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The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

.001%.  Do you know what it's a percentage of?  It's the percentage of persons killed on 9/11 with respect to the entire population of the United States of America.

Due to inbreeding, insanity, stupidity or some combination of the three, Senator Jeff Sessions seems to think that the denial, by death, of .001% of the American population of their civil rights is justification enough for the executive branch's authorization for warrantless wiretaps.

Don't misunderstand me - those people matter.  They matter to their families and on some level, they matter to each and every one of us who lives here in the United States.  But they don't matter for the reasons Jeff Sessions cites - indeed, invoking their memory in this fashion is sheer profanity.

More after the fold.

Earlier this week, I'd had a day where I had been largely able to listen to the testimony by Alberto Gonzales in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Unless you live under a rock (and you don't, because you're reading a blog), you know that the Committee held the hearing on the subject of the the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, instantiated, authorized and re-authorized by the President for the past four years.

There were some really interesting interchanges.  One that topped my outrage meter, however, was an ignorant comment by Senator Sessions.  It's too soon for an official transcript where I can quote Senator Sessions directly, but, as I indicated in the introduction, he essentially referenced the 3000 Americans (never mind the fact that they weren't all American) who died in 9/11 were denied their civil rights.  The comment was clearly intended to indicate that the events of 9/11 have justified the warrantless wiretaps.

This is wrong on so many levels I'm not even sure where to begin.  

First, the very concept that we are having civilized hearings as though the NSA wiretaps might be legal is mind-boggling.  This is the key issue:  FISA came into existence to settle the question of disparity between the Constitutionality of legislation vs. the Constitutionality of an action.  It's true.  From a diary I did on FISA back in December:

...[the] SCOTUS rejected the statutory argument of invoking the Constitution as a basis for warrantless wiretaps.  Finally, however, note the SCOTUS' validation of the President's right to use electronic surveillance of "would-be subversives" on Constitutional grounds.  I read this as a conundrum.

(From FISA FAQ)  Invoking the "broader spirit" of the Fourth Amendment and "the convergence of First and Fourth Amendment values" in national security wiretapping cases, however, the Court was especially wary of possible abuses of the national security power. The Court then balanced "the duty of Government to protect the domestic security, and the potential danger posed by unreasonable surveillance to individual privacy and free expression," and found that waiving the Fourth Amendment probable cause requirement could lead the executive to "yield too readily to pressures to obtain incriminating evidence and overlook potential invasions of privacy and protected speech." Justice Powell wrote that the inconvenience to the government is "justified in a free society to protect constitutional values."

The Court emphasized that this case involved only the domestic aspects of national security: "We . . . express no opinion as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents." It invited Congress to act: "Given these potential distinctions between Title III criminal surveillances and those involving the domestic security, Congress may wish to consider protective standards for the latter which differ from those already prescribed for specified crimes in Title III. Different standards may be compatible with the Fourth Amendment if they are reasonable both in relation to the legitimate need of Government for intelligence information and the protected rights of our citizens."

My emphasis added.

Thus was born FISA, legislation that emerged out of a Constitutional and judicial conundrum.

The question of whether or not the NSA wiretaps are legal has already been asked and answered.  They are not.  It took years and many court cases and opinions and back-and-forth to answer the question.  It's ridiculous that we're asking it again.

Back to the .001%.  I find it difficult to reconcile a statement that says that 3,000 people died to give the government the right to violate my rights.  It sounds really stupid when put that way, but that's what Sessions said.  Out loud.  On the record.

What a dingbat.

posted by RenaRF at 1:23 PM 2 comments links to this post


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the NSA wiretaps, you might want to check out the last few posts on my blog, Vichy Dems. I'd welcome your thoughts!

Thanks --

3:27 PM  
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10:26 PM  

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