Monday, August 20, 2007

Rolling out the new Alien and Sedition Act. Congress remains sonamulent.

The NYT on Sunday reports:

"Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches of American citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic Congressional other officials said."

How about that? All W. & CO. had to do was run out the clock a little, start warning darkly of terrorist "chatter" and "intelligence gaps," threaten to hammer the Democrats throughout the August recess on being soft on terror and -- voila! -- the Scardicrats pee their pants, shred the fourth amendment, and put a cherry on top by turning over the protection the privacy rights of the all Americans to Alberto Gonzales.

It appears from what the NYT reports that by changing the meaning of "electronic surveillance" in the new legislation they rubber stamped before leaving DC, Congress indirectly allowed the government to "use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States."

Of course, these changes might have been simply "unintended consequences" of the rush to get the legislation done before Congress got out of town and not "a purposeful effort by the administration to enhance its ability to spy on Americans," but I wouldn’t count on it.

If I recall correctly, about three seconds after 9/11, the administration had the Patriot Act all ready to go for Congress to green light. And even after Congress began to realize that they were getting blindsided everywhere they turned with new revelations about all the powers they had unintentionally given this administration, they still went ahead and renewed the law last year -- only to find out they had given away the store to W. & Co. again! Among other the things they found out this last round was that they'd given Gonzales the authority to appoint federal attorneys without having to go through the Senate.

Boy, were their faces red!

You'd think at this late date, after all the BS Gonzales has been blowing up their skirts since April, they'd be a little more judicious when it came to giving him cart blanch to spy on Americans, but no. They just rolled over, as usual.

Hell, we still don't exactly what AG was going to see John Ashcroft about on his sick bed. Was it the warrantless wiretapping program or "other intelligence activities?" And what are those "other intelligence activities?" After years of banging their heads against W.'s stonewall, Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter still don't know what they don't know. After months of demanding information on the NSA's domestic spying programs, the Senate Judiciary Committee had given the administration a firm deadline of today to cough up the documentation on the legal justifications for the warrantless eavesdropping, but at the last minute, Fred Fielding asked for more time.

Fielding is claiming that the documents the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed are "extraordinary national security information" and that the administration -- get this -- may not even have to give it to them. You know, it’s that "executive privilege" thing. According to USA Today, " Fielding asked Leahy to suspend the deadline until after Labor Day."

After all, you don't roll out a new product in August . . . What have they got planned for after Labor Day? Perhaps whatever it is will render all this silly Congressional oversight moot? Could it be the new Heimat Sicherheits Ministerium's lock-everyone-up-plan, code-named ENDGAME: The bold new inititive based on, according to a 49-page Homeland Security document: "A mission first articulated in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798?" [See my post on this subject at The Philadelphia Aurora. History always repeats itself!]

Prison says the new plan calls for the removal of all "removable aliens [including] illegal economic migrants, aliens who have committed criminal acts, asylum-seekers (required to be retained by law) or potential terrorists." [i.e. anyone who dares question the administration's plans.]

But I digress . . .

Not that any of this new congressional outrage about being suckered again means anything anyway. Beyond the fact that they've gotten exactly nowhere on figuring out what the NSA is really up to, the administration apparently doesn't even feel it needs to follow the FISA law it rammed down Congress' throat.

Bruce Fein tells the NYT that at a meeting he and other critics of the administration's spying policies had with the DoJ, they were told the administration considered the new FISA law simply "advisory." Fein relates DoJ's opinion that: "The President can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not changed their position that the President's Article II powers trump any ability by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence." [Congress' power is enumerated in Article I]

So the administration feels that Congress is just there to advise the Unitary Executive. They can pass laws, but W. always has his "signing statements," with which he just rewrites the law. At this point, why doesn't W. just issue an executive order that says Congress can't come back in September?

If Congress is just going to allow W. & Co to ignore every law he finds inconvenient, why even bother spending all that money on a puppet theater?


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