The Bush administration has pushed hard for limitless powers to spy on, imprison and torture American citizens in the name of 'security.' Is this really what America stands for?
Then the article starts out like this:
A fellow from a town just outside of Austin wrote a four-sentence letter to the editor of our local daily that astonished me: "I want the government to please, please listen in on my phone calls. I have nothing to hide. It is also welcome to check my emails and give me a national identification card, which I will be proud to show when asked by people in authority. What's with all you people who need so much privacy?"
Well, gee where to start? How about with the founders? Many of the colonists who rose in support of the rebellion of '76 did so because their government kept snooping on them and invading their privacy. Especially offensive was the widespread use of "writs of assistance," which were sweeping warrants authorizing government agents to enter and search people's homes and businesses -- including those of people who had nothing to hide. The founders had a strong sense of the old English maxim "A man's house is his castle." They hated the government's "knock at the door," the forced intrusion into their private spheres, the arrogant abrogation of their personal liberty. So they fought a war to stop it. Once free of that government, they created a new one based on laws to protect liberty -- and this time they were determined to put a short, tight leash on government's inherently abusive search powers.
Now here's another paragraph I'd like you to see:
Nonsense. He's commander-in-chief of the military -- not of the country. He's president, not king. And as president, he's the head of only one of the three co-equal branches. Yet bizarrely and pathetically, Congress has rolled over and even cheered this gross usurpation of its clear constitutional responsibilities -- including its power to declare war, control the public purse, regulate the military, ratify treaties, make laws "necessary and proper" for the conduct of all government, provide oversight of executive actions and generally serve the public as a check and balance against presidential abuses. As Sen. Russ Feingold, the truly fine defender of our rights and liberties, wrote in a February blog: "I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday's State of the Union speech, listening to the president assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?" The breathtaking notion that Bush can, on his own say-so, thumb his nose at the due process of law and even be a serial lawbreaker has astounded not only Feingold but also a slew of leading right-wing thinkers:
*Paul Weyerich of Free Congress Foundation: "My criteria for judging this stuff is, what would a President Hillary do with these same powers?"
*George Will, columnist: "[Executive] powers do not include deciding that a law -- FISA, for example -- is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'"
*David Keene of the American Conservative Union: "The American system was set up on the assumption that you can't rely on the good will of people with power."
Do we have, as a people, the will to curb this claim to absolute power? I sincerely hope so. But I'm worried. It doesn't seem to be happening. Not effectively, that is.