How Much Secrecy Do You Need?

By Anthony | June 12th, 2006 | 7:52 pm

Ed Brayton on Bush’s NSA wiretapping program and the sidelining of the FISA court:

In order to decide whether the program is or is not constitutional, the court has to know who is being spied on, by what means, and for what purpose. But the administration’s position is that the courts cannot even look at such evidence, even if the court operates in secret (which is why they refuse to go to the FISA court). This isn’t about secrecy. If they wanted to, they could submit for warrants to the FISA court, which has turned down far less than 1/10th of a percent of all warrant requests in its history.

That court operates in secret, so none of the factual information they would have to file to justify their warrant would be made public. The fact that they refuse to do so strongly suggests two things. A) they’re lying when they claim that secrecy is the reason for their policy of ignoring the proper court authorities for issuing warrants for the gathering of foreign intelligence; and B) they know that the facts don’t support a finding of probable cause and thus they won’t get approval of the warrants.

There’s no good reason not to go to FISA for warrants – the fact that the administration refuses to do so suggests that things are not quite on the level.

I just ordered Glenn Greenwald’s How Would a Patriot Act?, so I’m looking forward to reading in more detail the ways in which Bush seems to be dismantling the Constitution (and wishing that there wasn’t enough material on that subject to fill a book).

For those who don’t think the situation is quite that dire, I think that Colin Lindsey – one of the reviewers of the book at Amazon – had a sobering view:

While reading this I couldn’t help but see the similarities between these current events and the long slide of the Roman Republic into Empire and dictatorship. That slide too, although it took ninety years, also began with small floutings of law for expediency and convenience, then larger floutings for personal gain and factional control of the senate. The powers Bush claims now are corrosive to our traditional notions of a three branch government with checks and balances and are a step upon a slippery slope that ends in a totalitarian state. Many Americans will think such claims inflated or hyperbole, but unfortunately Rome went from a society much more virulently opposed to monarchy than ours even, and by a series of initially small compromises, like we are seeing with Bush, found itself in a dictatorship that lasted in one form or another for nearly 1500 years. This is a lesson we ignore at our peril and every American should examine whether the arrogation of powers the Bush presidency has claimed are constitutional and whether, short term benefit or no, they are justified or wise in the long run for our nation.

What is it they say about boiling a frog?

3 Responses to “How Much Secrecy Do You Need?”

  1. Brenda Bowers Says:

    Reading “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire� by Edward Gibbons is like reading current American affairs with hardly any stretch of the imagination. The only difference is the time frame as we are moving much faster. The United States has at best another 100 years; probably much less. Sad. Our population has been made of the best from other countries. Unlike the verse on the Statue of Liberty the “poor and humble� did not come, but stayed home. It was the brave and courageous who populated our country. That blood still runs in our veins so maybe there is a chance, but it will take a total revolution because there is so very much that we have allowed to happen that has taken away our rights and liberty. It didn’t start with this administration by any means Anthony and the “shackles� pervade every department of government and every level from federal down to the city.

  2. dbwoodside Says:

    Another really striking book is Fahrenheit 451. I read it about 2 years ago and it was really quite striking how some of the social changes mirror the current state of affairs. Intellectualism is shunned and replaced by ever-increasing immersion in wall-sized television screens. Live coverage of a “criminal” fleeing police while television crews record the criminals every move. Interesting stuff.

  3. PotatoStew Says:

    Thanks for the comments, Brenda and Dave … that gives me two more things to add to my reading list. I did read Fahrenheit 451 in high school, but I don’t remember that much about it. The couple of examples you cite sound like they hit pretty close to home though.