At the same time, while information serves as the lifeblood of democracy, the Bush Administration's approach, when it comes to governmental information of any sort, has been to subvert this principle as well; once again, to its own beliefs. This time, regarding what information, and in what context, the public, and even Congress, should know.
The result has been an extraordinary assault -- even if unwittingly and in part in the name of a fear driven "response" to the threat of terrorism -- on the subtle underpinnings of what in effect constitute our democracy, and make America, America.
When it comes to protecting its secrets, the Bush administration has flexed unilateral power to a degree never before seen in U.S. history. Since 2001, the administration has wielded the "state secrets" privilege as a wide-ranging weapon to snuff out legal challenges to its most Draconian tactics in the global war on terror. At stake are no less than bedrock American moral and legal principles. Bush lawyers have aimed to shoot down court cases involving the indefinite detention and brutal interrogation of prisoners, the covert transfer of terror suspects to foreign governments known to torture, and domestic surveillance prying into the lives of thousands of Americans.
And potentially into the lives of anyone. Without anyone, except the administration itself, being able to know.
But even more than the pace, what now matters is the potency..., says John Kroger, a professor at Lewis and Clark law school and former federal posecutor. "We're seeing a radical departure in how state secrets is being invoked," he says. "We're talking about government actions affecting millions of Americans. We're facing major questions about constitutional law, and the Bush government is saying they can't be adjudicated at all. It's a huge shift in the landscape from how this doctrine has been used in the past."
This bears repeating; "the Bush government is saying they can't be adjudicated at all."
As I previously noted here:
"The Executive Branch, having violated the separation of powers clauses of the Constitution, also apparently believes that in related cases, it is also the sole arbiter as to whether or not it has. This, of course, as a practical matter would mean that there is no arbiter."
Just a decider. Unilaterally.
"The administration's reasoning is the same used to undertake related programs which violated the Constitution's system of checks and balances in the first place. The new, legally magical, 'get out of constitutional jail free card.' That is, 'national security.'"
In the referenced case, the government is not a plaintiff. But, in intervening to have the case dismissed, through the previously rare states secret "nuclear option," the government is in essence arguing that the Constitutionality of its program can not even be challenged in the first place.
As the Attorney General asserted in a legal filing in late May: "In cases such as this one, where the national security of the United States is implicated, it is well established that the executive branch is best positioned to judge the potential effects of disclosure of sensitive information on the nation's security."
Except for the fact that this issue involves the consitutionality of the action itself.
In other words, the administration in this instance is seeking to have the system of checks and balances under the Constitution effectively discarded.
Under its circuitous reasoning, the executive branch can 1) do whatever it wants under the auspices of national security (secretly, to boot, and, prosecute any whistleblowers or press members for reporting it), 2) prevent any review if there is a difference of opinion, and 3) prevent the rest of the country, even Congress, from knowing about it.
And on top of all that, the administration wants to be the one to "rule" on the constitutionality itself of the actions -- thus in effect preventing any review, let alone by the judiciary as called for under Article III of the Constitution.
But it doesn't stop there. As reported in the Boston Globe by Charlie Savage, one of the few mainstream journalists in America paying much attention to the related issue of the President's use of "signing statements" to also get around the Article I and Article II separation of powers clauses under the Constitution:
After some lawmakers raised concerns that the Patriot Act may pose a threat to civil liberties, Congress added a series of new oversight provisions to it. The law requires the Justice Department to keep track of how the FBI is using its expanded powers to monitor suspects and seize papers during counterterrorism investigations. The law required the administration to give Congress that information by certain dates.
But after Bush signed the Patriot Act reauthorization on March 9, he issued a signing statement -- an official document in which a president lays out his understanding of the law -- asserting that he had the authority to withhold the information from Congress if he decided that disclosing it would interfere with foreign relations, national security, or executive branch operations (emphasis added).
The term "executive branch operations," in particular, is a catch all that almost literally means "as we so choose."
Savage also notes therein that:
Two senior Democratic House members...demanded that President Bush withdraw his assertion that he can ignore portions of the USA Patriot Act calling on him to provide periodic reports to Congress on how new law-enforcement tactics are being used.
We ask that the administration immediately rescind this statement and abide by the law," the lawmakers wrote. "Many members who supported the final law did so based upon the guarantee of additional reporting and oversight. The administration can not, after the fact, unilaterally repeal provisions of the law implementing such oversight" (emphasis also added).
But that is exactly what the administration has done.
Presidential signing statements are designed -- and under the Constitution can only be used -- to clarify an interpretation of the law. Not change the law. And not change the law into a form that would not even have been passed by Congress in the first place. At least until the Bush Administration came into office. (Further examples of similar use of such "signing statements," are here.)
If this does not constitute a flagrant usurpation of Congress's powers under Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution, "All legislative Powers (emphasis added) herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States," then what does?
Although the media appears loathe to assess it objectively for fear of being called "biased," it does constitute just such a usurpation. As does the administration's argument that it can clandestinely authorize national security programs in clear violation of existing law, including programs in express contradiction of a law that was amended, as in the case of FISA, after the September 11 attacks suggesting the very same need for heightened security.
And on top of that, through the rather circuitous invocation of the "states secrets" wildcard as noted, the Bush administration also wants to be the ultimate arbiter on the related issue of constitutionality as well; That is, once again, the administration wants to (and effectively has) substitute first for the legislature, one of our three branches of government, and now seeks to substitute for the judiciary as well, the third of our three branches of government.
The Administration is essentially arguing that it can write or create the law, even laws in violation of previously existing laws, and enforce the law secretly with little or no oversight (and seek to prosecute journalists who expose to the American people what its government may be doing without their knowledge, and without their representative consent). And then on top of that serve as the sole arbiter of the law as well.
Those are not the powers of an Executive under our Constitution, but of a monarch.
The Bush administration, rather Orwellian like, nevertheless claims that it is in fact operating "within the Constitution."
Given the actions that the administration has elected to undertake, this is its only real choice. Thus, the administration either does not believe in the Constitution, or believes in it, but that it should not apply to itself (or to right wing republican administrations in general). Or, it must convince itself and the several misguided far right wing Bush loyalists who continue to appear on "balanced" news shows that in turn continue to erroneouly imply that this issue has two reasonable sides, that it actually is operating within the confines of the Constitution. Yet that contention, no matter how obfuscated by specious legalese on the aforesaid "shows," is flat out illogical, and wholly inconsistent with the principles upon which America was founded.
As Glenn Greenwald, constitutional Scholar, and author of "How Would a Patriot Act" (hint, not like the Bush Administration. So Greenwald is immediately, and incorrectly of course, labeled a liberal by both the far right and the media alike), aptly notes:
The theory of the Executive unconstrained by law is completely repulsive to the founding principles of the country, as well as to the promises made by the Founders in order to extract consent from a monarchy-fearing public to the creation of executive power vested in a single individual. The notion that all of that can be just whimsically tossed aside whenever the nation experiences external threats is as contrary to the country's founding principles as it is dangerous.
Notwithstanding those threats, the Founders, in creating an Executive branch, sought first and foremost to ensure that the President could never wield unchecked powers which would exist above and separate from Congressionally enacted laws.
Yet that is exactly what the administration has done, and is what most of our current rather far right wing Congress has been relatively silent on. From this Daily Kos journal:
Consider if the executive branch decided that anybody who disagreed with the administration's policies was not allowed to vote, because this might help vote out of office those who would "correctly apply the Constitution to fully protect us and our national security."
Or if it decided that the First Amendment's right to a free and independent press meant "one controlled by the government based upon national security concerns." Or if it decided in favor of the immediate incarceration of anybody who is of Middle Eastern ethnicity. Or, less logically, anybody who has red hair for that matter. Or any one of an infinite number of increasingly absurd propositions, wherein it would be patently obvious that this was unconstitutional.
All of these actions would clearly be considered "unconstitutional." Yet the exact reason that these actions would be unconstitutional is no different than the reason that the administration's current "seemingly more reasonable" activities in circumvention of the separation of powers clauses also violates the Constitution. While the particulars are all different, the underlying constitutional principle is precisely the same:
The discretion to do "one thing" in the interest of "national security" is no more constitutionally valid, if it violates the separation of powers clauses, or some other clause of the Constitution, because it seems reasonable to some people, than the discretion to do "another thing" which seems to be patently unreasonable on its face."
The reason for the principle is simple, and it is one of the main distinguishing differences between an open, free representative democracy, and some form of Monarchy: It is not the role of the Executive, under the Constitution, to unilaterally decide what actions and laws to undertake (or break) for the good of the people, but is the role of the people, through their elected representatives - Congress - to decide.
Because the issue is "national security," the Administration has in essence argued that it has these "powers" under the Commander in Chief clause of Article II of the Constitution. But this assertion is just more rhetoric, and is extremely inconsistent with the logic of the Constitution itself, not to mention our more than 200 plus year history under it.
The Constitution conveys Congressional power with more specificity with respect to war than to the President. Additionally, and more importantly, neither the Article I Section I grant of all legislative authority to Congress, nor the Article II, Section II designation of the President as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" state or imply any alteration in the basic separation of powers enumerated therein.
On top of that, an interpretation otherwise would be illogical. It would render the most basic premise of the Constitution itself -- to establish a system of overlapping checks and balances, and a clear delineation of powers therein -- essentially null and void in all times of war or alleged war.
To make this argument that the Executive branch can unilaterally do what it believes to be right, despite pre existing law, in the interests of national security -- indicates a clear belief that the Constitution, in obvious contravention of our founding fathers intent, should have granted such unchecked powers. The "circuitous, highly rhetorical, and wrangled legal reasoning" employed is just simply a way to avoid the appearance of simply outright making the statement that the Constitution is wrong, or convincing oneself that it otherwise does not apply.
But the Constitution is not wrong, because it does not make sense, consistent with American principles of democracy, to grant the Executive essentially what would amount to the powers of a monarch, during any time of war, whether declared or undeclared by Congress -- let alone during a "time of war against terrorism" which may continue on in perpetuity. The President's charge is to defend the Constitution, and to take care that the Laws be properly executed under it.
Congress represents the people of the United States. In a democracy, the voters, through their duly elected representatives, have both the right, and the oblgibation to decide the content of laws that potentially impinge upon their own freedoms and liberty. Not the President.
As noted in a comprehensive report by the conservative Cato Institute:
Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes:
A federal government empowered to regulate core political speech--and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election; a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror; a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror-- in other words, perhaps forever; and a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life.
From the Bush Administration's numerous "trust us" statements to the effect that it is doing this "very carefully," it would appear that the administration is acting under narrowly defined applications of a doctrine that, nevertheless, grant the executive the power to essentially do whatever it wants. But aside from the apparent "good intentions" of the Executive, there is no way of knowing exactly how such actions, known or unknown, and either now, or in the future, are actually being applied, and used. This is the precise reason why the United States, and other free democracies, have never granted such unfettered power, and it is why our Constitution not only does not recognize it, but expressly prohibits it.
In other words, under our Constitution, ours is not a government built upon the inherent protections of "good intentions." Ours is a government built upon the checks and balances and clear separation and delineation of powers that the document was purposefully written to establish in the first place.
Our system of checks and balances serves as part of the fundamental structure of our democracy. The free flow of information, as with any well functioning democracy, serves as its life blood.
Consistent with an "interpretation" of the Constitution that seeks to grant the Executive whatever powers if feels it needs or wants, sometimes secretly, the Bush administration has also clamped down on the flow and availability of information.
Inconsistent with free, open democracy, this obsession with secrecy was noted long before the recent revelations about clandestine programs in violation of the Constitution's separation of powers clauses.
Yet the Bush Administration's obsession does not just extend to matter of ostentisible "national security."
The administration has sought to control what government climate change information is publicly shared -- as if the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and which is employed solely by the people, and paid for by the people, has the right to keep climate information from the people.
Even more bizarrely, according to a barely discussed Washington Post article:
The Washington office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration --
the agency responsible for protecting endangered salmon -- has instructed its representatives and scientists in the West to route media questions about salmon back to headquarters. Only three people in the entire agency, all of them political appointees, are now authorized to speak of salmon, according to a NOAA employee who has been silenced on the fish (emphasis added).
The order was issued the day after an article appeared last month in The Washington Post quoting federal technocrats making positive statements about two recent decisions -- one by a federal judge, the other by federal scientists -- that challenged previous Bush administration policy.
One of the countless "Presidential signing statements" (examined above) -- once again somewhat singularly reported on by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe -- rather arbitrarily, if not incredibly, declared that the president can tell scientific researchers "to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch."
Of course, once again, "workings of the executive branch," essentially means, "if we choose to."
In other words, tying together 1)The Constitution, and 2) information; that is, the foundation, and the lifeblood, of democracy, respectively -- Congress passed a law requiring that it have access to Scientific information (paid for by taxpayer dollars) when requested. And the Executive Branch, in violation of Article I Section 1, and in violation of Article II, Section 3's requirement that the President "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" (which includes not breaking them), in essence dictated in response; "only if we want to."
Bill Moyers, back in 2005, again before we even knew of several of the administration's clandestine and apparently unconstitutional programs, put it this way:
It has to be said: there has been nothing in our time like the Bush admiministration's obsession with secrecy.
Senator Ted Kennedy, reputed liberal from Massachusetts, in the summer of 2005 -- once again before we even had an inkling about many of the items related above, including many of the more egregious "presidential signing statments" -- summarized some of the salient, factual points of this pattern in a reasonably non partisan speech on the floor of the Senate. This was, of course, once again, a speech barely touched upon by the mainstream media.
In remarks prefacing the published speech itself, and in response to a proposed amendment to a bill last summer by Senators Levin, Reed, Rockefeller, and Kennedy to examine the administration's policy surrounding the detention and interrogation of detainees, Kennedy pointed out:
The President announced he would veto the Defense authorization bill, all $442
billion of it, if it included any provisions to restrict the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or creating a commission to investigate detainee operations....this imperial White House considers itself immune from restraints by Congress on its powers no matter what the Constitution says.
...They even stooped to claiming a request for full accounting is somehow a smear against our troops...The real disservice to our troops and to our country is done by those who leave those at the bottom of the chain of command holding the bag while officials at the top are promoted and rewarded.
Some of the vastly underpublicized highlights of this speech are well worth far further consideration than they have been given:
...Congress and the executive branch are supposed to be open and accountable, so the American people know what is being done in their name. But under the Bush administration, openness and accountability have been replaced by secrecy and evasion of responsibility.
...In May 2001, Vice President Cheney's energy task force issued its report recommending more oil and gas drilling to solve our energy problems. In light of his former employment at Halliburton, the recommendation was hardly astonishing. What was astonishing was the Vice President's refusal to identify the people and groups who helped write the policy.
In June 2001, the GAO, the nonpartisan, investigative arm of Congress, following reports that campaign contributors had special access while the public was shut out, asked, ``Who serves on the task force; what information is being presented to [it], and by whom is it being given; and [for] the costs involved in the gathering of the facts.'' Considering that the task force wrote the nation's energy policy, it was not an unreasonable request. The administration [simply] refused to comply [and to this day it is not clear that it has ever].
...Last year, a record 15.6 million documents were classified by the Bush administration at a cost of $7.2 billion, many under newly invented categories. The administration argues that all this secrecy is necessary to win the war on terrorism. But the 9/11 Commission Report said that too much government secrecy had hurt U.S. intelligence capability even before 9/11. ``Secrecy stifles oversight, accountability, and information sharing,'' says the report.
They know from their own experience. In July 2003, the 9/11 Commission's [bipartisan] cochairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, complained publicly that the administration was [once again] failing to provide requested information. In October 2003, the Commission had no choice, after repeated requests, but to subpoena records from the FAA. In November 2003, after multiple requests, the Commission again had to subpoena information, this time from the Department of Defense.
For the rest of that fall and spring, the administration repeatedly tried to deny access to presidential documents important to the Commission's investigation, until public outcry grew loud enough... Key members of the administration balked at testifying, until public opinion again swayed their stance. And then, in an ironic twist, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report itself was classified. So, is all this secrecy really about protecting us from the terrorists? Or is it just to avoid accountability?
...Even Members of Congress have had to subpoena information in order to do their work. Last October, Congressmen Christopher Shays [R-CT]and Henry Waxman [D-CA], the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, asked for an audit of the Development Fund for Iraq. The copy they received had over 400 items blacked out. They had so much difficulty obtaining an unredacted report from the Defense Department that they had to prepare a subpoena. Once they finally received an unredacted copy, guess what had been blacked out? More than $218 million in charges from Halliburton. So far, no one has been held accountable.
...There is also a pattern of withholding information from members of Congress on the administration's nominations. In 2003, Miguel Estrada was nominated for a Federal judgeship. We requested legal memoranda he wrote as Assistant Solicitor General, and we were repeatedly denied. In 2004, Alberto Gonzales was nominated to be Attorney General. We requested various memoranda he authorized on administration torture policy, and we were repeatedly denied.
Earlier this year, John Bolton was nominated to be Ambassador to the United Nations. We requested documents to determine if he acted appropriately in his previous job, and we have been repeatedly denied. Instead of coming clean and providing the information to the Congress, we have been stonewalled.... [Stonewalling is not a term reserved to democrats either. For example, this past spring right wing republican James Sensenbrenner, among others, accused the Bush Administration of also "stonewalling" regarding its clandestine NSA surveillance program.]
...In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration kept secret a report that children on antidepressants were twice as likely to be involved in suicide-related behavior. The FDA also prevented the author of the study--their expert on the issue--from presenting his findings to an FDA advisory committee.
...In November 2003, the White House told the Appropriations Committees in both Houses of Congress that it would only respond to requests for information if they were signed by the committee chairman. In a time of one-party rule, this tactic made congressional oversight almost completely impossible. In April 2004, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Jeffords, was forced to place holds on several EPA nominees after the administration refused to respond to twelve outstanding information requests, including information on air pollution.
...Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal disclosed yet another list of abuses in Iraq
reconstruction. Ten billion dollars of no-bid contracts were awarded; $89 million was doled out without contracts at all; $9 billion is unaccounted for, and may have been embezzled. An official fired for incompetence was still giving out millions of dollars in aid, weeks after his termination. A contractor was paid twice for the same job. A third of all U.S. vehicles that Halliburton was paid to manage are missing. It is a staggering display of incompetence and cover-up, so that no one will be held accountable. [Yet this past June, Senate republicans nevertheless voted against investigating waste and fraud in military spending.]
Kennedy's list, although it seems overwhelming, was by no means exhaustive. As just one further example, again insufficiently covered by most major mainstream media sources, consider the highly controversial, and costly, medicare prescription drug bill, bizarrely passed in the wee hours of the night late in late November, 2003:
The Bush Administration warned Rick Foster, its respected chief medicare actuary, to not share his actual cost estimates of the controversial program with Congress. These were cost estimates that were approximately a hundred and fifty billion dollars higher than Congress' presumed cost of the program. (And, as it turns out, even the non disclosed chief actuary's estimates were low, as a few years after the program's inception, net total cost projections have shot up by about two hundred billion dollars more.)
Tom Scully, the medicare administrator at the time, incredibly labeled the sharing of such critical information with Congress prior to the vote as; "insubordination." Scully also had an email sent to his chief actuary stating that "the consequences of insubordination were extremely severe," which Foster took to mean his job itself. Numerous sites reiterate that both the Wall Street Journal, and the NY Times (but almost no other mainstream sources), reported that Scully also stated in conversation with health staff that "'If Rick Foster gives that to you, I'll fire him so fast his head will spin."
Since when has sharing the most basic, critical information with Congress, that Congress needs to know before it votes on a bill that was projected (unbeknownst to Congress) to cost over half a trillion dollars, "insubordination"? Apparently since the Bush Administration took office.
Now, in the latest move in a pattern -- whether it's global warming, salmon, any public information that the administration doesn't want to be bothered sharing, or doesn't want shared, or any information regarding what the government is doing -- 10,000 EPA scientists have asked Congress to stop the Bush Administration from closing the agency's network of technical research libraries. Over 700 billion dollars for a medicare bill that largely benefited drug manufacturers, the administration's "base," but no 2 million dollars, about a third of a millionth less than the prescription drug bill's current projected costs, to keep information, the lifeblood of democracy, readily available even to the scientists who need it most.
According to project censored, a decidedly left leaning site, yet in this instance critically accurate: "The Bush administration's move to eliminate open government" is the number one censored story of 2006. (And 2005, And 2004, and...)
The Bush Administration response to all of this? Once again, according to one recent article; to become even more secretive.
To be fair, this latest proclaimed push towards even greater secrecy was with respect to leaks. But leaks of what?
The administration, as noted above, has already exhibited a clear pattern of belief in its authority to ignore the law, transgress the Constitution, and act as the arbiter of both; thereby leaving whistleblowers and the media as the last possible check upon the executive branch's actions as -- to the extent any potentially unlawful activity is even revealed. But the administration wants to further crackdown on such leaks.
And, the administration not only wants to crack down further on such leaks -- even leaks of arguably unconstitutional and illegal behavior -- but potentially, and just as extraordinarily, even imprison journalists as a result. (Or certainly, as the recent excoriation of the NY Times serves, to frighten them.)
As Greenwald writes:
It really is hard to imagine any measures which pose a greater and more direct danger to our freedoms than the issuance of threats like this by the administration against the press. If the President has the power to keep secret any information he wants simply by classifying it -- including information regarding illegal or otherwise improper actions he has taken -- then the President, by definition, has complete control over the flow of information which Americans receive about their Government.
As aptly noted in Unclaimed Territory, a Web blog started by Greenwald:
"A ban on speech and a shroud of secrecy in perpetuity are antithetical to democratic concepts and do not fit comfortably with the fundamental rights guaranteed American citizens ... Unending secrecy of actions taken by government officials may also serve as a cover for possible official misconduct and/or incompetence. " - Judge Richard Cardamone, explaining his decision to uphold the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act's National Security letters provision.
"The government doesn't lightly relinquish the spoils of power seized under the pretexts of apocalypse. What the government grasps, the government seeks to keep and hold, and too many of its reformulated purposes fit too neatly with the Bush administration's wish to set itself above the law. Often when watching the official spokespeople address a television audience, I'm reminded of corporate lawyers talking to a crowd of recently bankrupted shareholders, and usually I'm left with the impression that they would like to put the entire country behind a one-way mirror that allows the government to see the people but prevents the people from seeing it." - Lewis Lapham, Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy.
Describing James Madison's belief that an absolutely essential condition for the American republic be that, "no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause," Gary Wills writes, in Explaining America: "No king, no legislature, no body at all should be put in a situation where interest has no overseer. The virtuous man will not want to be put in that situation. He welcomes the scrutiny of fair men. His virtue is not private, but public; on display, and asking to be tested."
Officials "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," but the governed can not give that consent properly unless they are able to know what their governors are doing. In essence, the public is to be the ultimate judge of what actions are in the public interest, and to do this, they must know what those actions are. Our system of representational democracy is predicated on the notion that the public has knowledge of what its government is doing.
In America, under the Bush administration, largely accommodated by a relatively compliant and far right wing dominated Congress, we are starting to see exactly the opposite. And we are starting to see it under the weak excuse of "protecting us" -- the same rationale that has been used by governments throughout world history, whether intentionally or misguidedly ( it doesn't matter, as ultimately the effect is the same) to clamp down on the very basic fundamentals and principles required for vibrant democracy itself.
It may be acceptable for the Bush administration -- clearly possessive of a far different view of American principles than did our founding fathers, under our founding documents -- to try and make these arguments. But it is cowardly, for the American voter, even while we try to aggressively pursue democracy abroad, to undermine the fundamentals of a free democracy here at home by accepting these "arguments," without expressing our view through the legislative process and via the election of representatives to Congress who will see that the will of the American people is led by, and not subverted to, the will of the executive. (Even if the latter ostensibly does so with the very best of intentions -- to which, unaccompanied in government by the appropriate checks and protections necessary for a full and functioning democracy, the road to hell, and to totalitarian societies both, are routinely paved.)
As Ben Franklin stated, in a paraphrased quote that simply can not be repeated often enough, "Those that would choose security over liberty deserve, and shall receive, neither."
But, Franklin's prophetic statement aside, it's not just about a perhaps unrecognized cowardly willingness to allow psychopathic terrorists to disrupt our basic values.
These issues are about the fundamental principles upon which this country was founded. And about the most fundamental principles of democracy, and the flow of information that serves as its life blood.
And they are about flagrant violations of our Constitution, on several levels, in pursuit of the "defense of the realm;" when the President is sworn in not to defend the realm, but to defend and protect, first and foremost, the Constitution of the United States.
We, as a nation, collectively, and under the leadership of the administration and future administrations, and through our will as expressed through our elected representatives, shall provide for the defense of the realm. The administration needs to focus on providing that leadership, and not on hiding its activities from the American people, or in coming up with ever more clever tautological and rhetorical catch phrases in order to circumvent the very same Constitution that it has sworn to uphold.
America needs to be informed, despite an administration that seems to seek the opposite at every turn. The media needs to do its job, and the American people need to respond resoundingly, at the polls in November, to send the vibrant message to the current administration, that, yes, American principles are alive and well in the land of the free and the home of the brave, the greatest nation on earth -- and the greatest nation on earth in no small part because of these very same principles.