Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: That's Okay, We Weren't Using That Fourth Amendment, Anyway

Thursday, July 10, 2008

That's Okay, We Weren't Using That Fourth Amendment, Anyway

Wait a minute, maybe we were.

Despite the fact that there were no real surprises today--the various amendments failed and the FISA rewrite passed by a more than 2-1 margin--it's still disappointing and depressing to watch it happen. You may have already seen Professor Jonathan Turley on Tuesday night's Countdown with guest host Rachel Maddow--the clip's been all over the Net today. If you haven't, it's definitely worth a look. He spells out what was going on here in clearer language than I've seen elsewhere. Essentially, it all comes down to this administration committing felonies by monitoring American communications without a warrant. The Senate today (and the House before it) not only agreed to ignore that law breaking but retroactively made the actions legal, allowing Bush, the next president, and whoever is elected president after that to eavesdrop on anyone they want without a warrant to their hearts' content.

This undoes part of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and clearly Congress and the President don't have the power to just blot out any part of that document. This is unconstitutional on its face. Unfortunately, we currently have a Supreme Court that may ignore that inconvenient truth. Perhaps that's Barack Obama's true secret plan, to fill the court with justices who will find this legislation unconstitutional (because his other potential secret plan--to pursue criminal charges against the telecoms and those responsible in the administration will likely be thwarted by a bevy of pardons offered by Bush on his way out the back door). The ACLU has already announced that it will challenge the law, but that could potentially take years to wend its way through the court system.

Regardless of that, the Democratic Congress lived up to its 9 percent approval rating (what do you want to bet that that 9 percent is made up of a preponderance of Republicans). The Republicans were only too happy to go along, but the responsibility for this acceptance of presidential lawlessness should be laid entirely at the feet of the Democratic leadership (which now also includes Barack Obama). It's not exactly the kind of action that makes me look forward to the next Congress, in which Democrats will likely gain seats in both houses and, if Obama is elected, be serving with a Democratic president. They may be assuming that there's nowhere else for many of us to go--who else should we support if not the Democrats?--but it sure does drain the enthusiasm right out of me. I'm sure I'm not alone.


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