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Back in December 2005, Texas Senator John Cornyn pioneered what became the Republican Party's "give me death" defense of President Bush's program of illegal NSA domestic surveillance.  "None of your civil liberties matter much," Cornyn announced, "after you're dead."  As ABC revealed in its shocking expose of NSA personnel monitoring the private phone calls of Americans abroad, your civil liberties don't matter much while you're living, either.

Despite President Bush's repeated assurances that "I'm mindful of your civil liberties," NSA operators "hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home."  According to two NSA staffers featured by ABC, the so-called "terrorist surveillance program" was used to listen in on the calls of American soldiers and aid workers overseas:

[Former Navy Arab linguist David Murfee] Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer...

"We knew they were working for these aid organizations," [former Army Reserves Arab linguist Adrienne] Kinne told ABC News. "They were identified in our systems as 'belongs to the International Red Cross' and all these other organizations. And yet, instead of blocking these phone numbers we continued to collect on them," she told ABC News.

For his part, Senator Cornyn was far from alone in propagating the Republican's unconscionable justification of Bush's FISA lawlessness.  (Lawless, that is, until August 2007, when the Democratic Congress codified President Bush's regime of domestic surveillance.)

On February 3rd, 2006 Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who infamously stonewalled the Phase II investigation into the misuses of pre-Iraq war intelligence, similarly claimed:

"You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."

Three days later, the Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions regurgitated the same talking point during a break in Senate testimony by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

"Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us."

During his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney perpetuated the sham.  Completing a candidate questionnaire in December 2007, Romney argued for an unlimited expansion of presidential powers, including this stunning response:

1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

Intelligence and surveillance have proven to be some of the most effective national security tools we have to protect our nation. Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive and the President should not hesitate to use every legal tool at his disposal to keep America safe.

As it turns out, of course, President Bush's surveillance regime was not legal.  And as his water carriers like Cornyn, Sessions, Roberts and Romney show, the Republican Party doesn't worry too much about civil liberties, whether for the living or the dead.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 04:00 PM PDT.

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