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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



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

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.


"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il














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