leave the defense of our freedoms to self-declared militias. We are a better country than that.

21 Comments:

At 12:30 PM, December 30, 2005 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

A very good, balanced piece. I still can't figure out why Bush felt the need to go around the FISA courts. I posted an article on my site the other day that detailed the level of challenges Bush's warrant requests had received. Basically, the rubber-stamp court got a little tougher and started asking questions. Maybe it's just part of his "I own the world" atitude that he's always had?

Certainly there is a need for the govt to have the ability to tap, but it seems like the neocons are paranoid and feel that the "threat" is much larger than just Al Queda. They believe anyone who thinks differently than they do is a threat. That could be college professors, bloggers, whoever.

As 9.11 fades further and further into history, the rhetoric of "the war on terror" gets more and more pathetic. The US must be vigilant against terror, and this entails more gov't power, but clearly we should not subject ourselves to a police state, or anything like it.

 
At 2:52 PM, December 30, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

The Bulldog Manifesto blog has a wonderful post today about the black 9/11 check GW keeps cashing.

 
At 5:25 AM, December 31, 2005 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

The irony is that George III was a much better and more responsible ruler than the colonial propagandists gave him credit for. He surrounded himself with, and hired, some of the best minds of his day - the Pitt ministries come to mind - managed to preside over the successful wars against revolutionary France, and established responsible parliamentary government.

The truly sad thing is that the chimperor doesn't live up to the comparison with the other George.

:-), StS

 
At 11:15 AM, December 31, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Sharky,

How do you know all that? You are an encyclopedia of knowledge on history and politics. :-)

 
At 1:00 PM, December 31, 2005 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

Even Faux News gets one right every now and then... amazing.

 
At 7:26 PM, December 31, 2005 , Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Couldn't agree more with the piece. There is no reason not to get a warrant 72 hours after the tap.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is a Constitutionilist first and a Conservative second and I believe he is the main contributor to the Legal portion of the programming crew on Fox. Napolitano


I believe it is human nature for those who get a little athority to begin to exercise unjust coersion.

Power corrupts. The Bush Administration should be held to task for going around the 4th Amendment.

:)

FAR.

 
At 5:03 AM, January 01, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Well, you know the old saying: 'Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it'.

:-), StS

 
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