Sunday, February 12, 2006

What The Domestic Spying Scandal Means

Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory has written an amazing overview (also here) of how and why the government's spying on American citizens is so dangerous. Here is some of it:
[The Administration's] argument is that they have the right to use all war powers –- of which warrantless eavesdropping is but one of many examples -– against American citizens within the country. And not only do they have the right to use those war powers against us, they have the right to use them even if Congress makes it a crime to do so or the courts rule that doing so is illegal.

Put another way, the Administration has now baldly stated that whatever it is allowed to do against our enemies in a war, it is equally entitled to exercise all of the same powers against American citizens on American soil. ...

The "war powers" which a President can use in war against our enemies are virtually limitless -- they include indefinite detention in prison with no charges or access to lawyers, limitless eavesdropping, interrogation by means up to and perhaps including torture, and even killing. ... Without hyperbole, it is hard to imagine a theory more dangerous or contrary to our nation's principles than a theory that vests the President -- not just Bush but all future Presidents -- limitless authority to use war powers against American citizens within this country.

Critically, these claimed powers are not purely theoretical or, as Gonzales claimed in response to questions from Sen. Feinstein, "hypothetical." Quite the contrary. Not only has the Administration claimed these powers, they have exercised them aggressively -- not just against Al Qaeda, but against American citizens.

In my view, the single most significant and staggering action of the Bush Administration -– and there is an intense competition for that title, with many worthy entries -– is the fact that the Administration already has detained an American citizen on American soil (Jose Padilla), threw him into a military prison indefinitely, refused to charge him with any crime, and refused even to allow him access to a lawyer, and then kept him there for several years. Then, the Administration argued that federal courts are powerless even to review, let alone limit or restrict, the Government's detention of American citizens with no due process.

And to justify this truly authoritarian nightmare -– being detained and locked away with no due process by your own Government -– the Administration relied upon precisely the same theory which Gonzales advocated on Monday to justify the Administration's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. Like warrantless eavesdropping, indefinite detention is a "war power," and the Administration therefore claims that it has the right even to detain American citizens with no charges, and nothing can limit or stop that power. ...

Under the Bush Administration, that is the country we have become. Alberto Gonzales spent 8 hours on national television the other day justifying why we must be a country which lives under a system which operates in that manner. That is a system of government wholly foreign to how Americans understand their nation and how our nation has always functioned. There is no more important priority than making as clear as possible to Americans just how broad and truly radical are the powers claimed by this President.
The question now is how can a majority of Americans get this essential information? The Democrats aren't going to tell them.

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