It seems like not a day passes without a new allegation of the Bush administration trampling on civil liberties, violating the law, and disregarding the constitution. I had been collecting links to write about my concerns about all this but the list kept expanding too rapidly for me to keep up, with fresh allegations appearing while I was still pondering what to say about the earlier ones.
One of the things that concerns me is the willingness of so many people to give up cherished and bitterly won freedoms and constitutional protections in return from some vague assertion from the government that these measures were taken to ‘protect them.’ It seemed like they take the position that there is nothing that the government can do in the name of security that they would oppose. David Brooks’ op-ed column in the New York Times on December 22, 2005 plumbs new depths in finding rationales for the president to do almost anything in the name of national security, and to pooh-pooh any quaint notions of judicial oversight. (Sorry, this article is not available online.) The Wall Street Journal reports that some observers say this willingness to give up all pretence to civil liberties has its roots in the decision to attack Iraq.
“From the beginning, the folks who thought it was a good idea to go into Iraq have found good reason to think that all other Bush policies, from torture to domestic surveillance, are justified,” said Robert Levy, a conservative legal scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute.
The arguments justifying these increasingly drastic encroachments on the liberties and freedoms Americans have taken for granted take the form of creating some extreme hypothetical scenario under which the violation of rights seems to be the only option available in terms of “security” and “efficiency.” Then the leap is made that these violations should become the norm.
Benjamin Franklin’s prescient warning that “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security” seems to have no effect on such people.
The Rude Pundit says that if you really think that this administration can do no wrong, then go ahead and proudly sign “The Loyal Citizen’s Contract with the American Government” below and mail it in to the appropriate agencies. This pledge brings together the actions that are currently being taken in the name of protecting our security. (The Pledge is reproduced with permission from the Rude One. (Warning: The Rude Pundit generally uses very rude language, but not in this pledge)
“I (the undersigned) believe President George W. Bush when he says that the United States of America is fighting a ‘new kind of enemy’ that requires ‘new thinking’ about how to wage war. Therefore, as a loyal citizen of President Bush’s United States, my signature below indicates my agreement to the following:
“1. I believe wholeheartedly in the Patriot Act as initially passed by Congress in 2001, as well as the provisions of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act. Therefore, I grant the FBI access to:
“a. my library records, so it may determine if I am reading material that might designate me an enemy of the nation;
“b. my financial records, including credit reports, so it may determine if I am contributing monetarily to any governmentally proscribed activities or organizations;
“c. my medical records, so it may determine if my prescriptions, injuries, or other conditions are indicative of terrorist activity on my part;
“d. any and all other personal records including, but not limited to, my store purchases, my school records, my web browsing history, and anything else determined as a ‘tangible thing’ necessary to engage in a secret investigation of me.
“I agree that I do not need to be notified if my records have come under scrutiny by the FBI, and, furthermore, I agree that no warrant is needed for the FBI to engage in this examination of my personal records. Additionally, I agree that the FBI should be allowed to monitor any groups it believes may be linked to what it determines to be terrorist activity.
“2. I believe that the President of the United States has the power to mitigate any and all laws passed by the Congress and that he has such power granted to him by his status as Commander-in-Chief in the Constitution as well as the 2001 Authorization of Military Force, passed by the Congress, which states that the President can use ‘all necessary and appropriate force’ in prosecution of the war. Therefore, I grant the United States government the following powers:
“a. that the National Security Agency, under the direction of the President, may tap my phone lines and intercept my e-mail without warrant or FISA oversight;
“b. that the President may hold me or other detainees without access to the legal system for a period of time determined by the President or his agents;
“c. that the President may authorize physical force against me or other individual detainees in order to gain intelligence and that he may define whether such physical force may be called ‘torture':
“d. that the President may set aside any and all laws he sees as hindering the gathering of intelligence and prevention of terrorist acts for a period as time determined by the President, including, but not limited to, rights to political protest.
“I agree that the Judicial and Legislative branch should be allowed no oversight of these activities, and that such oversight merely emboldens the terrorists. I also agree that virtually all of these activities may be conducted in complete secrecy and that revelation of these activities amount to treasonous behavior on the part of those who reveal these activities to the press and the citizenry.
“3. Finally, this document is my statement that I believe the President of the United States and the entire executive branch, as well as all departments and agencies involved, as well as all of its personnel, will treat these powers I have granted them with utmost respect. I believe that these powers will not be abused, nor will any of the information I have given them permission to examine be misinterpreted. However, should such abuse or misinterpretation occur, I agree that such actions are mere errors and no one should be subject to investigation, arrest, or employment action as a result.
“My consent freely given,
Anyone willing to sign?
Tom Tomorrow completes his year in review.