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"I am your judge, executioner, jury, executioner, jailer, and if necessary, your executioner." -Judge Dredd

While President Barack Obama (D) and the "conservative" majority of the Supreme Court of the United States -- Justices Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito -- have at times disagreed, they hummed a happy tune of harmony on Tuesday, silencing the voices of the President’s "liberal" court colleagues.  The conservative majority held ranks, voting 5-4 to strike down [PDF] a challenge to warrantless wiretaps.

I. Due Process?  Not Always, Argues Supreme Court

Both President Obama and his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush, argue that warrantless wiretaps are a critical tool to fighting the ever-present, nebulous threat of terrorism.  They argue that in the modern era due process is a defunct relic that needs to be tossed aside to counter the grim face of modern reality.

[Image Source: Djibnet]
 
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency (NSA) both use warrantless wiretaps and other warrantless information requests to spy on Americans. The agencies have not published clear rules regarding when and how warrantless wiretaps are approved.

Normally the government needs a warrant to snoop on citizens, but now federal agents -- sometimes a single agent -- can arbitrarily file to monitors citizens’ communications.

II. Yet Another Lawsuit Fails to Halt Warrantless Police State

There have been numerous lawsuits against warrantless wiretaps by civil liberties groups, which argue that the Constitution should not be tossed aside in the name of fighting "terrorism".  However, these lawsuits have virtually all failed.  The government has additionally granted immunity from lawsuits to telecoms who cooperate with its shadowy, Orwellian tactics.

In the latest lawsuit, brought by Amnesty International USA, Judge Alito dealt critics a harsh blow, writing in the majority opinion "[The plaintiffs] cannot demonstrate that the future injury they purportedly fear is certainly impending."

This Phone is tapped
The conservative majority tossed an anti-wiretapping case. [Image Source: Flickr]

Justice Stephen Breyer blasted Judge Alito and President Obama's rhetoric, commenting, "[The harm] is not speculative. Indeed it is as likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordinary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen."

The U.S. Department of Justice Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argues that citizens have nothing to worry about in losing their privacy if they have nothing to hide.  He counters Amnesty International and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticism that the wiretaps could adversely affect journalists and lawyers by making them fearful of prosecution.

He argues, "[If a journalist or lawyer] took precautions, it would be because of a belief that (he or she) had to comply with an ethics rule, and the ethics rule would be the cause of (him or her) taking those precautions."

III. Bush, Obama, Romney, are All United on Warrantless Monitoring

Formally under the latest FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5949) the government must suspect a U.S. citizen is talking with a foreigner in order to wiretap the conversation without warrant.  Of course, such a claim could be made about virtually any conversation, as there's really no way of proving an agent didn't suspect you might be talking with a foreign citizen.

Marking the increasingly similar appearance of America's two ruling parties, both President Obama and his former presidential elections rival Mitt Romney supported warrantless wiretaps.  Most Republicans (and Democrats) in Congress have also voted in favor of nullifying Constitutional protections and allowing the practice.  Increasingly both parties are finding they have much more in common than they have to disagree about.

Bush and Obama
President Obama and his predecessor President Bush agree on many things, including that the federal government should be granted unregulated spying on its citizens.
[Image Source: WhiteHouse.gov]

Mr. Romney expressed a viewpoint narrowly in line with President Obama's plugging warrantless wiretaps in a recent interview (see below), stating, "If it means we have to go into a mosque to wiretap or a church, then that's exactly where we are gonna go, because we are going to do whatever it takes to protect the American people. And I hear from time to time people say, 'Hey, wait a sec, we have civil liberties to worry about', but don't forget... the most important civil liberty I expect from my government is my right to be kept alive."


In other words whoever won the White House, the outcome on warrantless wiretaps -- like many other issues -- was predetermined.  The President would support the push to keep law enforcement activities unaccountable and unregulated.  Both parties argue that citizens should just be happy the government is allowing them to live, as Mr. Romney puts it, by fighting "terrorism".

IV. Original FISA Aimed to Stop What Current Bill Does

The FISA mess, like many in the government is an interesting historical lesson in how the government can take what seems like a good idea and twist it to accomplish the exact thing that it was originally intended to prevent -- non-transparent and unaccountable wiretapping.

The FISA was designed to eliminate Fourth Amendment violations, and was put in place in the wake of accusations that President Richard Nixon had used wiretaps to spy on political rivals.  The act only allowed for warrantless wiretaps if one of the parties was "reasonably believed" to be outside the U.S.

Nixon Watchmen
The original FISA aimed to stop wanton warrantless wiretapping used by people like President Nixon to (allegedly) spy on his political enemies. [Image Source: DC Comics]

While well intentioned, perhaps the FISA left open the door to abuse by putting domestic surveillance mechanisms in place.  While the bill criminalized abuse, with a penalty of up to five years in jail, it has been difficult to prove abuse allegations against ranking federal officials. 

But for its flaws FISA did offer some protections for a while.  But those protections were replaced with the precise thing the original measure was designed to block via the PATRIOT Act of 2001, which dramatically expanded warrantless wiretaps, and the "Protect America Act" of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-55S. 1927).

And now the best challenge to that ubiquitous surveillance has been struck down before the Supreme Court.

Sources: SCOTUS, CNN



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RE: More Info
By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2013 6:10:04 PM , Rating: 0
Sadly true. But it's the voters and societies fault. Let's face it, Conservatism, even watered down Conservatism, just doesn't jive with the people anymore. Hell look at the last election, it's mind boggling.

So basically the Republican party has had to change their message from Conservatism to "well we can manage this large overbearing mess a little bit better than the Democrats and spend just a little bit less. But not TOO much less, we won't take away ALL your Government cheese. Please don't hate us!"

Until the voters become better educated, and some form of personal accountability and self reliance is injected into the majority of the people, don't look for a big difference between the parties.

And for all the "two party" haters out there. Uhh if Romney's form of pseudo-Conservatism didn't get it done, how do you think the people are going to react to full-blown Libertarianism?


RE: More Info
By tng on 2/26/2013 6:17:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And for all the "two party" haters out there. Uhh if Romney's form of pseudo-Conservatism didn't get it done, how do you think the people are going to react to full-blown Libertarianism?
I don't really hate the 2 party system, it is just that nowdays, it is hard to tell them apart without looking at the little R or D at the end of their names.

I do have great respect for Liberman who told the Dems to shove it and went independent and won.

Full blown Libertarianism is a little crazy, even for me.


RE: More Info
By Reclaimer77 on 2/26/2013 6:24:12 PM , Rating: 2
Agree. But if your parties message can't win any elections, you're only faced with a few options.

Now don't get me wrong. I feel the Republican party leadership has done a horrible job under Obama. Free thinking is great, but there appears to be NO unified voice at all. Half the party is throwing the other half under the bus to keep their jobs, and the other half looks like complete dumbasses when they make themselves Obama's personal punching bag.

quote:
Full blown Libertarianism is a little crazy, even for me.


Considering the alternatives, I'll take it. But you'll just NEVER sell it to these voters today. We've lost the battle.


RE: More Info
By maugrimtr on 2/27/2013 9:20:30 AM , Rating: 1
Let's stereotype Republicans:

1. They don't like poor people.
2. They don't like gay people.
3. They don't like immigrants.
4. They don't like sick people.
5. They don't like non-Christians.
6. They don't like liberals.
7. They don't like scientists.
8. They don't like women.

Basically, all of those groups don't like Republicans in turn...

The problem with conservatism is that it has invested so much time and energy into demonizing people and basic realities we take for granted in order to preserve their existing votes. The democrats, on the other hand, just have to offer "reforms" that show they want to help all of these groups.

If I were gay, I'd be a democrat. I wouldn't associate with a bunch of hypocritical bigoted assholes unless I found a conservative representative with a brain. Many on the above list have a similar attitude.

It not that conservatism is losing, it's always going to be an appealing political view, it's that the people being elected are idiots in a race for the The Most Extreme Republican title which leaves moderates facing nuclear winter (i.e. having to elect a Democrat as the lesser of two evils). How can you then compete against a party willing to swing from left to near-right when it suits them? Reworking your "messaging" and pandering to groups you were demonizing just a few months ago won't cut it. Finding intelligent people might.


RE: More Info
By Reclaimer77 on 2/27/2013 11:19:10 AM , Rating: 1
That's another problem with the party. They've allowed those stereotypes, invented up by smear campaigns, to go unchallenged for the most part.


RE: More Info
By Florinator on 2/27/2013 11:45:58 AM , Rating: 1
Invented by smear up campaigns??? So people like Mourdock, Akin and even Marco Rubio (the Earth is 6,000 years old) didn't put their foot in their mouth because they are catering to the "base"?


RE: More Info
By Reclaimer77 on 2/27/13, Rating: 0
RE: More Info
By RufusM on 2/27/2013 2:10:49 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, they are stereotypes, but they are perpetuated by the Republican leadership and spokespeople who has long-since been co-opted by the Religious Right and their intolerance of social changes.

It doesn't help when people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are spreading the message through their self-absorbed personalities.

When a Republican gets into power they spend money like drunken sailors on crack, just slightly less then a Democrat.

The US has two parties: The party of Spend and the party of Spend More. The really sad thing is they both have the public addicted to government handouts through direct or indirect means.

Given that, the American public has no appetite for a message of fiscal restraint of any kind. Just look at the average American household's credit card debt. In 2012, that number was $15,257. They would rather go broke than go without.


RE: More Info
By MrBlastman on 2/26/2013 11:32:20 PM , Rating: 2
I'm what you call a true moderate. I've come to find that neither mainstream party, be it Republican or Democrat, satisfactorily align with my beliefs. Believe it or not, I used to vote mainly Republican (okay, it probably isn't hard to believe) but even they have moved way off target from where I feel comfortable. They don't represent the majority of my beliefs.

It all changed back in the 90's when I voted Ross Perot. Yeah, I'm one of THOSE people that caused Dole to lose. Whatever. Something about him stunk and I couldn't allow myself to vote for the guy. Since then, I've come to realization that voting straight ticket, be it one party or the other... is a BAD thing. I voted Zell Miller for Congress once... yeah, a Democrat. Zell was the only good one left and is a damn fine patriot.

But, I draw the line at calling myself a Libertarian, either. Yes, I've voted for several including for Governor in our last State election but, even myself, a moderate, realize that the Libertarian Party also embraces some extreme points of view that I'm once again... not comfortable with.

So, what to do? Give up voting? Hardly. That's the worst thing anyone can do. How about reviewing my choices and speaking out for what I believe in and voting with my mind instead of my ears?

Yeah. That's a good start. So that's what I've done.

And I've discovered something too along this experimental journey I've embarked upon to improve my patriotism: Just because I vote for one of these independents doesn't mean I'm turning my back on America, nor embracing and condoning all their extreme viewpoints. In actuality, if my vote were to succeed and they get elected... it would soften up entrenched politics in Washington (or even my State) and add variety and process back to the system.

This variety... this process, these are precisely what we need to prescribe to our politicians in Washington. Hard line views have gotten us nowhere. It has lead to gridlock and complacency--both dangerous enemies of our Constitution.

So, give it a chance. Stand up and be a true patriot as I have done. Everyone in America will be better off if we do it.


RE: More Info
By DrApop on 2/27/2013 8:25:28 AM , Rating: 2
No disrespect intended, but we are NOT a two party system like you claim.

The two parties in power have propagandized this concept by pushing the idea that multiparty participation in government doesn't work and that the only viable ideologies are either republican or democrat. Plus they both will do their darndest to beat down any attempt from a third part to gain any type of power....even to the point to having them join their party (ala the teaparty).

Are government was meant to be a government of idea. Instead we have two near identical ideologies that fight against each other just to remain in power.

OK, off my soapbox now.


RE: More Info
By JediJeb on 2/27/2013 11:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
George Washington had it right when he said there should never be any political parties in the government.

Somehow politicians back then managed to respect his belief right up until he left office, then right away they began forming the parties.

If we had not political parties, then politicians would be more free to band together temporarily on certain subjects when needed but then to change affiliations when the time came to do so without worry of reprisals.

When I registered to vote I had to register as a member of the Independent Party because I had to choose a party, why could I not just register to vote with no party affiliation? Why should I be forced to declare a party? So maybe with our closed primary system here I could not vote in a primary election but having no party should not preclude me from voting in the main fall election. What is funny is that judges here who are elected have to run with no party affiliation by law.

I also wish they would outlaw the little D and R beside politicians names when they are displayed on TV and in print. Make them stand or fall in their own merits not on how viewers feel about a political party. Seeing a party affiliation there makes most people tune then out if they are not from their preferred party even if they are saying something that person would like to hear. Predefining someones perception on a topic removes logical public debate on issues that really need to be honestly debated among all constituents.


RE: More Info
By MadMan007 on 2/26/2013 7:43:20 PM , Rating: 1
It's not 'watered down' Conservatism that lacks pull with the electorate, it's Neocon garbage trying to pass off as Conservative that does.


RE: More Info
By EricMartello on 3/1/2013 5:53:01 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Conservatism, even watered down Conservatism, just doesn't jive with the people anymore. Hell look at the last election, it's mind boggling.


On political issues I tend to agree with most conservatives' viewpoints. I part ways with them quite abruptly when it comes to lifestyle choices - they are very adamant about imposing christian/catholic values on people which I find to be annoying and out of place. If they would stop injecting their personal views and lifestyle preferences into their political platform they may stand a better chance of winning over more people.

quote:
Until the voters become better educated, and some form of personal accountability and self reliance is injected into the majority of the people, don't look for a big difference between the parties.


I don't think that the parties need to be diametrically opposed; after all they still need to work together so there should be a fair bit of common ground. Where they should differ is on key issues and, for the most part, they do.

The republican party is fractured right now and this is causing them to lose political ground in the public eye. They need to sort their sh1t out and go back to the basics.

The fundamental tenets of what it means to be a republican are what appeal to me even if the party is not doing a great job of representing these principles right now.


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