Democrats & Liberals Archives

Watching the Watchers

Freedom and Responsibility go hand in hand. Therefore, so does security and liberty. History is full of examples of unstable governments who mistook tyranny for security, a lack of oversight and accountability on one group’s part for their ability to defend America effectively.

These governments fail, because when we fail to rein in the power of those who promise all these things, we fail to put in place the systems that make sure they do their jobs.

The obvious question coming from the New York Times' report of secret, unwarranted wiretaps on US citizens, is whether or not it's legal to do so.

Easy enough to answer: it's not.

The hidden question is, if Congress and the courts do not have the oversight on what wiretaps are done, how do we know that the president is using those wiretaps for our sake, and not his own, or his friends, or his party members? Moreover, how do we have any kind of certainty that the job is being done effectively, without such oversight? There should be some means by which at least our representatives, properly cleared, can determine both the moral and practical value of the actions taken by our National Security apparatus.

Nixon abused his power, abused the lack of oversight, to aid his own re-election, and to protect himself from his illegal actions. Others have acted similarly. Power without oversight allows unchecked tyranny, corruption, and incompetence. It allows people to impose their self-centered beliefs on others without their consent. Mirroring the abuses of the past, Bush's surveillance has not just fallen on those known to be associated with terrorists, but with groups voicing dissent and advocating for peace.

Folks say that our civil rights must be sacrificed for the sake of defending our freedom, but in the end that is a Devil's bargain, for those freedoms, those rights are the very thing that we speak of when we use the word "freedom". If somebody can perform searches and seizures of our property and our lives without warrants, where are our freedoms? If government can act against assemblies that abide by the law, but who voice points of view those officials believe to be harmful, then where are our first amendment freedoms there?

If we can't freely voice our opinions on a war, that hinders our ability to discourage our elected officials from policies most Americans disagree with. If the performance of our officials in securing our borders and acting against the terrorists is a state secret, then we are in grave danger, and we have no way to see our way out of it.

Our security depends on our officials recognizing who they are responsible to, and that they will be held responsible for what they do in our name. Now we can be reasonable about leaving grey areas and not being too puritanical about what our people do in the field, in our name. We can tell them that there are things that we do not want to know, and which can remain secret for everybody's good. But everything else must be allowed to come back to us. We did not fight for over two centuries to keep this democracy, only to hand it over to new aristocracy, a new politburo, a modern secret police.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures, but when the desperate times never end, suspicion grows of why things remain so desperate and insecure. No doubt, we need to be willing to do what it takes to protect our country in an emergency, but the state of emergency cannot be allowed to exist merely in anticipation that a threat might appear. That is simply totalitarianism in disguise.

We cannot allow that. Two things must be done by those who invoke Emergencies on our behalf: First, they must take care of the problem in a timely manner- doing anything else indicates that they are simply taking advantage of the situation to gain more power than they are entitled to. Second, they must keep in mind that what they do in our name represents us to each other and the world. If they engage in shameful behavior during the emergency, if they allow their baser impulses to rule, then they should be held accountable.

Part of our security as a country is that we do not ostracize groups to such an extent that we allow tensions to build up in our society without legitimate release. We don't tend to have the riots and disorder around religion, language, or ethnicity that other places do. By providing freedom to all, we subsidize an investment in the peace, security and tranquility from each person. We protects our interests by not making certain groups into enemies of the people, by not radicalizing segments of the population to the point that their loyalties to their beliefs outweigh their loyalties to the nation of their birth or choice.

This is part of why I believe racial profiling of Arabs is a lousy idea. Not only does it needlessly expand the suspect pool, but it also helps to alienate those people who live as loyal citizens within our border. When a government turns upon its people, it loses their trust, their patriotism, their cooperation. It is a counterproductive measure in the end.

Additionally, we must consider that not much good can come of our system of government and our means of defense being at odds with each other. We must figure out ways to defend our Democracy as a Democracy, and not introduce measures that sacrifice the integrity of the system and present weakness for our enemies to strike at and shame us with. Abu Ghraib could only hurt us because we as a nation believed ourselves above such sadism, that such behavior was not par for the course for us. Hopefully, we still believe in the majority that such atrocities are not the necessary outgrowth of our defense. Otherwise, we can be again and again be made to look like hypocrites. Otherwise, people within our own population can become so alienated as to believe it right to aid and abet the other side in this conflict.

One would hope that as we seek a way to secure our nation from our enemies, that we do not end up sacrificing what's best about it to the sound of our own thunderous applause.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2005 10:44 AM
Comment #103826


Yes, the people should always be cautious when government uses security as an excuse to violate its citizens. Power corrupts. Governments are always trying to grow more corrupt, when there is insufficient transparency and accountability to discourage corruption.

Like the laws of physics, there are laws of human nature. One of those laws of human nature is the desire for humans to seek security and prosperity with the least effort and pain. Thus, when opportunity exists, and the chances of being held accountable are low, corruption grows. Corruption can exist in many places, but it is usually most prevalent in positions of power. Thus, by virtue of the power elected officials have, there is the opportunity for abuse and corruption. And it exists. Through history, it has always existed to varying degrees. Painful and galvanizing events historically can get the nation back on the right path, but without implementing simplifications to create more transparency and accountability, governments quickly begin to grow more corrupt again. It’s a problem that is simply a law of human nature, and it affects government, organizations, and every individual.

One could say the entire system is composed of its many parts, and that we are all to blame for our situation. They would be correct. Society is a sum of its parts.

In our system, we have government, and we have people that vote for people within that government. And, those people within government can hire and appoint other people.

The People can not micro-manage those in government. But, people within government can be influenced by a very few people outside of government if they have vast wealth. At that point, government is rotten. Government is now FOR SALE.

That’s what we now. There’s nothing mysterious about it. To claim it’s not that simple perpetuates the fraud upon the voters.

So, how can voters change that? Which solution do you like best? Or, do you know or believe in a better way?
(1) Ask government to be more responsible? Continue to discuss it with them? Maybe if voters ask nicely, “pretty please” ?
(2) Keep doing what we’re doing, and re-elect incumbents ? Keep letting the two main parties take turns being irresponsible and unaccountable?
(3) Vote for Republicans?
(4) Vote for Democrats?
(5) Give up; don’t even bother to vote?
(6) Wait for the problem to resolve itself (someday, the hard, painful way)?
(7) Vote for non-incumbents? Or vote for both parties?
(8) Do (7), and do it repeatedly, every eleciton?
(9) Do (8), and do it until voters have the requested transparency needed to know who is or is not responsible, and who should be held accountable (i.e. voted out, or recalled)?

So, why is it so difficult to know how to vote?
Why does it seem like it doesn’t matter how you vote?
Why does government keep acting irresponsible and unaccountable?
Why don’t politicians take voters serious?
Who is really controlling the politicians?
Why do politicians so highly prize their cu$hy, coveted seats of power? Is it just for the salary? Or the cu$shy retirement plan? Or the ability to vote yourself a rai$e and perk$ anytime you like?
Why do politicians refuse to vote for Campaign Finance Reform?
Why do politicians refuse to vote for Term Limits?
Why are politicians always Gerrymandering and re-drawing district boundaries?
Why don’t politicians secure the nation’s borders?
Why do politicians refuse to prosecute corporations that illegally hire illegal aliens, despite the burden it puts on tax payers?
Why do politicians pander and promise things using the tax payers money?
Why do politicians continue to spend, borrow, print money, and grow the National Debt and government to nightmare proportions?
Why do politicians take bribes?
Why do presidents give pardons to felons of their party only (i.e. Democrat or Republican), like the 140 felons pardoned by Clinton (including several that pled guilty)?
Why do politicians vote for pork-barrel when some of our troops don’t have body armor or adequate medical care?
Why do the two main party politicians block access for 3rd parties to ballots, debates, and the democratic process? Why?
(a) Because they can. It is human nature to seek security and prosperity with the least effort and pain.
(b) Because their is opportunity, power, and insufficient accountability.
(c) Because voters are complacent, lazy, and apathetic.
(d) Because voters have lost sight of the responsibility to vote out or recall irresponsible incumbents; not just once, but continuously if necessary, until incumbents realize their careers will be very short if they continue to be irresponsible and unaccountable, and refuse to pass the items on a short To-Do-List of common-sense, no-brainer, must-do things to provide transparency, simplifications, and unhide things that have been over-complicated for the purpose of abusing them.

Thus, I pick (9).
We’ve tried many of the other methods (above), and they’re not working. Method (9) has the necessary force to peacefully get the attention of new-comers in government. Leverage (or peaceful force) is required. Politicians will never reform themselves. Unfettered, they will simply grow more corrupt, because of the laws of human nature, power, opportunity, and lack of transparency and accountability. Also, (9), if voters follow through with a list of specific common-sense, no-brainer items, politicians will ignore them at their own risk of being voted out or recalled. (9) eliminates the need for term limits. (9) would peacefully restore a balance of power between government and the people, without stripping government of all power to accomplish anything. (9) would insert new faces into the government that have not yet been corrupted, and learned to look the other way. (9) would reduce corruption because the requested simplifications would give the people the ability to see who voted for or against a BILL, if the bill has ONLY ONE PURPOSE. A big step to reduce corruption is to eliminate the massive pork-barrel and graft that sneak into huge 10,000 page BILLs. This would be a simplification that would yield huge benefits. And, another huge improvement would be CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. Voters should see who voted against it. Obviously, those would be politicians that should be voted out or recalled immediately. How can anyone justify GOVERNMENT FOR SALE, and 10,000 page BILLs full of pork-barrel, graft, and waste? Many such simplifications are possible. Can you think of more?

Posted by: d.a.n at December 18, 2005 12:56 PM
Comment #103844

The questions is: Are these actions legal or illegal? To ask any other question leads to excuse and political spin. I want to believe that everyone sees this for what it is, a question of breaking the law. If Bush broke the law, will Republicans seek to punish Bush for this, or will they seek to justify his actions.

At some point, American values must come before party allegiance.

Posted by: tony at December 18, 2005 1:52 PM
Comment #103846

As a student of science, I can assure you there is a difference between hard and fast physical laws, and the laws of human behavior.

Understanding that our system is more than the sum of its parts is essential. Also, we need to understand that whatever illusions that the modern world encourages in its arrogance, we do not have the ability to arbitrarily determine the outcomes of our choices. Unintentional consequences can haunt us even where we haven’t made mistakes in predicting the consequences of events.

Make no mistake. I have no intention to ask the government nicely. I have every intention of demanding the best from my government and accepting nothing less than the best, especially from my own party.

But reflecting on the emergent character of these things, we must consider that our appreciation of human events will never be entirely correct. Some take that as a cue to not act, not vote, fearing that their votes will not make a difference. Some politicians will take the uncertainty of how the public will react as a reason not to do their job. Others will go back and forth trying to find the best leaders. None will see the full extent of the consequences of their actions in play. None will be able to avoid voting for the wrong candidate at some point.

But I believe that the only way we deal with that is by being willing, as a people to correct our mistakes, and by doing our best to tell our leaders why they are getting walloped.

In short, I will approach this as if I will never get it completely right, but I will nonetheless strive for it to be as right as possible, hope for the best, plan for worst, and be prepared to right the mistakes and the injustices as we come along.

Your approach strikes me as if you think you’re not in this with the rest of us, as if we know better. Well folks, we might know better, but we might not, and that means we have to respect the voters, even if they don’t hand us the outcome we want.

This problem is so big that a real solution cannot hope to work it all out in advance, or with single individuals leading the charge. One of the reasons I go for grassroots effort is that it allows different folks to focus on different targets. Instead of trying to force a top-down change in the parties, we shift the demographics underneath them, forcing them to evolve or perish.

It won’t happen tomorrow. It won’t be simple. It won’t be easy. But if we can go out there, pick our fights as individuals, and win them, we can let the American people reverse the long, sad trend of apathy and shame that has marked our political system since the middle of this last century. That, I think, is more important than any attempt to pay back the incumbents as a group, to make a vague example of them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2005 1:57 PM
Comment #103856


The questions is: Are these actions legal or illegal? To ask any other question leads to excuse and political spin.

I think that is a good start, but I think more needs to be asked. If these actions are legal, have they always been legal or did the patriot act make them legal? If the patriot act made them legal, is that a repercussion of the act Americans are comfortable with, or should we repeal the act? If they have always been legal, is that something Americans are comfortable with, or should we change it?


Folks say that our civil rights must be sacrificed for the sake of defending our freedom

Isn’t is amazing how the republicans are always castigating the dems for being communists, but when they decide to insitute Orwellian “Big Brother” surveillance of our own citizens at a level that only existed in communist Russia’s wet dreams in the name of National Security, they are hailed as heros of liberty?

Posted by: Jarandhel at December 18, 2005 2:21 PM
Comment #103869

I choose: (5) Give up; don’t even bother to vote?

In Michigan the Governor is Democrat, Jennifer Granholm. She has done very little good, but more importantly very little harm during her tenure. Her predecessor, Republican John ‘Fat Boy’ Engler heaped venom and destruction on this state for eight years. It is likely we will never recover from his radical capitalist policies. As an example, road construction companies no longer are required to guarantee their work, thus ensuring a never ending flow of contracts for roads that crumble to dust in a year or two. He constantly threw tax breaks to business without conditions to hire or retain employees, pay decent benefits or even stay in business in Michigan. Manufacturers took the money and ran to China. They are still running and asking for more tax breaks on the way out the door.

So, our choices Governor in the next election will be ‘Do Nothing’ Granholm or “Tricky Dick” DeVos of Amway fame and fortune. DeVos is another radical capitalist, radical evangelical who has fired Michigan employees while opening new facilities in China, like all the other businesses. What chance do we stand with him as Governor?

In the next presidential election we will be able to choose another corrupt Republican like McCain or Giuliani or a totally worthless opportunist Democrat called Hillary Clinton. Polls already show she would be defeated by a landslide against either of the Republicans. I sincerely doubt she could carry Michigan even though it is considered one of the more liberal states in the union.

So, the choices come down to selecting a bad candidate or none at all.

I choose none!

Posted by: Joe Kluwecksinski at December 18, 2005 2:46 PM
Comment #103916

Joe Kluwecksinski-
I would prefer a person who is passively doing no harm to a person who is actively screwing up, just like you. I would, however, disagree on the idea of not voting. If you don’t vote, you’re not part of the equation as far as selection pressures go. The political consultants will not include you in their equations, the candidates will not fear to piss you off, and the media will not tell you things they think wouldn’t interest you. We should learn to hold our noses and vote for the person we think will do best. If we are mistaken, we kick that guy out and put somebody else in. Do that enough, and our parties will understand we got standards.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2005 4:18 PM
Comment #103920

If somebody can perform searches and seizures of our property and our lives without warrants, where are our freedoms?

Is this part of the constitution still in effect:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Posted by: ray at December 18, 2005 4:50 PM
Comment #103927

We’re trying the grassroots approach too.
Third parties and independents stand to benefit the most if voters decide to oust the bought-and-paid-for incumbents.
BTW, mischaracterizing it as a vague example of incumbents is completely off the mark.
Incumbents will know what is coming and why their sorry, corrupt, bought-and-paid-for butts were ousted from their cu$hy, coveted seats of power.
That’s what voters are supposed to do.
Vote out irresponsible politicians.
That is the incumbents.
The incumbents also quickly corrupt new-comers.

And, if voters choose to do so again (as in 1992-1994, 1976-1980, and 1952-1958), then that is their right. I only hope they follow through and obtain some common-sense, no-brainer, simple, responsible simplifications to the most abused and perverted rules and processes that reduce transparency (such as ONE PURPOSE PER BILL, and CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM, etc.)

Transparency is the key.
And, I personally don’t think we have time to do it your way. I don’t think the grassroots approach is ever fast enough to respond to the gameplan of the corrupt politicians, which is why they continue to grow more corrupt.

An anti-incumbent movement (which has historical precedent) would be much faster, effective, and get us on the right path before it is too late. It may already be too late. I can easily see how the following are the ingredients for the recipe that will lead to some very hard times in the next 5-to-10 years.
[] $8.1 National Debt
[] shortfalls and continually plundered Social Security;
[] serious shortfalls in Medicare;
[] $1.6 trillion in shortfalls in the PBGC and pensions;
[] 77 million baby boomers earning less, spending less, paying less tax, drawing from entitlements, and living longer.
[] Americans with $32 trillion of personal debt; where did they learn this bad habit?
[] and these many other pressing problems

How much time you think we have left before that all blows up in our face. Perhaps that is why several economists are predicting another Great Depression starting around 2009 ?

Over the years, I’ve see many of these doomsday economists and book writers selling books about the next Great Depression, etc.

However, this time, I think they have much better data, and an overwhelmingly long list of serious problems, debt, aging population (living longer), loss of manufacturing, increasing foreign competition, and decreasing options with so much debt. This time, I can’t see how any prudent person can ignore it. Decades of fiscal irresponsibility starting about 1980, and increasing exponentially (with exception to 1999) until now and several years again (National Debt estimated to reach $11.6 trillion by 2008), is going to have consequences eventually.

Just do the math. It’s getting more and more difficult to see how we’re going to grow enough, tax enough, print money, or immigrate enough to get out of this situation. At the very least, I’d think the situation would be causing (at the very least) some concern?

By the way, IMO, the government broke the law with these illegal wire taps, and library searches. But, don’t worry, bush will (again) take responsibility for it, and that will be the end of that. I would like to know who, why, and when anyone was investigated. This type of thing, will eventually be abused, if it hasn’t already.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 18, 2005 5:19 PM
Comment #103928

ray -

Don’t think that part of the Constitution still holds any water. There is no Oath, no description needed, just a casual or assumed connection with a terrorist outfit. While we might have reasonable concern with regards to the ‘suspects’, the American way of life demands that everyone has these rights.

Posted by: tony at December 18, 2005 5:20 PM
Comment #103941

Yes it is, as the law of the land, the question is, are we getting to the point where we’re allowing our government to regularly break this part of the supreme law of the land out of fear of terrorists, drug dealers, and other enemies?

If we are, then we need to start making it very clear that such a bright line still exists, no matter what threats we face, and that if we want the power to go after terrorists and drug dealers and others effectively, we must figure out a way to do this that works within the law, and allows us to go after our enemies without betraying our principles. The constitution isn’t a suicide pact, but it sure as hell ain’t a bunch of voluntary suggestions either. A government can be an enemy of the people it serves as much as criminals, terrorists, and foreign armies can be.

With any nation of our size, it is necessary to place great power in the hands of a few. Our system is designed so that only by the will of the many do the few keep their power, and it works when we the people put our minds to it. When we start letting the few determine for themselves who maintains power, and how it used, then we get into trouble.

This is a case where we can get into trouble if our rebuke of the president is not sharp and painful enough. Bush needs to understand that he rules by mandate of the people, and that such mandate can be withdrawn if he gets too big for his britches, even if he’s not standing for reelection.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2005 6:33 PM
Comment #103956

Why should these people kick their incumbents out? My approach is to be able to answer that question any time I ask people to go kick somebody out of office. If I don’t know the answer to that question, if I don’t know why the person should be forced out, then I have no grounds to ask people to withdraw their support for the incumbent or shift their support to the challenger.

You claim your approach would be faster, but first, it’s got to work as intended, and in the face of what may be tough opposition.

As for time? I don’t think any of us can get something perfect the first time. I don’t think it will take time because I prefer it to do so, I think it will take time because that’s simply the perverse nature of things. Faster change may not be effective or useful change.

Even if we do manage to create a profound political shift, it will probably not forestall the effects of the last few years. Events have a way of being difficult to turn around. Consequences radiate out like waves, and we almost never start from a clean slate.

I don’t try for that clean slate. I try for positive change. That’s all we can do.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 18, 2005 7:50 PM
Comment #103959

Republicans have a long history of doing this. The Communist Witchhunts of the 1950’s were a Republican creation.

Posted by: Aldous at December 18, 2005 8:08 PM
Comment #103963


The hidden question is, if Congress and the courts do not have the oversight on what wiretaps are done, how do we know that the president is using those wiretaps for our sake, and not his own, or his friends, or his party members? Moreover, how do we have any kind of certainty that the job is being done effectively, without such oversight? There should be some means by which at least our representatives, properly cleared, can determine both the moral and practical value of the actions taken by our National Security apparatus.

I really need to think this whole topic through. In war time traditionally many liberties have been suspended. Without that suspension our Republic wouldn’t be here. (I have in mind WWII and the civil war).

Obviously there is a law on the books that requires judicial review. This law was written for traditional warfare. Is this law constitutional? Or does the law apply? Is the law a violation of the President’s authority under the constitution as commander and chief? Is this war on terrorism “declared war”. (not the war in Iraq, the broader war on terror).

I am wondering if this is a constitutional question before a legal question.

Here is a quote for the constitution regarding authority of Congress:

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

The writers of the constutition CLEARLY understood the need to suspend some rights during war or “rebellion”.

So my question is on of constitutionality. Does the commander in chief have the right to limit civil liberties in times when they feel the republic is threatened?

My answer is:

Yes if they have the votes in Congress to avoid impeachment, and if the Supreme Court agrees. It becomes a judgment call as to whether it is appropriate. It is a political question.



Posted by: Craig Holmes at December 18, 2005 8:26 PM
Comment #103965

I don’t believe the republic is threatened. No one is threatening rebellion or civil war.

Posted by: MagikJester at December 18, 2005 8:32 PM
Comment #103966

If the government was really concerned about security, they would secure our near-wide-open borders. So, I don’t believe any excuses about needing wire-tapping and library-searches for security. Al-Qaeda is crossing our borders, and the government ignores it. So, the government doesn’t need any other powers to abuse.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 18, 2005 8:32 PM
Comment #103974


How many terrorists actually have valid library cards? I think this library thing is actually quite senseless but it’s a gov. bureaucracy so it get’s included erroneously.

The shocking thing about all this is that it’s not peaceniks that should be on the watchlists. The watchlists that were released showed peaceniks including MENONITES (????)…Menonites and QUAKERS? The ones with the horse drawn carriages? Maybe we should be looking into the shakers too with the exploding furniture? Oh the Pennsylvania Dutch what will we ever do with ye?

The problem are Arabs, in the US, that’s fine to keep them on a watchlist to some extent but leave the peaceniks and by all means the damned Quakers out of it.

Posted by: Novenge at December 18, 2005 9:23 PM
Comment #103978

… and all this coming from the White House, who when laying out their 30 pg. document for victory said: “- There are three stages of victory — short, medium and long term”

Wow. I can see the Powerpoint slides for this one already!

Posted by: tony at December 18, 2005 9:36 PM
Comment #104001

Let me propose this in the light of my other points of view: Even if we could improve security through the limitation of freedoms, should we not try non-destructive means of improving investigations and counterterrorism operations first, and see whether we can get better results simply by optimizing the system we’ve got?

Much of our problems on 9/11 wasn’t our ability to investigate, but rather our willingness to investigate where there was already probable cause, or our ability to know what we are looking at when we see it.

It’s intellectually lazy and perhaps opportunistic to suggest right off the bat that more intrusion into privacy is the first and best root. Moreover, the greater the number of safeguards we lose, the more likely it is that people will follow their own figments of their imagination (both in the intelligence community and the White House, as the intellectual laziness combines with the unrestrained power to follow one’s suspicions.

In the end, though, we must remember that no system and no person is perfect. All make mistakes and contain mistakes. Giving a person more power may not necessarily give them the wisdomnecessary to use them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2005 12:03 AM
Comment #104009
The problem are Arabs, in the US, that’s fine to keep them on a watchlist to some extent but leave the peaceniks and by all means the damned Quakers out of it.

It sounds as though you support racial profiling. Do you?

Posted by: jo at December 19, 2005 1:05 AM
Comment #104011

Stephen, what you’re doing is like asking why firemen need both hoses and ladders. “If they’d only learn to make better use of their hoses, then they shouldn’t need ladders at all!”

It’s a false choice. Firemen need both tools, and pointing out that perhaps some of them have been ineffective in the past in their use of fire-hoses doesn’t mean that they should be denied use of other tools like ladders.

You ask if we should we improve counterterrorism operations or limit freedoms, but is there really such a choice on the table?

If we improve the counterterrorism measures that we have, might those improvements themselves (in someobody’s view) limit freedoms? And could it be possible, as well, that law enforcement might need to BOTH improve the tools it has and be given addition tools—and this is key—to be used ONLY against those with known terrorist ties?

We have in this country a great number of people who believe that it’s their right to do everything from own an automatic rifle to molest children. We also, apparently, have people who think that it’s a grave violation of ALL of our civil rights for the president to permit eavesdropping on those with known terrorist ties.

But what actual “freedoms,” I wonder, are at stake here for the rest of us?

Do I want law enforcement to have the authority to eavesdrop on my conversations without a warrant?

Absolutely not, and I don’t agree with those who say “Well, it doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide.” Giving such powers permanently to law enforcement is enormously risky, which is why they don’t have it, not even under Bush’s exective order which has to be renewed every 45 days and which precisely spells out who such eavesdropping can be used against and what use can be made of any information gathered.

I have not suffered any loss of freedom as a result of eavesdropping on terror suspects, or of the Patriot Act. The only thing that has changed, in fact, since 9-11, is that I’ve had to deal with long delays in airport security lines. And I totally support this, even though it’s inconvenient.

Nobody I see howling about their loss of civil rights has actually experienced ANY loss of civil rights. In fact, all they’re doing is making partisan noise because they’re more interested in generating ill-will against the war on terror than they are in protecting the American public from terrorists. Without such protection, however, there is no true freedom.

Posted by: sanger at December 19, 2005 1:15 AM
Comment #104029


Nobody I see howling about their loss of civil rights has actually experienced ANY loss of civil rights.

i have not been detained or experienced torture if that is what you are talking about.. but what about my loss of ‘security’ against being eavesdropped on?

In the past three odd years i have had telephone conversations from South Africa, KL, Denmark and the Gaza Strip; Internet/email communication with those and Russia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Jerusalem, Lebanon, UAE, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand etc just to name a few and many of whom are Arabs.

Think about victims of burglaries, even if nothing was taken.. they complain of feeling violated and the lingering ‘insecurity’. That we do EXPECT to be secure and NOT unduly violated IS a constitutional civil right imo.

Posted by: jo at December 19, 2005 2:34 AM
Comment #104089

I keep hearing this meme from the Right: these powers are only being used against those with KNOWN terrorist ties, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

Errm… no. It’s not being used against those with known terrorist ties. Sorry to disappoint you. It’s being used against people with SUSPECTED terrorist ties. There is a difference. See, here in the US we have this whole “presumtion of innocence” concept. The doctrine of probable cause stems from that. It essentially means that in the absence of evidence constituting probable cause that a crime is being comitted, we need to assume innocence. That’s why we don’t search people’s houses without court orders. Because we assume they are innocent unless there is sufficient probable cause to believe they aren’t.

If these were really people with known terrorist ties, there would be no problem getting warrants for them. Heck, under the Patriot act it would be pretty easy to get warrants even for merely SUSPECTED terrorists, as that act really lowered the bar on probable cause for terrorism suspects. The fact that Bush felt the need to completely remove the bar and do away with warrants altogether just shows how flimsy the case against the people being investigated really is.

Posted by: Jarandhel at December 19, 2005 8:06 AM
Comment #104133

Your metaphor is not apt. It’s more like the fire brigade showing up at house that’s not burning and expecting the person inside to pay for their services. We’re paying for our government’s security apparatus, and paying for it to go after the real enemies we got in a manner consistent with our laws and regulations.

When this government makes warrantless searches on American citizens, it’s exceeding it’s mandate. It’s mandate is to conduct such searches and seizures only when other evidence warrants it, literally speaking.

Without such a threshold for a search, there is no way to check the executive branch’s power to invade our lives and examine our belongings. There’s no limit, really, to the reasons for which a person could violate our privacy. That should concern you, especially since you and all your compatriots in the GOP are so concerned about the invasion of government into people’s lives.

I don’t think you quite appreciate the gravity of the situation. This president swore to uphold the constitution. The Amendments attached are not optional!

This president is not allowed to perform warrantless searches on American Citizens. There is a Court (called FISA) for getting warrants for this kind of work, when justified, and it rarely rejects them. If the administration had good reason to believe terrorist associations, it probably could have gotten the warrants.

The problem here is that you believe your freedoms are inviolate as long as the duration is short or the authority discreet. That won’t save you, though, if somebody up there decides that a Person associated with Watchblog needs to be put under surveillance for the good of the country. It won’t matter that we are not connected to any illegal activity. All that will matter is that your government has decided that your freedom from search and seizure without a warrant or probable cause is conditional on their whims.

What kind of freedom like that? Freedom until the government decides otherwise? That’s a curious notion of liberty. I would feel cowardly if I let the government intrude in that way on people who have done nothing to deserve that attention under the law.

I’m not going to wait until I lose my civil liberties personally to start defending them. I’m going to start with others so I never have to feel the sting of tyranny myself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2005 9:56 AM
Comment #104199


Nobody I see howling about their loss of civil rights has actually experienced ANY loss of civil rights.

If it is happening, you wouldn’t know. Unless they came to arrest you. So that doesn’t hold water. It is a loss of civil rights if the government thinks it can do it without having to show probable cause.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 19, 2005 11:29 AM
Comment #104230

With any nation of our size, it is necessary to place great power in the hands of a few.

When was the last time there was an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives? During FDR’s time? Excepting the members from Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia, it has remained the same in a period of time when the population has doubled. Too few, I think.

Posted by: ray at December 19, 2005 12:53 PM
Comment #104253


Let me propose this in the light of my other points of view: Even if we could improve security through the limitation of freedoms, should we not try non-destructive means of improving investigations and counterterrorism operations first, and see whether we can get better results simply by optimizing the system we’ve got?

Depends on the nature of the threat. If the threat is small, I can see your point. 3000 civilian casualities in one day is a pretty big threat. I wouldn’t want to be defending your position if you were wrong.


Posted by: Craig Holmes at December 19, 2005 1:53 PM
Comment #104331

By the time this war is over, we are likely to have suffered as many or more casualties for our intelligence mistakes in Iraq for making that decision out of fear, as we did for our intelligence mistakes before 9/11.

What’s more, if the president’s distraction from terrorism abroad and homeland security allows another attack to take place, we can add the people killed in that attack to the toll.

As a student of information theory, I’ve learned an interesting fact. What we need is not more information, but more of the right information and less of everything else.

We can’t know about or prevent every terrorist attack. At best, we can stave off most. We will be wrong sometimes, and despite what all the politicans say about something never happening again, these things will re-occur. That’s just the way the world works.

But that doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for our enemies. By no means. There are varying degrees of imperfection between the impossible best, and the unthinkable worst. What we can do, for our own sake, is not try to drink the ocean in a paper cup.

We need to seek out the pathways in the information, find the meaningful, true information that will lead us to the true plans of those who would harm America. That means, sometimes, taking the risk of being wrong. If we can’t or won’t take that risk, then we cannot throw away information and we drown in the slow examination of useless minutia and information rendered meaningless by a lack of human context.

In the end, we’re only human. It doesn’t means we’re doomed, but it does mean we can only do our best. That is all I’ve ever asked of this administration, and I’m sorry to say I’ve been disappointed.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2005 3:28 PM
Comment #104404

Back to the initial article it seems to me that the failure mode for our elected officials is a bad open primary system. I voted for Kerry but he was my last choice as I felt he was much too liberal. If the Dems go with Hilary next time we will just hand the White House over for four more years. We need to align wtih the mainstream and get top noch people in place for the next election.

Posted by: RJacob at December 19, 2005 4:46 PM
Comment #104423

I’m for Hilary. She’s a White House survivor. She’s mainstream, a little too conservative for me. She will have a great president at her side, campaigning for her. She went to school a mile away from where I live. Those pesky red states are the problem.

Posted by: ray at December 19, 2005 5:02 PM
Comment #104439


I sense the humor but seriously don’t you think Bush and his brain Karl Rowe did a high five when Kerry was nominated. The Democratic Party needs to offer mainstream people. I live in a red state “Arizona” and the only way this state will ever turn blue is to have a more moderate candidate.

Posted by: RJacob at December 19, 2005 5:19 PM
Comment #104450

Since McCain will most likely be the candidate, I don’t think we’re going to be worrying about AZ too much. Ohio, Iowa and Florida will be of more concern, and whatever happened to West Virginia. Believe it or not, I was completely serious in my previous post.

Posted by: ray at December 19, 2005 5:31 PM
Comment #104476

I think a moderate candidate would be good, but we need somebody who is both capable and eloquent at the same time. The Republicans have had their time to push a vision of the world where only business and economoic logic matter. We need a return to a greater perspective of the world, one where such things are included and dealt with as their importance dictates, but do not get held up as the false idols they currently are.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2005 5:51 PM
Comment #104482

I have nothing against Hilary but this country won’t swing that far to the left. Hilary is not going to get elected. We need to move the country back to the middle because the voters are in the middle. If Dean, Hilary or Kerry runs we are not demonstrating mainstream. That is my point on the open party system. It favors the party’s fringe elements rather than the mainstream. The fundamentalists have taken over the Republican Party and the liberals control the Democratic Party. The last election showed that the country won’t vote for the too liberal candidates.

Posted by: RJacob at December 19, 2005 5:58 PM
Comment #104574

As I understand it, the birth of this method of surveillance began with Bill Clinton. He authorized satellite surveillance of US citizens after the OKC bombing (good for him),as well as phone taps. Don’t you realize how shallow you folks appear. If Bill does it, what a wonderful idea. If Bush does it you act as if someone set your hair on fire. You seem to think losing the war, killing Americans, or aiding the enemy is fine, as long as you can attack GW Bush. You should take stock of your beliefs. Is it better to attack Bush than stop the killing of Americans? Try to step back and see what is happening here. People are trying to kill us. Try to stop this silly game and for once be warriors. Warriors will win this war, but they will have to climb over the hoards of crying, whining Dems to do it. No one wants Big Brother, even the non libs. But these animals who saw peoples heads off with a dull kitchen knife must be stopped, and you spinless cowards are in the way.

Posted by: John Douglas at December 19, 2005 9:24 PM
Comment #104816

Maybe we just trusted Clinton more than Bush, not to use it against his political opponents. Is it better to attack Bush than stop the killing of Americans? Maybe the people attacking Bush are trying to stop the killing of Americans. Eventually, more Americans will be killed in Iraq, than were killed on 9/11.

Posted by: ray at December 20, 2005 11:37 AM
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