Thursday, August 17, 2006

Declaring war on the Constitution?

The Cheney-Specter National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (S.2453) constitutes a virtual declaration of war on the Constitution. It would mutilate constitutionally protected privacy, cripple checks and balances, and inhibit political dissent. The bill's profoundly anti-constitutional philosophy is that "trust the president" should be the measure of our civil liberties.

The Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, i.e., the right to be left alone unless the government can demonstrate a strong law enforcement or intelligence need to a neutral magistrate. Its centerpiece is particularized suspicion. The government is not permitted to search willy-nilly in the hope that something may turn up. If that were not the case, the police could ransack every household in America on the theory that at least a handful will reveal evidence of crime. The amendment was not motivated by sympathy for criminals or enemy terrorists, however, but from recognition that a police state exposes citizens to harassment or retaliation for voicing dissent or being personally obnoxious to government officials. Without the amendment, citizens would be soon cowed into docility.

The Cheney-Specter bill promotes that evil. It would authorize the NSA to intercept all e-mails or international communications of Americans without warrants. It would authorize data mining that informs the government of the parties to every phone call made in the United States without warrants. It would give congressional endorsement to the theory that the president enjoys inherent constitutional power to ignore any federal statute regulating the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on mail openings, torture or breaking and entering homes. And the bill would authorize unprecedented program warrants to conduct electronic surveillance against Americans without any suspicion that the individual targets are implicated in terrorism or other wrongdoing.

Link to the THOMAS record on The Cheney-Specter National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (S.2453)


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