There comes a time when giving in to the demolition of constitutional protections can no longer be considered a matter of being weak or unthinking. Rather it must be considered complicity.
Enough Already with the Pathetic Excuses
Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, Sunday August 05 2007
The Democratic controlled U.S. Senate and House of Representatives completely caved to Bush and passed the McConnell-Bond-Bush FISA Amendment.
What effective difference is there left now between the Democrats and the Republicans? To my mind, none.
The Democrats assume that people are so afraid of the Republicans that they are dead in the water next year anyway, so the Democrats have no political price to pay next year, or if they do calculate one they figure it's too small to worry about.
Why would they limit any of the presidential power that (they think) is going to be handed to them on a platter next year?
House, Senate Pass Administration Surveillance Bill
By Paul Kiel, TPMmuckraker, Sunday August 05 2007
By now you've probably heard that the House and Senate passed bills that gutted FISA. The bills, supported [nearly] unanimously by Republicans* and a handful of Democrats in both houses, categorically exclude from FISA court oversight all surveillance "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States." As Marty Lederman explains:Yesterday Bush signed the FISA Amendment into law.For surveillance to come within this exemption, there is no requirement that it be conducted outside the U.S.; no requirement that the person at whom it is "directed" be an agent of a foreign power or in any way connected to terrorism or other wrongdoing; and no requirement that the surveillance does not also encompass communications of U.S. persons. Indeed, if read literally, it would exclude from FISA any surveillance that is in some sense "directed" both at persons overseas and at persons in the U.S.*...here's the House roll call and here's the Senate.
The key term, obviously, is "directed at." The bill includes no definition of it.
Law Professor Jack Balkin justly blames the Democrats.
The Party of Fear, the Party Without A Spine, and the National Surveillance State
By Jack Balkin, Balkinization, Sunday August 05 2007
The passage of the new FISA bill by the Senate and now the House demonstrates that the Democrats stand neither for defending civil liberties nor for checking executive power..................................................................
They stand for nothing at all.
Conversely, the new bill shows that the Republican Party can get the Democrats to surrender almost any civil liberty-- indeed, to give the President just as much unchecked power as he might obtain under a Republican controlled Congress-- simply by playing the fear card repeatedly and without shame.
Behind the current events is a more troubling trend. As Sandy Levinson and I have written, we are in a gradual transition from a National Security State to a National Surveillance State. We pointed out that although the Republicans got first crack at constructing many features of this emerging state, it would be a bipartisan effort. The only issue will be what kind of national surveillance state we would have, and whether government would put in place the appropriate checks and balances to protect civil liberties, prevent the multiplication of secret laws and secret methods of enforcement, and restrain an increasingly ambitious executive.
So far the answers to this question have not been reassuring. Whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats, Congress seems willing to bestow more and more unaccountable power to the President of the United States. The Democratic Party, which has long prided itself on its support for civil liberties, seems altogether to have lost its soul, and the Republican Party, which long contained a strong element of libertarianism and respect for individual freedom-- particularly in economic matters-- has given up any claims to providing a counterweight to a deluded and incompetent President.
Between the Party of Fear and the Party Without a Spine, there does not seem to be much opportunity to keep the National Surveillance State benign. Nor does there seem to be any political check on the development of an increasingly authoritarian Presidency, which controls the levers of secrecy, surveillance, and military force.
For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn’t involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.
How Hitler Became a Dictator
by Jacob G. Hornberger, 28 June 2004