Sunday, August 05, 2007
Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 05:50:52 AM PDT
I know what a lot of you 57 Democratic Representatives and Senators are going to be saying over the next month while you’re speaking on the home turf. You did it to protect Americans. You didn’t want to take a chance. You had to stand up to the terrorists. You really had no choice.
If anybody asks why in hell you chose to legalize what the Cheney-Bush team has been doing illegally since 2001, you’re going to tell us you did it for our own good. You amended the 29-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – originally passed to put some modest restrictions on agencies whose outrageous and frequently illegal behavior had been exposed by journalists and the Church Committee – to make us safe. You’re going to tell us you’ve got our backs.
You’re going to claim we can depend on you to be tough against terrorists even though you just put your foreheads to the floor at the feet of the most loathsome duo ever to sink their talons into the office of the Presidency. You’re going to tell us you couldn’t stand up to the blackmail, although that's not what you'll call it. You’re going to say Democrats can’t afford to appear weak.
At which point, if I happen to be in the back of the room, your bodyguards will probably have to drag me off. Because I cannot imagine how I will be able to quiet my laughter long enough for you to get on to the next question.
Frankly, you epitomize weak. Your every pore exudes feebleness. You are surrender monkeys. And you’ve just casually tossed away a basic protection as if it were a banana peel.
Pressed, I suspect that over the next month some of you will defend this pitiful capitulation with the argument that it’s only for six months, and that you’ll have a chance to amend the amendment, to rewrite the law more properly. You'll pretend that you won’t kiss the President’s ass half a year from now when he comes back and says exactly what he said this time: Give me what I want or I’ll blame you the next time terrorists kill Americans. Weak is bad enough. Must you be simpletons as well? How many times has he marketed this crap? How many times have you bought it? Do you also fall for those late-night $19.95 television deals for a double-set of knives that never need sharpening?
In short, what in the name of the sweet green earth makes you, in the perfect description of Glenn Greenwald, so self-destructive? What makes you think that giving in equates with standing firm in the public eye? What makes you believe that your appeasement offers the Democrats a better chance of winning a larger majority in the House and Senate, a better chance of returning to the White House? Do you really suppose that your "aye" for this law, and your other capitulations in the past seven months, will smooth the way for those of us who every other year use everything in our repertoire to persuade people that voting Democratic will change things for the better?
If your behavior were mere self-destructiveness, it wouldn’t matter quite so much. But you’re taking all Americans down with you. The White House still refuses to even say what it is doing. As Greenwald points out:
Vast abuses and criminality in surveillance remain undisclosed, uninvestigated and unimpeded because Congressional Democrats have stood meekly by while the administration refuses to disclose what it has been doing in how it spies on us. ...
Congressional Democrats know virtually nothing about how the Bush administration has been eavesdropping on our conversations because the administration refused to tell them and they passively accepted this state of affairs.
Unfortunately, you 57 are not the only Democrats at fault for enabling these unconstitutional abuses. Party leaders bear responsibility for not playing hardball. For not using every technique and every bit of clout at their command to at least attempt to block amendments like this atrocity from becoming law. You leaders don’t have to explain about the paper-thin majority. You don’t have point out that it’s important to choose your fights. Understood. But this isn’t about corn subsidies, or earmarks or resolutions establishing Soap Carvers of America Day. Constitutional protections are at stake. Most people won’t blame you for losing if you put up a good fight. But how can you expect to avoid blame when you don’t?
The Church Committee noted in 1976:
This Committee has examined a realm of governmental information collection which has not been governed by restraints comparable to those in criminal proceedings. We have examined the collection of intelligence about the political advocacy and actions and the private lives of American citizens. That information has been used covertly to discredit the ideas advocated and to "neutralize" the actions of their proponents. As Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone warned in 1924, when he sought to keep federal agencies from investigating "political or other opinions" as opposed to "conduct . . . forbidden by the laws":
When a police system passes beyond these limits, it is dangerous to the proper administration of justice and to human liberty, which it should be our first concern to cherish.
... There is always a possibility that a secret police may become a menace to free government and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power which are not always quickly apprehended or understood.
Our investigation has confirmed that warning. We have seen segments of our Government, in their attitudes and action, adopt tactics unworthy of a democracy, and occasionally reminiscent of the tactics of totalitarian regimes. We have seen a consistent pattern in which programs initiated with limited goals, such as preventing criminal violence or identifying foreign spies, were expanded to what witnesses characterized as "vacuum cleaners"," sweeping in information about lawful activities of American citizens.
The tendency of intelligence activities to expand beyond their initial scope is a theme which runs through every aspect of our investigative findings. Intelligence collection programs naturally generate ever-increasing demands for new data. And once intelligence has been collected, there are strong pressures to use it against the target.
There comes a time when giving in to the demolition of constitutional protections can no longer be considered a matter of being weak or unthinking. Rather it must be considered complicity.