Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Problem with Unresticted Spying on Your Own Citizens

Unrestricted spying can be used to find real or manufactured corruption of government officials which can then be used as blackmail or as pretext to remove key opponents from office.

For example, Musharraf accused the Chief Justice that he fired of personal corruption. See:Musharraf spits fire at ex-chief justice Is it true? No one wants corruption in government. If corruption is uncovered in the normal course of legitimate police investigations then appropriate actions can and should be taken. However when a government is able to do unrestricted spying on its own people then any corruption that does occur becomes a double whammy. Not only do the citizens of such a country have to suffer from the corruption, they also have to suffer the consequences of their official being blackmailed or exposed for political convenience and their whole constitution possibly being subverted. If such a government cannot find actual corruption through their spying on a government official, then they can at least find things that can be construed as evidence of wrong doing. Such a government official would probably not be blackmailable, but the "evidence" obtained through unrestrained spying or torture could be used in a show trial. I rather suspect that this is what happened with the Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court as well as, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was tortured and subjected to a show trial.

I wonder what Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has to hide or what could be construed as wrong doing on his part. I am sure that Hillary will find out. Power corrupts. The unrestricted powers to spy and torture will not be used to protect. Those powers will corrupt those that hold them. They will be used to maintain and extend personal political power. They will be used against political rivals. It does not matter who holds them, he / she will abuse them. If Bush holds them, he will abuse them. If Hillary holds them, she will abuse them. If I hold them, I will abuse them. I will think that I am doing it for the "common good" or I will think that my needs and wants are more important, but I will abuse them - so would you. If you have the means at your disposal to achieve your goals and especially if you self-righteously think your goals are right and righteous, (as we all do), then you will use whatever instruments of power that you have available to achieve them. Why shouldn't Hillary spy on John Roberts and subvert the Constitution? After all, she would be protecting a "women's right to choose" - surely that is more important than who gets to be Chief Justice?... in Hillary's mind anyway... Why shouldn't George use the power to spy and torture to find evidence against political rivals? After all, he is trying to protect us against terrorists and you can't trust the Democrats to do the job, so he has to spy, blackmail, torture and terrorize. He is doing it for us - because he loves us and wants protect us. It hurts him more than it hurts us... That is what my Dad always said before he whipped us with a rhinestone studded leather dog leash until we bled... He was mistaken - but he had the power. That only happened one time... I am fine, ain't I - I am fine - I am a Democrat - I am fine. He should have kicked me in the face a few more times, he could have broken my spirit, then I could have been an authoritarian lovin Republican... Surely it won't hurt to completely subvert the Constitution of the United States of America one time - just one time. My Dad was a good guy. He thought that he was doing the right thing. We hitchhiked through a bad neighborhood in Detroit, played on the tracks at the rail yard, out ran the railroad "dicks" and lied about it. I am sure that George Bush is a good guy too and that he thinks that he is doing the right thing. Hillary will think that she is doing the right thing too.

The power of our government must be sharply limited, checked, and balanced, otherwise abuses will occur.

For history on the Pakistani crisis:
See: Pakistani Premier Prevails in Clash With General
See: Pakistan Welcomes Hijacking's End and Praises the Taliban
See:Pakistan: Amnesty International's Secretary General presents petition demanding human rights and justice in Pakistan
See:Pakistan: Rights in the Absence of Law?
See: National Accountability Bureau
See: The Constitution of Pakistan PART X Emergency Provisions
See: Pakistan's Dictatorships and the United States
See: When a dictator is not a dictator

Posted by Ray Guest at November 16, 2007 7:30 PM
Comment #238629

I should have put this link in the body of the article.

Security or Human Rights More Critical?

Posted by: Ray Guest at November 17, 2007 7:47 PM
Comment #238631

Ray, I do think you make some valid points, but the comparison between Pakistan and the US is tenuous at best. Partially because you’re talking about two completely different political systems, and partially because it’s not clear at all what Musharef’s firing of the Chief Justice has to do with a country spying on its own citizens.

I have no idea of Pakistan’s Chief Justice is guilty of the things Musharef claims. But regardless of whether he is or isn’t, it doesn’t look legitimate at all for him just to be fired by the country’s military leader. That would NEVER go over in the United States, no matter who the President was.

In the United States, if you want to lie about, smear, and destroy a judge for partisan political reasons, you have to do it BEFORE he assumes office. Once they’re in office, it’s too late. Consider Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 17, 2007 10:00 PM
Comment #238635

It’s good to know that none of the candidates running for president in 2008 would ever use their position to spy on political opponents.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 18, 2007 12:47 AM
Comment #238638

Pretty much. We have history. Remember J. Edger?Accusations of corruption are used all over the world to get rid of leaders,often by other leaders that are at least as corrupt or will be soon.How much taxpayer money did Ken Starr spend trying to nail the Clintons? Hell, he could have wasted twice as much if he had years of wire taps to go over.
Wasn’t Bhutto also removed for corruption also?

Posted by: BillS at November 18, 2007 3:16 AM
Comment #238639

To the contrary. Pakistans ‘s constitution mirrors ours.(A result of being first). The very best way to get rid of a troublesome judge or even better,to blackmail one, is having evidence of corruption or embarassing information.The very best way to get that is through phone taps and survallence.The mafia got J.Edger to deny even that organized crime even existed for years by collecting proof he was a cross dresser and closeted homosexual.

Posted by: BillS at November 18, 2007 3:39 AM
Comment #238641

BillS and Loyal Opp, there is a history of impeachment of judges dating back to the 1300’s in English law. In America, as of Mar, 1997, thirteen federal judges have been impeached. And seven were convicted by the Senate and removed from office.

Impeachment does not necessarily require an indictable criminal offense. Which explains why our judiciary has such a long and commendable record of jurisprudence. Judges know better than most all others the risks associated with attempts to usurp their role’s authority or the Constitutional prerogatives of the Legislature. For the most part, our federal judges private lives have been very well screened prior to their nomination and confirmation. Thus making attempts to illegally wiretap them in this country pretty much a waste of resources and time.

A time honored characteristic of American federal judges has been their sense of propriety, with only rare exceptions. Many say that appointed judges going through this type of process and vetting is far preferable to electing judges, where the people may be more easily fooled and deceived as to judges’ private lives and predilections. Certainly, the more controversial history of state judges where their election occurs in some states, would afford evidence of this.

There are a host of ways eavesdropping without oversight can be used for nefarious purposes, not the least of which are political as in the case of Nixon and Watergate, and as previously discussed, J. Edgar Hoover.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 18, 2007 4:48 AM
Comment #238648

BillS, considering that Pakistan has a parliamentary system, I’m not sure on what basis you’re saying that their Constitution mirrors ours. Maybe there are some similarities, but it more closely resembles the governments of Europe. Probably no accident, considering that Pakistan used to be under the British Empire.

In any case, that’s not really as important as the fact that neither our constitution or theirs allows for the President to just fire judges at whim. They may have a Constitution, but Musharef suspended it. In our system, as David points out, there is defined process in place for removing judges that has to be followed, and it has nothing to do with the President simply firing them.

This entire post makes no sense to me because it’s such a mish-mash of things that don’t have any clear connection to one another.

Did Musharef even fire the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court based on things discovered through spying? Since there’s no indication of that, what do the events in Pakistan have to do with the possibility of Hillary Clinton spying on John Roberts? How are the events in Pakistan, where they have a completely different system of government—one that they’re not even following right now—in any way connected to the political system of the US?

The post is called “The Problem with Unrestricted Spying on Your Own Citizens,” but the entire discussion that follows has very little if anything to do with that.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 18, 2007 3:53 PM
Comment #238651


Sorry, Pakistan is a “semi-presidential republic”.

“The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a prime minister and a president are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state. It differs from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected Head of State who is more than a purely ceremonial figurehead. It differs from the presidential system in that the cabinet, although named by the president, is responsible to the legislature, which may force the cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence.”

If you don’t believe me look it up for yourself.

Posted by: Rocky at November 18, 2007 4:59 PM
Comment #238653

I am sure that despots around the world are very interested in surveillance technology and I am sure that our corporations will be more than willing to accomidate them.

Posted by: jlw at November 18, 2007 5:23 PM
Comment #238654

Rocky, I believe you, but my point was that Pakistan’s constitution isn’t a “mirror” of ours. Are we a “semi-presidential republic?”

Anyway, there’s no contradiction between a “semi-presidential republic” and a parliamentary system. You can have both. I didn’t say that Pakistan was a pure parliamentary republic.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 18, 2007 5:24 PM
Comment #238655


” considering that Pakistan has a parliamentary system”

I understand your point, but those were your words.

Posted by: Rocky at November 18, 2007 5:51 PM
Comment #238656

Rocky, they DO have a parliamentary system.

Sure, it’s a specific kind of one, but if you have a parliament, it’s part of your system. What’s the problem?

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 18, 2007 5:57 PM
Comment #238659

Ok, so you want to be picky.

Pakistan has a Bicameral Parlamenary system consisting of a “lower house” called The National Assembly, and an upper house called The Senate. Does this sound at all familiar?
Pakistan also has an Electoral Collage.

“There have been several documents known as the Constitution of Pakistan (Urdu: آئین پاکستان ). These are dealt with here in chronological order. The 1973 Constitution provided for a parliamentary system with a President as head of state and popularly elected Prime Minister as head of government. However, in 1988 the Eighth Amendment made Pakistan’s government a Semi-presidential system. Pakistan has a bicameral legislature that consists of the Senate (upper house) and the National Assembly (lower house). Together with the President, the Senate and National Assembly make up a body called the Majlis-i-Shoora (Council of Advisors) or Parliament.”

Posted by: Rocky at November 18, 2007 6:46 PM
Comment #238661

Rocky, I think you are missing entirely Loyal Opp’s well reasoned point, what is happening in Pakistan in no way mirrors anything occurring in the U.S.

Loyal Opp is correct, what is happening there bears no resemblance to what is happening here. There, Musharraf has effectively suspended their form of government, whereas in the U.S., we are dealing with the actions of an administration which conflict with our Constitutional and legislated law (FISA). But, our government has not been suspended, and the other branches of government are dealing with the Executive over reach on this issue through Constitutional means.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 18, 2007 8:09 PM
Comment #238663


I am well aware that Musharraf came to power through a coup, and that as of the beginning of this month, he has yet again suspended the Pakistani Constitution.

I think we were jousting over the semantics of what the Pakistani government actually is, as opposed to what Musharraf has made of it.

So no, I didn’t miss his point.

Posted by: Rocky at November 18, 2007 8:42 PM
Comment #238665

Rocky, the semantic questions you’re raising remind me of the old debate (you’ve probably heard it) over whether the United States should be called a Democracy since it’s also a Republic.

But these terms are not really contradictory, just as there is no contradiction in Pakistan’s having a parliament and being a “semi-presidential Republic.” Or, if you prefer a “Bicameral Parliamentary system.” Just as it’s possible for the US to be a representative democracy organized as a Republic, it’s possible for Pakistan to be more than one thing.

What Pakistan actually is TODAY, however, is a military dictatorship. There’s no getting around it. And that’s part of the reason why I object to Ray’s comparison of the current situation in Pakistan to the United States. Also, spying on its citizens is hardly the source of Pakistan’s current problems.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 18, 2007 9:03 PM
Comment #238668


“Also, spying on its citizens is hardly the source of Pakistan’s current problems.”


Posted by: Rocky at November 18, 2007 10:17 PM
Comment #238680

In order to get his unconstitutional bid to remain president, Mushariff gave the supreme court an incentive. He arrested and imprisoned the chief justice. The court has now approved all of his requests.

Posted by: jlw at November 19, 2007 10:56 AM
Comment #238685

What powers are given a US president in an “emergency”.

Posted by: BillS at November 19, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #238699

BillS, based on these last 7 years, it doesn’t much matter ! and the definition of emergency seems to be both elusive, numerous and of personal determination.

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 19, 2007 5:05 PM
Comment #238700

“based on these last 7 years, it doesn’t much matter ! and the definition of emergency seems to be both elusive, numerous and of personal determination”

Examples of this would be?

Posted by: kctim at November 19, 2007 5:13 PM
Comment #238706

kctim, “Examples of this would be?”
Too numerous to mention, but let me give you just one. IRAQ. Shake it and watch what falls out.
There are many more answers right here on this particular subject and on all three columns, which you seem to visit frequently.
Nothing has changed, no matter how difficult it may be to accept.
King Bush’s reign can’t end too soon.

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 19, 2007 5:54 PM
Comment #238725

Loyal Opp said: “What Pakistan actually is TODAY, however, is a military dictatorship. There’s no getting around it. And that’s part of the reason why I object to Ray’s comparison of the current situation in Pakistan to the United States. Also, spying on its citizens is hardly the source of Pakistan’s current problems.”

Couldn’t agree more, Loyal Opp. Spying on its citizens is becoming a part of the source for America’s future problems, however. The movie ‘V for Vendetta’, has an incredibly powerful prophetic message for Americans should they and their media become even less vigilant than they are regarding the actions of their government.

A recent study indicates only 1 in 5 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in 2006. That may increase to 1 in 4 in 2008. Hardly the kind of vigilance required for America’s future well being.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 19, 2007 11:15 PM
Comment #238730


Thanks for your comments.

Loyal Opposition, You wrote:

but the comparison between Pakistan and the US is tenuous at best.

David Remer, You wrote:

Loyal Opp is correct, what is happening there bears no resemblance to what is happening here.

The critique of my article seems to center around the idea that there is no valid comparison between Pakistan and the U.S.A.

No valid comparisons???

Executive branches that draw unbridled, unchecked power to themselves!!! Is it to the same degree? Does it take the same form? Of course not. That is not the point.

No valid comparisons???

Executive branches abusing the power that they have.

No valid comparisons???

The potential that unbridled, unchecked power can, will be, and has been used inappropriately to subvert the Constitution and the rule of law.

No valid comparisons???

The use of terrorism to justify the grab for unbridled, unchecked powers at same time that the fight against terrorism is incompetent and ineffective.

No valid comparisons???

The specious claim that it is all being done to protect democracy and / or extend democracy to the Middle East.

No valid comparisons??? Really???

Posted by: Ray Guest at November 20, 2007 12:13 AM
Comment #238734

Loyal Opposition, You wrote:

Also, spying on its citizens is hardly the source of Pakistan’s current problems.

Wrong. Spying and torture absolutely were an aspect of the 1999 coup that led directly to this current situation.

Posted by: Ray Guest at November 20, 2007 12:21 AM
Comment #238735

And, it could happen here.

Posted by: Ray Guest at November 20, 2007 12:23 AM
Comment #238748

I shook that tree and all that fell out were Democrats and Republicans who voted in favor of the use of force. Not really an abuse of power or anything really.

And you are correct, I do visit here quite alot. I love this place, to be honest.
But, what you call answers are primarily opinionated answers based on partisanship.
I prefer answers based on facts myself.

“Nothing has changed, no matter how difficult it may be to accept”

Amen to that. But it goes back alot further than just the 7 years you talk about, and I know that is very difficult for many to accept.

Posted by: kctim at November 20, 2007 9:21 AM
Comment #238768


You asked powers Bush would have. See: Red Alert

See also:s Bush Administration Planning Martial Law? Congressman DeFazio Denied Access to Government Documents

See also:Toward Freedom

See also:Bush could seize absolute control of U.S. government

See also:Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007

See also:Republican Congressman Slams Bush On Militarized Police State Preparation

See also:Bush military bird flu role slammed

There is no parallel between what is occuring in Pakistan and what is occurring here.

Posted by: Ray Guest at November 20, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #238849

So, kctim, you’re trying to tell me that your opinions are not biased or affected by political beliefs in any way?

Posted by: Jane Doe at November 20, 2007 11:49 PM
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