Friday, May 12, 2006

Of Course They Are Listening

No person who cares even a little about preserving the Constitution and the rule of law can help but be outraged about the most recently disclosed NSA abuse - the collection of call logs for all Americans, except those lucky enough to use Qwest. It is outrageous on its face. As described, it may not violate the Fourth Amendment proscriptions against unreasonable searches and seizures, but it clearly violates several statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Telecommunications Act.

But the key phrase is "as described." They say they are only analyzing the data for patterns. They are not recording calls or collecting names and addresses. BALONEY. Who do they think they are fooling? There would be no point to "looking at patterns" unless you did something once the patterns are detected.

Before this is over, if we ever get to the bottom, we will find out that this is only the first step in a process of listening in on phone calls. Not just for the previously disclosed NSA wiretaps of foreign to domestic calls, but also purely domestic calls. That means you and me, not just the guy behind the tree.

Given this administration's track recording in detaining innocent people, they have been eavesdropping on thousands of innocent Americans for every one they identify who is even remotely connected to terrorism. We should not forget that of the approximately five thousand people arrested after 9/11 not one was prosecuted for anything related to terrorism. Of the five hundred plus cycled through Gitmo, the worst of the worst according to our esteemed and knowledgeable Vice President, hundreds have been release, only a few have actually been found by the Gitmo court to be enemy combatants and none have been tried for terrorism.

This administration has been conducting warrantless surveillance since 9/11 with precious little to show for it. Remember that Richard Reed was apprehended by the passengers on his flight rather than the NSA or the FBI. Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested before 9/11. The few other so called "terrorism" cases have involved a doctor wrongly accused of involvement in the Madrid bombing, people from Lebanon or Palestine who have raised funds for Hamas, which has never declared itself our enemy and is now the elected government of Palestine, and a few pathetic morons who may have gone to an al Qaeda training camp but who were never shown to have been planning anything in this country.

We are turning the Constitution and laws of our nation inside out for what. Because there are some radical Islamists in the middle east who were outraged by our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia after the First Gulf War and acted on that anger by committing a heinous crime. We started to wipe them out in Afghanistan but let them off the hook so that we could invade Iraq. This only gave them a new recruiting tool.

These Islamists have declared themselves our enemy. But their enmity is not grounded in abstract principles. It is based on their opposition to our policies and actions in the Middle East. Instead of trying to address some of the underlying problems, we only make them worse.

The islamists have clearly demonstrated a capacity to cause us harm. But as horrific as 9/11 was for the victims, families and our nation as a whole it was not a threat to our nation's survival or our way of life. Only we can do that. And we do it by shredding the Constitution in the name of security.

This is not the threat of nuclear annihilation we faced in forty five years of the cold war. Why do we behave as if it is? We know why the Administration tries to convince us that it is WWIII. Fear is a potent governing tool. They have used it very successfully. But now it is time for the American people to say "enough."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two Unhearalded Supreme Court Decisions Give Us Hope That The Constitution is still Alive

One can't make too much out of two decisions, but the Supreme Court recently breathed some life into the Constitution.

In Holmes v. South Carolina the Court unanimously held that the defendant has the right to introduce evidence that points to the guilt of another person and that casts doubt on the validity of the forensic evidence the State had introduced against him. Amazing! You read it right, and to think the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that this evidence was inadmissable. And what's more amazing is that this was a unanimous opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Jones v. Flowers the Court held that the State can't sell someone's property for back taxes unless reasonable steps are taken to notify the person. In this case, the registered letters notifying him of the pending sale and of the actual sale were retuned as undeliverable and no followup efforts were made to notify the homeowner. The homeowner didn't get the letters or know the taxes were due because he had stopped living in the house after his divorce. The taxes had been payed by his mortgage company, but after the mortgage was paid off the taxes went unpaid. In a 5-3 decision the Court said that when the State knows that a property owner has not received notice of a pending sale it can't just proceed with the sale. It has to expend some additional effort to locate and notify the homeowner.

Less we get too excited, it's worth noting that Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy dissented. Alito did not participate.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It Wasn't a Fighter Plane

I know this is a nit, but it's aggravating.

We just commemorated the third anniversary of the Mission Accomplished fiasco. It seems that every article on the subject misstates one little detail. The media accepts the White House spinmeister assertion that Bush was in a Fighter plane. They did this to magnify his machismo. But just like everything else that happened that day, this too was phony.

Bush did NOT land in a Fighter Plane. The plane he rode in was an S-3B Viking.

The first clue that it is not a fighter is the designation "S." If it were a fighter it would be designated with an "F", such F-14 , or "F/A" for fighter/attack, such as the F/A-18.

So what kind of plane is the Viking? It's principle role is in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. It is also can operate as a refueling plane for strike aircraft. It is great at what it does but would be toast if it was used in air to air combat as a fighter.