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There's an old expression in law: "Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done."  What this means is that there cannot be such a thing as a bribed judge or juror, because even if a proper verdict is returned, the taint prevents it from being seen as justice.

Reggie B. Walton, chief "judge" (for lack of a better term) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, apparently has never heard this expression.  Per the Washington Post this functionary is reported to be whining about the public perception of his little Star Chamber:

“The perception that the court is a rubber stamp is absolutely false,” Walton said. “There is a rigorous review process of applications submitted by the executive branch, spearheaded initially by five judicial branch lawyers who are national security experts and then by the judges, to ensure that the court’s authorizations comport with what the applicable statutes authorize.”
Bit by bit we shifted in to this.  We have a "court" that is no court at all -- it never disapproves anything the government sends to it.  Its proceedings and legal interpretations are entirely secret.  A better tool for a dictatorship could never be devised.  

William O. Douglas once said that "as nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression."  Right now in the name of the war on terror, the government knows what we buy, what we write, what we say, and where we are 24/7/365.  And knowledge is power.  

Right now it is not considered suitable for the government to acknowledge this power, because no one ever voted for this.  Instead it is foisted on us not only by such unimaginative persons as "Judge" Walton, but not only him and his numerous kind, highly paid and oh so lawful, but also by ourselves.

We satisfy ourselves with the illusion of freedom, content with the Potemkin village of freedom: casual Fridays, relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws, and damn, didn't we show those Republicans in the last election!  But there are others among us, and this includes quite a few Democrats, who would play the part of William Roper in A Man for All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
Right now, much like a clear cut, they are felling the laws.  Oh, it is said that this is being done pursuant to the law -- but how can we know, for it is all in secret.


What is the future of government electronic surveillance?

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