Last I checked the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has not been amended itself as the Eighteenth Amendment was. So why this?
The Senate is closer to renewing controversial measures that critics say would allow the emails and phone calls of U.S. citizens to be monitored without a warrant. The Select Committee on Intelligence has voted to extend controversial amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were set to expire at the end of this year.Now for those who claim that FISA is not a violation of the Constitution let's ask the ACLU:
Government surveillance that sweeps up the communications of U.S. citizens and residents should be conducted in a manner that comports with the Constitution, and in particular with the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “general warrants” and unreasonable searches. The FISA Amendments Act allows the government to engage in mass acquisition of U.S. citizens’ and residents’ international communications with virtually no restrictions.Glenn Greenwald gives us further history and background in his Thursday blog on Salon:
(1) federal courts ultimately accepted the arguments of the Bush and Obama DOJs that the legality of Bush’s domestic spying program should not be judicially reviewed; and (2) the Democratic-led Congress, in 2008, enacted the Bush-designed FISA Amendments Act, which not only retroactively immunized the nation’s telecom giants for their illegal participation in that spying program and thus terminated pending lawsuits, but worse, also legalized the vast bulk of the Bush spying program by vesting vast new powers in the U.S. Government to eavesdrop without warrants (in his memoir, President Bush gleefully recounted that the 2008 eavesdropping bill supported by the Democrats gave him more than he ever expected).Now during 2008, Congress initiated a four year sunset provision regarding FISA, which basically means that certain laws cease to exist after a fixed period of time unless the legislature reenacts its statutory charter.
However, as Glenn Greenwald goes on to note:
That sunset provision is set to expire and — surprise, surprise — the Obama administration, just like it did for the Patriot Act, is demanding its full-scale renewal without a single change or reform:Not even former Presidents are immune from warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of the communications of Americans. In fact President Bill Clinton’s private emails were collected under FISA
A key Senate panel voted Tuesday to extend a contested 2008 provision of foreign intelligence surveillance law that is set to expire at year’s end.
The vote is the first step toward what the Obama administration hopes will be a speedy renewal of an expanded authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the U.S. e-mails and phone calls of overseas targets in an effort to prevent international terrorist attacks on the country.
Now if Bill Clinton is not immune, why should we reasonably expect that an average American will be? We shouldn’t because to do so defies common sense.
What’s even more horrifying is that politicians in high office do not know to what extent our communications have been monitored.
It’s not just the public that’s in the dark about the use of the FAA mind you. Sen. Ron Wyden has been clamoring for more information—and, to the extent possible, public deliberation—for months now. Yet the Director of National Intelligence has told Wyden that “it is not possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority of the FAA.How then can our elected representatives prevent the abuse and misuse of power if they are ignorant about how power is abused and misused? They cannot.
But instead of letting the court decide FISA's Constitutional validity our government doesn’t even bother with the question. Again from CATO:
Meanwhile, there are serious questions about whether the FAA is even constitutional. But the government doesn’t want any court to even consider those questions: It has petitioned the Supreme Court to shoot down a challenge to the law before it even begins, in a case to be heard in the coming term.And from the Wired:
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether to halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.Now the Obama administration cannot decide what is Constitutional and what isn't. Only the Judicial system can do that. That is why we have a separation of powers and did not make the President our judge, jury and executioner. Hence, Obama should not trespass in that branch of government. Quoting Glenn Greenwald further:
The announcement is a win for the Obama administration, which like its predecessor, argues that government wiretapping programs and laws can’t be challenged in court.
This week, the Supreme Court announced it was accepting this case for review, and many legal experts believe they would not have agreed to review the ACLU ruling unless they intended to overturn it. So as the Obama administration pressures Congress to renew this eavesdropping law without a single reform, they simultaneously act to block courts even from ruling whether the law is constitutional. And in the process, they threaten to obliterate one of the very few judicial precedents that results in government leaders being subjected to minimal accountability under the law for their secret behavior.As I said before in one of my previous comments, a healthy democracy requires privacy and feeling that one can be alone with one’s own thoughts. The surveillance state makes us vulnerable and powerless to really dissent and compels us to conform out of coercion.
The great philosopher Foucault said it best:
Constant surveillance, Foucault maintained, can be a kind of torture—a revelation implemented by 19th century prison architects. It’s also ideal for authoritarian government in that it’s a highly efficient form of power: authority doesn’t need to coerce individuals physically to behave a certain way; surveillance inserts authority’s eye inside the individual, and he monitors himself. Surveillance enables power to be anonymous, Foucault says, which is especially devastating. You don’t know exactly why you are being watched, or exactly what’s expected of you, and ultimately cultivates a kind of inbred paranoia where you are unsure and timid about everything you do.I do not wish to live my life under constant surveillance. I want to live with a free-mind.
Further, Foucault suggests, surveillance that is widely established in society softens the ground for overt political oppression, because it makes us less resistant to breaches of our rights.
For more information and details on FISA renewal please watch this Democracy Now segment: