February 14, 2008

And They Want You to Eat It, Too

Just yesterday, I mentioned (again) the fundamental problem with FISA -- the problem that almost no one will seriously address:
I must immediately interject that to discuss these issues with regard to FISA is ludicrous in a much deeper sense. As Jonathan Turley explains here, FISA itself is a secret court whose very purpose is to circumvent the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The FISA court is no protection against illegitimate government intrusion at all. But as Turley notes, that we are fighting over whether to grant the executive branch and FISA still more untrammeled authority to disregard constitutional rights is a measure of how far we have already marched toward tyranny. And look at this chart to see just how compliant the FISA court is.
The following is too, too funny, albeit in a sort of sadistic-masochistic-truly crappy horror film (with numerous body parts and lots of blood and guts splattered across a huge screen every 30 seconds) kind of way. Atrios approvingly offers a letter from Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Reyes is outraged -- outraged, I tell you! -- that Bush would suggest "that the country will be vulnerable to terrorist attack unless Congress immediately enacts legislation giving [Bush] broader powers to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications and provides legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the Administration's warrantless surveillance program." To arms, brave Democrats and online progressives!

In his letter, Reyes writes:
Today, the National Security Agency (NSA) has authority to conduct surveillance in at least three different ways, all of which provide strong capability to monitor the communications of possible terrorists.

First, NSA can use its authority under Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance abroad of any known or suspected terrorist. There is no requirement for a warrant. There is no requirement for probable cause. Most of NSA's collection occurs under this authority.

Second, NSA can use its authority under the Protect America Act, enacted last August, to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This authority does not "expire" on Saturday, as you have stated. Under the PAA, orders authorizing surveillance may last for one year - until at least August 2008. These orders may cover every terrorist group without limitation. If a new member of the group is identified, or if a new phone number or email address is identified, the NSA may add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately. We will not "go dark."

Third, in the remote possibility that a new terrorist organization emerges that we have never previously identified, the NSA could use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor those communications. Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the FISA Court has approved nearly every application for a warrant from the Department of Justice. In an emergency, NSA or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may begin surveillance immediately, and a FISA Court order does not have to be obtained for three days. The former head of FISA operations for the Department of Justice has testified publicly that emergency authorization may be granted in a matter of minutes.

As you know, the 1978 FISA law, which has been modernized and updated numerous times since 9/11, was instrumental in disrupting the terrorist plot in Germany last summer. Those who say that FISA is outdated do not understand the strength of this important tool.

If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don't have enough domestic spying powers.
"...it will not be because we don't have enough domestic spying powers." Funny, innit?

Given the powers that Reyes so helpfully describes, his letter can be translated as follows:
We can already spy on everyone. Everyone! Got that, you schmucks? And we don't even need a warrant a lot of the time! Every once in a while, we kinda think we should get a warrant. No reason for that actually. But it looks better, you know? Keeps the stupidly annoying civil liberties crowd happy. But those idiots at the FISA court will give us one nearly every time! [See here again.] And since FISA is a secret court, none of those peons (otherwise known as "citizens") will ever know a damned thing about what's actually going on anyway. It's good to be an Empire!
When you add to this what our government certainly does beyond what Reyes describes (c'mon, we're big girls and boys here, aren't we?) -- and which we know absolutely nothing about and will never know anything about -- the government's power to spy on all of us is complete.

Why, I simply don't know what to say. Oh, wait. Yes, I do: No One Is Safe: The Ruling Class Unleashed.

As I discussed yesterday, I'm not aware that any progressive has suggested that the FISA regime should be eliminated completely. Now the reasons are clearer. As Atrios's approving post setting forth Reyes' letter makes obvious: It is absolutely fine with the Democrats and with the progressive online community that the government has these fully comprehensive -- indeed, omnipotent -- spying powers.

It's fine with them. Ponder the fact. Ponder my argument that both parties have long desired and worked toward the complete, unchallengeable establishment of an authoritarian-corporatist state. If we have both a Democratic president and Congress next year, you will never hear another word about this subject -- except possibly for calls to expand the government's powers still more. I can't imagine exactly how they could be further expanded, but I'm certain the Democrats will find a way -- just as the Republicans do at every opportunity. (Similarly, you will rarely hear from the Democrats or progressives now or in the future about the InfraGard program, which was so helpfully begun under the Clinton Administration.)

Once again, I'm at a loss for words.

Oh, hell. No, I'm not. But I must correct part of what I said in that earlier post. It's not just that a lot of you will eat shit until the day you die. A lot of you enthusiastically manufacture new shit daily -- and you ceaselessly encourage others to eat it, as you gulp it down yourselves.

I would say that many of you should have more respect for yourselves, and for your readers as well. But I doubt such an appeal would be understood, much less seriously considered.

History teaches us that people will swallow anything, even disgusting, nauseating, vomit-inducing shit. The twentieth century was an almost nonstop train of horrors. As unendingly horrifying as it was, we learned absolutely nothing from it. We're determined to repeat it all again.

Eat well, my friends -- and my foes. There's a lot of shit coming your way.

And some of you -- far, far too many of you -- will love every mouthful.