Let’s say the government hired a burglar to break into your house one night and steal your laptop. No warrant, no subpoena, nothing. Nobody even knows it happens… until, some fink within the government leaks a document to the New York Times: word is out. The government hired a burglar to steal your laptop. You demand that the police arrest the burglar. The police say, by golly, burglary is illegal, and we will immediately arrest this burglar.
The government says, wait. We will pass legislation making it legal for burglars to break into houses when we ask them to. We needed to break into this house because we thought– for reasons we can’t tell you– that you were going to make a bomb and blow it up in a subway station. It would be unfair to charge this man with burglary because we told him that what he was doing was legal. We want to be able to do this frequently, whenever we feel like it, without any tedious oversight from courts or judges.
You say, if you want to break into someone’s house and seize their property– that’s allowed. All you have to do is show a judge that you have strong evidence of a crime being committed and the judge will easily and quickly grant you a warrant. And knowing our judges– they won’t even wait for you to finish your sentence before giving you the warrant.
Oh, you say. That’s too much work, and too hard to do– we want to be able to break in without having the slightest evidence of any crime being committed. Like they do in the movies.
So the government introduces legislation to make it legal for burglars to burgle if the government asks them too. Well… not exactly. It tries to pass legislation that makes it legal, retroactively, for burglars to have burgled for the government. The government makes speeches: You must pass this legislation or America will not be safe.
Would any sensible person support this idea? Are Americans so stupid that they would buy this? This is, however, exactly what Bush is trying to do, and he is half-way there. The Senate– usually the body of “sober second thought” has already passed the measure. Democrats are terrified of being accused of being soft on terror, in an election year.
Okay, so it’s not burglary. It is tapping your phone and listening in on your private conversations. One phone company (Qwest) refused the request. The fact that they were not subject to any legal action as a result shows that the Bush Administration knew what it was doing was illegal, and that the other phone companies should also have known it was illegal.
Infuriatingly, the Bush Administration appears to be getting away with the act of legalizing actions it had already taken— and for which it had not been charged! If there is any need– as Bush claims there is– for this legislation– then the government officials responsible for the actions for which this legislation absolves them should be charged with various crimes related to spying, abuse of authority, illegal possession of private information, obstruction of justice, and whatever the hell else applies to their actions.
What is even more infuriating: the Bush Administration asked for extraordinary powers under FISA to conduct special searches for information related to terrorism. They created extra-constitutional shortcuts that already alarmed most civil libertarians– and then they went ahead and ignored even those compromised rules in demanding access to phone records from these phone companies.
And just to put icing on the cake…. why shouldn’t any American have a right to sue the phone companies for turning over these records? If Bush is right, they will lose in the court: the government had the right to force the company to turn over the phone records. These law suits could only be worrisome to Bush if he knows (damn well) that the courts will find his actions illegal, and will, in turn, find the phone companies at fault for complying with illegal demands from the government.
The rest of the world should sit up and take notice. The one thing you used be able to count on from Bubba and Bobby Sue was their fanatical devotion to their constitutional freedoms and liberties, even if it meant they could be awfully stupid about health insurance and foreign policy. Now, alas, I’m afraid you can’t even count on them to stand up for their own rights. Go back to sleep, Bubba. Resume your Big Mac, Bobby Sue. Scranton Pennsylvania is safe from terrorism tonight.
If I were a burglar serving a sentence in one of America’s prisons, I would start myself a lobby group, and get a lawyer, and go to court, and claim that my rights to equality under the law has been violated because unlike George Bush, I have been denied the privilege of going to the legislature and passing a law making what I did legal, retroactively.
Why the hell have no Democrats started the process of impeaching the lying, scheming, burglarizing scoundrel?
God Bless You Qwest! The only phone company that refused the Bush Administration’s illegal requests for access to their customer’s phone calls was Qwest. Qwest’s lawyers looked at the request and came to the conclusion that what the government was asking was illegal.
Think about that— if it was illegal, then Bush Administration officials broke the law and should be arrested and charged. And then Bush would go, “oh my– I don’t want my officials getting arrested for breaking the law. Let’s change the law.” And maybe he changes the law– but only after his officials have been arrested and prosecuted for breaking it.
Trying to make it legal now– retroactively– means that it was not legal then, and the government knows it.
So why was no one arrested? Because, no government official ever arrests himself for breaking the law.