Monday, March 3, 2008

Liberals and the Surveillance State

Quick, go read Glenn Greenwald's excellent dissection of the pallid liberal apologia on FISA, The "liberal" position on the Surveillance State, over at Greenwald demonstrates that, as the Democratic Congress gets ready to capitulate to Bush on amnesty for the telecoms for selling our privacy for cozy governmental relations, it is only the latest in a long slide of giveaways by liberals regarding our privacy.
The FISA is a classically Kafka-esque court that operates in total secrecy. Only the Government, and nobody else, is permitted to attend, participate, and make arguments. Only the Government is permitted to access or know about the decisions issued by that court. Rather than the judges being assigned randomly and therefore fairly, they are hand-picked by the Chief Justice (who has been a GOP-appointee since FISA was enacted) and are uniformly the types of judges who evince great deference to the Government. As a result, the FISA court has been notorious for decades for mindlessly rubber-stamping every single Government request to eavesdrop on whomever they want. Just look at this chart (h/t Arthur Silber) for the full, absurd picture.

Yet now, embracing this secret, one-sided, slavishly pro-government court defines the outermost liberal or "pro-civil-liberty" view permitted in our public discourse. And indeed, as reports of imminent (and entirely predictable) House Democratic capitulation on the FISA bill emerge, the FISA court is now actually deemed by the establishment to be too far to the Left -- too much of a restraint on our increasingly omnipotent surveillance state. Anyone who believes that we should at the very least have those extremely minimal -- really just symbolic -- limitations on our Government's ability to spy on us in secret is now a far Leftist....

When FISA was first unveiled at the height of the Cold War, it was publicly supported by what a May 23, 1977, pro-FISA Washington Post Editorial described as "leaders of the intelligence community and Congress"....

But opposition to FISA -- in many civil libertarian and even conservative circles -- was fierce, not on the ground that it imposed too many restrictions on Government eavesdropping but on the opposite ground: that FISA gave legal sanction to sweeping, excessive, unchecked government power to spy on Americans....

The political establishment today knows only one viewpoint: literally no limits are tolerable on the power of the loving, protective Surveillance State.
Need I say... go read the whole article!

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