Jonathan Swift, the great Irish political writer and satirist, is not alone in observing that great nations rarely fall from outside threats or attack. More often they decline and fall from internal corruption. The Congress is deaf to this warning it appears, for last week they passed legislation that is advertised as reforming FISA.
The Denver Post, fast becoming a slavering lap dog of a newspaper, is also deaf to Swift’s warning since on its editorial page it wrote approvingly, if somewhat haltingly, of the legislation. FISA is the law that allows the government to snoop on us with blanket impunity. Among the so called reforms is immunization for giant telecom corporations from prosecution for criminal behavior for unlawfully spying on us, even before 9/11. The Congress and the Post’s editorial writer defended immunization of these corporate wrong doers as a reasonable tradeoff for other changes in FISA. Piffle!
FISA reform, or even better, repeal, does not depend on immunizing giant corporations from prosecution for willfully trammeling our rights to privacy under the 4th Amendment. The excuse, that the Bush crowd came to the CEO’s of corporations such as Verizen and AT&T and asked, is just that, an excuse. All of these corporations have fleets of lawyers, a few of whom must be marginally familiar with the protections guaranteed us under our Constitution. Moreover, there were some companies, such as Qwest, that said no to the Bush crowd. One might even wonder if that denial didn’t factor into the Nacchio prosecution.
But what is worst about the legislation’s immunization provision is that it almost guarantees that we will never be able to find out who did what for whom, what were the enticements, who was the kingpin in all this lawbreaking?
Transparency is the bulwark of our system of government. The Bush administration, endlessly invoking the “terror” rubric, has done much to destroy government transparency. The Congress has been richly complicit and continues to be as this legislation shows. For those planning to vote for incumbents who are running as agents of change in Washington, this vote complicates things since Dianne DeGette was the only member of the Colorado delegation, Republican or Democrat, to vote against this legislation. Perhaps not surprisingly, the previous day she was also the only member of the delegation to vote against another blank check for the continued prosecution of Bush’s War, a check that was almost $60 billion more than Bush had originally asked for in supplemental war spending.
Barack Obama, in a week of broken promises, has endorsed the FISA bill, to the bitter consternation of liberals and right-to-privacy, Fourth Amendment advocates. Earlier, when he was seeking the nomination, he had promised to protect the public’s rights of privacy.
Tom Waits, the American poet and troubdour, borrowing from Erasmus, has rasped that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Oh, for a one-eyed man.
PHILLIP DOE lives in Colorado. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org