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Wiretapping and the Courts

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

An argument was made before a federal judge Monday charging President Bush with overstepping his authority when he authorized the use of warrantless wiretaps on Americans. The argument stated that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act demands that the executive branch obtain a warrant before engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans. FISA even allows for a 72 hour grace period between initializing surveillance of Americans and obtaining a warrant before that surveillance becomes illegal.
The Department of Justice argued (quoting from this AFP article) that:
"The United States submits that the actions authorized by the President are essential to meeting a continuing and grave foreign terrorist threat and are well within lawful bounds."
It argued that to demonstrate this "would require evidence that must be excluded from consideration under the military and states secrets privilege" and as a result the judge should throw out the case in order to avoid "grave harm to the national security of the United States."
This is where the state's argument falls apart. The government repeatedly asserts its responsibility to protect the nation (i.e. the citizens-for what is a nation without citizens?) but it totally ignores the other fundamental purpose of any government: To protect the Rights of it's citizens. How can a government trample on your rights and claim to be protecting your rights at the same time? It can't. Therefore, the state's argument is flawed.
Let's back up a couple of steps. When the Declaration of Independence was created, it was expressed in that document that the only legitimate purpose of any governing body was the securing of our Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It was further stated that the most effective government was one that best protected the safety and happiness of it's people. Safety was defined as protection from harm perpetrated by others while Happiness was guaranteed through the protection of all our various rights. To further cement the importance of government's responsibility to protect our rights, we demanded the Bill of Rights be added to our Constitution. The sole purpose of this document was to further restrict government from abusing or misconstruing its powers.
One of the clearly stated restraints we placed on government was the Fourth Amendment which states:
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  Warrants 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.
Put simply, the Fourth Amendment clearly stated that there must be evidence of a crime which has been documented in a warrant before the court in order to allow the state permission to violate an individual's right to privacy and property. Without a warrant, the state is no different than a thief or a kidnapper and should be treated as such.
In the 1970's when it was discovered that the state decided to ignore the Fourth Amendment and instigated electronic eavesdropping, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed to codify what was acceptable practices in the arena of electronic surveillance. The intent of Congress in passing the act was to make the new technology and techniques used by the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. conform to the Fourth Amendment's protection of requiring a warrant to violate your inalienable right to privacy and property. For the most part, they accomplished this.
Then 9/11 came and the Bush administration declared that we live under a new set of rules. They then commenced to obliterate over two hundred years of protections in the waging of a war against a tactic--terrorism. This puts us smack-dab right in the middle of this court case. On one side is the people who created this monster we call government arguing with it that we have a right to be left alone unless the government can demonstrate that we have done something illegal, while on the other is the government arguing that some ambiguous states secrets clause exempts them from the rule of law.
If there's any hope left for this country, the judge should not hesitate for a moment to tell the state to shut the hell up about states secrets and prove it's argument where it claims it needs to spy on Americans without first acquiring a warrant or cease and desist. Further, the Congress should open an investigation into this matter and prosecute all parties who had a hand in these matters. The Fourth Amendment is clear on this subject as well as the FISA... and so is the punishment for tyranny by government!


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