|"Big Brother Is Watching You" - George Orwell|
OPINION AND COMMENT By Bob Weaver
It is a strange political time.
George Orwell said we will live in a world where fear protects freedom, war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.
He said in times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act, so much so that when heard, people may refuse to believe it.
This could be one of those times.
Now it seems to be about control, frightening control, with a promise that wiretapping phones and invasion of computers will only be used against the bad guys.
History says otherwise.
The Bush administration is holding tight to spy on the American people (only suspicious individuals linked to terrorism).
Under current law, authorities have 72 hours to wiretap or otherwise spy on citizens before obtaining a warrant.
That is not enough for the current White House.
Their latest proposal says a search warrant would be discretionary.
Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is yet to cave to White House pressure and appears upset after finding out that there may be more secret programs out there that Americans don't know about.
Specter has even threatened to cut off funding for the Bush wiretap program.
Opponents of such broad presidential authority have flashed back to the Nixon years, where millions of people were placed on an ill-defined enemies list, a time and place where both Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld sprung into government service.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, along with the FISA legislation, are products of that Watergate era in which the White House abused its power to spy indiscriminately on ordinary citizens.
All seems forgotten, the need for vigilance and scrutiny over government invading civil and constitutional freedoms.
Besides secret White House powers the President has authorized himself, with no knowledge or oversight from Congress, there is the sweeping legislation approved by Congress - the Patriot Act, to protect American's from terrorism:
The federal government can:
1) SEARCH YOUR HOME AND NOT EVEN TELL YOU. The USA Patriot Act expands law enforcement's ability to conduct secret "sneak and peek" searches of your home. Investigators can enter your home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing you that a warrant was issued, for an indefinite period of time. (SECTION 213)
2) COLLECT INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT BOOKS YOU READ, WHAT YOU STUDY, YOUR PURCHASES AND YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY. The USA Patriot Act gives law enforcement broad access to any types of records - medical, financial, gun, library, educational, sales, etc. - without probable cause of a crime. It also prohibits the holders of this information, like librarians, from disclosing that they have produced such records, under threat of imprisonment. The court orders are issued by a secret intelligence court in Washington and judges have little power to deny applications. (SECTION 215)
3) SEIZE A WIDE VARIETY OF BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL RECORDS, and in certain instances access the membership lists of organizations that provide even very limited Internet services (message boards on your church website for instance) using "national security letters," or NSLs, which are issued at the sole discretion of the Justice Department. The Patriot Act expanded access to these NSLs, which also impose a blanket gag order on recipients and are not subject to judicial review. (SECTION 505)
4) READ PARTS OF YOUR E-MAILS AND MONITOR WHAT YOU LOOK AT ON-LINE. The Patriot Act lets the government get records that could show the subject lines of your e-mails and details about your Web surfing habits (like your recent research on Yahoo), all without probable cause. (SECTION 216)
"Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac." -
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell