A frightening expansion of the government's surveillance power
Expansion of the government's eavesdropping powers is a bad idea.
Congress was outraged three years ago by reports in The New York Times about the Bush administration's eavesdropping on Americans without court warrants.
Two years ago, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service produced a 44-page analysis challenging the legal basis for President Bush's evasion of federal wiretap procedures. A federal judge ruled the administration's warrantless eavesdropping program to be unconstitutional.
A year ago, senators in both parties grilled administration officials in televised hearings.
Last week, in the midst of a presidential election year, Republicans and Democrats alike collapsed in a fearful heap to give the administration what it wanted: everything.
The U.S. Senate, by a lopsided margin, approved a major expansion of the government's surveillance powers and granted immunity to telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon Communications. They had gone along with White House directives to ignore laws governing electronic spying.
Last month, the House updated and watered down the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Even Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was part of a shameful roll call. He voted for final passage of a bad law toward which he had once loudly proclaimed his opposition. How instructive is this episode about his management of issues in the White House?
The whole bill is a sham because it essentially normalizes the illegal behavior of the Bush administration, loosens future restrictions and generally sets the precedent for legislative behavior when the new rules are also ignored.
Even a compromise piece of the compromise legislation is insulting. The inspectors general of the Justice Department, Pentagon and intelligence are required to investigate the wiretapping program and report back. Why bother?
For a nation grounded in the rule of law, this whole charade is frightening.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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