by Mentarch | 9/01/2008 02:07:00 AM
(Updated below)

Now, that was quite expected:
FISA court rejects ACLU request for transparency

A court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act denied an ACLU motion Thursday that would have increased public scrutiny of how the Bush administration's new spying law is reviewed, according to a statement released Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the motion 10 hours after President Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) into law July 10, requesting that any further proceedings that might question the law's constitutionality be revealed to the public, according to an ACLU press release.

The organization also asked to participate in the hearings and submit briefs to court, which was denied as well.
Of course, like any typical authoritarian power-abusing incompetents, the Bush administration fought to win such travesty of jurisprudence:




President Bush's administration urged the FISA court to reject the group's request in late July.

The Justice Department issued a plea to the court arguing that no third party has any right to participate in the court proceedings and that it is "precluded from doing so here by statute, court rule, and mandated security measures."
But here's the kicker (emphasis added):
The court withheld decisions from the civil liberties group regarding the NSA surveillance program on the grounds that no classified information could be released to them, and without that information, the group would not be able to "present any meaningful argument on the questions posed."
Isn't this just rich? In one single sweep, this decision not only admits that secrecy overules disclosure against the interests of justice, but also uses that same primacy of secrecy in order to pre-emptively deny any recourse against domestic spying by any U.S. police/security agency.

In short: shut up and learn to live with it.

That's justice enough for you folks?

This outcome is exactly what was warned would happen (just one example here among so many).

And to add insult to injury (emphasis added):
A recent post on the blog Reason: Free Minds and Free Markets details how the FISA act creates "fertile ground" for those looking for a convenient excuse for surveillance.
Gee - ya think? (emphasis added)
It is a given, demonstrated fact that governmental security agencies are not seekers of truth, but seekers of guilt. Whenever they are given any powers to spy on their own citizens, they will do so - for reasons frivolous, paranoid or (apparently very rarely as shown so far) actually justified.

Anything and nothing can - and will - be held against you.

Because in the mindset of governmental security agencies, everyone is suspect, everyone is guilty. Period.
Police and security agencies will inevitably abuse any and all domestic spying powers they are given for no other reason than they are driven by the following paranoid mode of thinking: because something/anything deemed potentially disruptive (even remotely or not at all) to the safety and security of citizens (or to the integrity of the nation's critical infrastructure) may or may not happen, spying on lawful citizens must be done.

In other words:
This means that anything can and will be viewed by our security agencies within the narrow, paranoid prism of terrorism and threats to security.

Anything.

From blogging to writing a dissenting letter to a newspaper editor to a journalist trying to do investigative work to gathering at a coffee shop to rant about politics to reading "suspicious" stuff (books, blogs) to organizing/participating in activist actions (letter/phone/email campaigns, peaceful protests), etc., etc., etc.

Because any such activities may or may not - immediately or at some point in time or never at all - lead to acts which may or may not "threaten the safety and security of citizens or the integrity of the country's critical infrastructure".

So just in case and to be safe, let's monitor and survey and spy away on the citizenry.

And that is the ever convenient rationale of authoritarian security states for spying on their citizens.

I repeat: no one is safe.
Here's a (small) sample of what has happened/has been revealed to this effect since I wrote those words:
Bush White House has its own interrogation room;

Officials against torture memo feared wiretaps, physical danger;

Homeland Insecurity in the US Dividing Refugee Families;

FBI apologizes for improperly accessing reporters' phone records;

Citizens' U.S. Border Crossings Tracked (h/t);

Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border - No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies;

U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules (h/t);

I was Spied on by the Maryland Police (via here);

Research assistant of Pulitzer-Prize winner Ron Suskind 'detained by federal agents' and 'interrogated';

FBI wants power to investigate citizens "without any basis for suspicion" (h/t);

Woman kicked from federal building over lesbian shirt;

ABC Reporter Arrested in Denver Taking Pictures of Senators, Big Donors;

Dozens Detained Ahead of Republican National Convention;

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis;

More Protesters Arrested in the Twin Cities;

Gitmo ‘Justice’ for US Citizens? (via here)

Domestic Spying In Canada: Here We Are.
The "eternal value of privacy" is now quite devalued indeed (emphasis added):
The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

(...)

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

(...)

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on? Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant-message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.
Indeed, too many people seem too self-absorbed, or too fearful of them "terrorists", or actually approve, or remain simply in denial, to be outraged or even give a damn about the slow destruction of our democratic principles, as well as our values of civil rights, human rights, human dignity and human respect.

Security - Hallowed Be Thy Name.

As I wrote previously:
We have been losing ourselves since the day after 9/11.

Looks like we have crossed the threshold of ever being able to find ourselves again.

So we keep on riding fast and hard onto that road to perdition ... well beyond redemption.
How I wish I'd be proven wrong.

I would've even welcome being laughed at for being so far "off the grid" on this - and gladly at that.

But alas ...


Update: Over at NION, diarist Truong Son Traveler provided two commentaries which merit some deserved highlight. First, a reminder of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine", along with a "bottom line" meaning of what has been happening (emphasis added):
In one of his most influential essays, (Milton) Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism's core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as the shock doctrine. He observed that "only a crisis--actual or perceived--produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function; to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."

Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the cruisi-racked society slipped back into the "tyranny of the status quo."...
The Chicago School followers were ready and waiting and when their Pearl Harbor arrived. It has served their purposes well and now some of us are beginning to see and feel the consequences.

Others may never see. Klein writes that "Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the ...shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that 'facilitate the adjustment'".

This has given us The Patriot Act, acceptance of torture, signing statements, The Military Commissions Act, The Bush Doctrine of preventive war, Dick Cheney's one percent doctrine, the unitary executive, FISA with retroactive immunity for the Telecoms, etc, etc. all with little more than a few whimpers in opposition.
And second, a reminder of what Chris Floyd wrote last year (emphasis added):
Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed -- and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn't that anymore. It's gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.

The Republic you wanted -- and at one time might have had the power to take back -- is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it's not there. It was kidnapped in December 2000, raped by the primed and ready exploiters of 9/11, whored by the war pimps of the 2003 aggression, gut-knifed by the corrupters of the 2004 vote, and raped again by its "rescuers" after the 2006 election. Beaten, abused, diseased and abandoned, it finally died. We are living in its grave.
Both comments in turn reminded me of what I also wrote last year on the day of the 6th anniversary of 9/11:
So - what exactly happened on the day after the fateful and tragic morning of 9/11?

We lost and the terrorists won.

Right there and then.

Whatever else has happened in the six years which followed to this day merely constitutes the gradual and methodical enactment of the terms of our surrender.

No more, no less.
The cynic in me tugs hard toward complete agreement (see here, here or here, as examples) with Chris Floyd's - and Arthur Silber's - conclusion that "it's all over and done with". Case in point:
We The People - this is what it has, and always has been, about. In a democracy, it is the electorate who holds all the keys and guard all the doors - provided that the citizens actually live up to their responsibility.

(...) we are the ones who have broken the "contract between citizens and their government" because, in essence, we thought somehow that our vigilance and implication were optional.

(...) We gave the keys away to the foxes and let them guard the hen house without supervision, because we would not be bothered anymore with our "burdensome" responsibilities as citizens. Hence, we are only reaping what we have sown.
However, what remains of the naive in me keeps on pushing me at reminding all of us of the following:
We are living in a dangerous period of the history of our democraties. You can blame the politicians, the media, the corporations, the lobbying groups, or anyone else, yet the painful and ever so tragic truth remains this: we have only ourselves to blame.

Point of fact to this: it is we (at least, those of us who actually bother to get off the tv couch and go out to vote) who elect demagogues that "make us feel good, make us feel secure, make us feel at ease" while rejecting with disdain and mistrust the genuine candidates that are actually knowledgeable and better qualified as leaders.

So, let it be known ad nauseam: living in a democracy is a right and a responsibility.

And yes, this responsibility requires effort. But which is better: having your back bent by the effort required to keep on living in a democratic society, or letting leave for complacency and find yourself one day with a back bent under a totalitarian regime (however benevolent it may be)?
Or this:
It is high time to remember that it is indeed we who guard all the doors and hold all the keys of our democratic values and institutions.

It is, in the end, up to us to act as the Guardians and Caretakers of our constitutions, our civil rights and our civil liberties.

It has always been up to us.
What remains to be established is whether it is effectively already too late, and if that is not the case, whether we will wake up to our responsibilities as citizens living in (dying) democracies.

In other words: we must draw the line once and for all - either we stand up for our civil rights and therefore win against tyranny-in-the-making, or cowardly stand down in the name of Security and lose everything.


(Cross-posted from APOV)


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