August 18, 2007

Best. Government. Ever.

I admit that I'm completely at a loss to describe accurately the quality of American political life today. Grand Guignol Meets Ma and Pa Kettle? Hostel, starring Adam Sandler? The United States functions as a traveling slaughterhouse abroad, and may someday bring its act home -- and it does all this in the style of execrably executed farce. Forgive the crudity of the image, but it may help to think of it as guffawing at the ludicrously awful performance, while simultaneously vomiting.

After reading the NYT story titled, "Concerns Raised on Wider Spying Under New Law," you realize other headlines would have been far better. Perhaps: "Oops! We Tore Up the Fourth Amendment. Can We, Like, Tape It Together Again?" Or maybe: "Hey, We Destroyed the Constitution! And We Didn't Even Know It! Awesome!!"

Here are a couple of my favorite laff lines in the discussion of all the keen surprises tucked away in the FISA legislation:
[Administration officials -- yeah, the Bush administration] also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.
Could you just die? Hey, you might!

Two weeks after the legislation was signed into law, there is still heated debate over how much power Congress gave to the president.
Heck, this is silly. There is absolutely no reason why anyone, let alone Congress, should be concerned that this administration would try to establish the foundations for a dictatorship in this country. This legislation destroys the fourth amendment. The Democrats helped ensure its passage. Big deal! The Military Commissions Act destroys habeas corpus and enshrines torture as state policy. The Democrats did nothing to try to stop it. Big whoop! They've already established the foundations of a dictatorship. Has your life changed? Of course not! And if you're not doing anything wrong or connected in any way, no matter how remote and close to non-existent, to someone who's doing something wrong, and if you're not doing something wrong because some doofus in government hasn't decided yet that it is wrong, even if it's collecting clothespins, you have nothing at all to worry about! Chill, man.

It turns out that the FISA legislation is way more cool than anyone appeared to think. Like:
Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches of American citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.


Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of "electronic surveillance," the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States.

These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called "trap and trace" operations, analyzing specific calling patterns.

For instance, the legislation would allow the government, under certain circumstances, to demand the business records of an American in Chicago without a warrant if it asserts that the search concerns its surveillance of a person who is in Paris, experts said.

It is possible that some of the changes were the unintended consequences of the rushed legislative process just before this month’s Congressional recess, rather than a purposeful effort by the administration to enhance its ability to spy on Americans.

"We did not cover ourselves in glory," said one Democratic aide, referring to how the bill was compiled.
OOPS! And the Democrats covered themselves very well indeed, and you know with what.

Not to worry. Just like the story suggests, I'm sure the Democrats will fix all this lickety-split, just like they repealed the Military Commissions Act, restored habeas corpus, rescinded the two AUMFs, repealed the Patriot Act, and did everything in their power to stop an attack on Iran -- and even ended the criminal occupation of Iraq, like, immediately!

Just like they did all those things!


Yeah, I know, they can't do neat stuff like that until they have bigger majorities. That is, how do you say, A LIE.

Let's be clear here: if the Democrats had even ten brain cells among all of them, and if they actually gave a microscopic damn about the crimes committed by the Bush administration, crimes which continue to be committed every single day, they would have made certain this FISA legislation never reached the floor. And that was true given what was known about it before it passed, even to the general public who followed this news at all. Since they control Congress, the Democrats could have stopped it. They didn't. No excuses, not a single one. Damn them to hell.

I also noted this paragraph in the Times:
Some civil rights advocates said they suspected that the administration made the language of the bill intentionally vague to allow it even broader discretion over wiretapping decisions. Whether intentional or not, the end result — according to top Democratic aides and other experts on national security law — is that the legislation may grant the government the right to collect a range of information on American citizens inside the United States without warrants, as long as the administration asserts that the spying concerns the monitoring of a person believed to be overseas.
Gee, ya actually think they made it "intentionally vague"? Say it ain't so!

In one of my followup posts on this bill, "Inoperative," I wrote:
So any "telephone conversations, e-mail messages and other electronic communications" can be surveilled without a warrant on the order of the attorney general and the director of national intelligence, as long as they say the target is overseas. The court "will not scrutinize the cases of the individuals being monitored."
Isn't that just the most amazing thing. I figgered that out all by my lonesome sitting in my little apartment, two weeks ago. It's a laff riot!

One further critical point comes later in the story:
The legislation gives the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broad discretion in enacting the new procedures and approving the way surveillance is conducted.
This point was unequivocally clear from the start. And that is why I explained -- in "Blinded by the Story," "Inoperative," and "Some Notes" -- that impeachment of any of the Bush criminals is now impossible. Several of the key arguments supporting impeachment have been reduced to gibberish by passage of the FISA bill. This Congress is not going to impeach anyone, anytime, anywhere, for anything.

Now, I must return to my entertainment for the evening: laughing and throwing up, followed by guffawing and vomiting, followed by cleaning up, and then a very, very long shower.