Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Stop The New FISA"

Our Congress has voted, and the President has signed into law, the "New and Improved" FISA, which will allow the government to spy on us with reckless abandon (I had a post on this, "Thanks Obama For Voting For FISA" yesterday). As soon as the President signed the bill into law, the ACLU filed a suit against the government. One of the people who has joined in support of this lawsuit is journalist Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his work on global terrorism. Mr. Hedges had an outstanding "Opinion" piece in the LA Times, Stop the new FISA: Allowing the new surveillance law to stand would seriously cripple our free press..

Mr. Hedges emphasizes a critical component I mentioned in a previous piece, but from the perspective of a world-class journalist. He writes:
If the sweeping surveillance law signed by President Bush on Thursday -- giving the U.S. government nearly unchecked authority to eavesdrop on the phone calls and e-mails of innocent Americans -- is allowed to stand, we will have eroded one of the most important bulwarks to a free press and an open society.

In order for a free press to operate effectively, it has to be able to assure its sources that their identities will be protected. Otherwise, why would they risk their livelihoods, their homes, their families, possibly their very lives, to share information? And no, I am not over-stating the case here. Mr. Hedges, for 20 years, worked for the New York Times as a foreign correspondent, doing much of his work in the Middle East, and knows exactly the potential ramifications of which he writes. One important aspect that I had not even considered was this:
The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country. There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas. Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East. It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours. It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events. It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.

(Emphasis Mine) I admit - it had not even occurred to me that the US government might be concerned about information about ITS actions, not just the actions of others. That adds a whole other layer to this unconstitutional law - that the US Government can use it to make sure we do not find out what the government is doing in our name.

With the passage of this new law, we are facing a dangerously slippery slope. What other rights will be taken from us? When they are taken, what is our recourse? Mr. Hedges writes:
I have joined an ACLU lawsuit challenging the new law along with other journalists, human rights organizations and defense attorneys who also rely on confidentiality to do their work. I have joined not only because this law takes aim at my work but because I believe it signals a serious erosion of safeguards that make possible our democratic state. Laws and their just application are the only protection we have as citizens. Once the law is changed to permit the impermissible, we have no recourse with which to fight back.

Exactly. We will have no recourse for actions taken against us by our own government if our rights have been systematically stripped from us.

Now, I am just sitting here in the comfort of my own home, and when I write, I refer to articles written by people like Mr. Hedges, a journalist who has gone to where the stories are. In fact, I rely upon these journalists for accurate information, with verified sources. Again, I had not considered some of the more insidious ways in which this new law affects ALL of us:
The reach of such surveillance has already hampered my work. I was once told about a showdown between a U.S. warship and the Iranian navy that had the potential to escalate into a military conflict. I contacted someone who was on the ship at the time of the alleged incident and who reportedly had photos. His first question was whether my phone and e-mails were being monitored.

What could I say? How could I know? I offered to travel to see him but, frightened of retribution, he refused. I do not know if the man's story is true. I only know that the fear of surveillance made it impossible for me to determine its veracity. Under this law, all those who hold information that could embarrass and expose the lies of those in power will have similar fears. Confidentiality, and the understanding that as a reporter I will honor this confidentiality, permits a free press to function. Take it away and a free press withers and dies.

And that's just it - if reporters cannot do their jobs, if they cannot dig for the information we need to have in order to make well informed decisions, in order to maintain checks and balances with our government, in order to protect ourselves, in order to determine who is best to represent us, in order to expose human rights violations, in order to expose wrong doing by our government or another - we need a free press, a press that can assure its sources that their confidentiality is protected. And now, we can no longer do that.

In the recent post I wrote on FISA, I included a juxtaposition by Andrew Sullivan on why he supports the new law on FISA, yet objects to torture. I, personally, thought it was a false distinction. Chris Hedges agrees with me:
I know the cost of terrorism and the consequences of war. I have investigated Al Qaeda's operation in Europe and have covered numerous conflicts. The monitoring of suspected terrorists, with proper oversight, is a crucial part of our national security. But this law is not about keeping us safe, which can -- and should -- be done in a constitutional manner and with judicial oversight. It is about using terrorism as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.

Exactly. It highlights the attempts by people like Andrew Sullivan (who was just shilling for Obama to give him an excuse for throwing any semblance of integrity, or respect for the Bill of Rights, aside) to justify this erosion of our rights as a necessary evil for National Security as the baseless argument it is. Chris Hedges knows better. He's been in the trenches, and he knows first hand the negative effects of silencing informants. He knows that when our right to privacy is taken away, when our phone calls and emails can be monitored without our knowledge, that we will no longer get the full story, that people will not take the risks necessary to expose our government, or other governments, when they engage in illegal activities. Mr. Hedges knows that eroding our civil liberties by monitoring our speech will mean less speech, less oversight, less accountability, and more repression. And that is simply unacceptable, simply UNCONSTITUTIONAL, for the United States of America.


Amarissa said...

Hi! thanks for stopping at my site! The post you read is from NY Post - By: Jonah Goldberg. The pressumptive does have a very big ego, I agree with you! Let's hope my "option 3" (miracle) comes through and Hillary becomes our next president!
Thanks again!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

LOL - I am all for miracles, I tell ya. Maybe the additional time the DNC built in so Obama could pretend he was MLK will backfire on them!! THe longer it takes, the more people are seeing who he really is!

Mary Ellen said...

I can't tell you how frustrated I am that the so-called Progressives of this party are rolling over and sticking with Obama. I just don't get it! They are SCREAMED about Hillary's vote on Iraq, but they just shrug their shoulders when Obama votes to shred our Constitution! If the Dems had any guts, they could have ended this war by not funding it, but once this FISA bill is passed, you can't just fix it that easily. Once the Prez has the power, good luck trying to get it back.

It's frustrating, I don't know why we even vote anymore.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

I know exactly what you mean. Can you just IMAGINE what they would be saying abt Hillary if SHE was the presumptive nominee and voted for FISA?? Oh, they would be demanding that the SDs change their affiliation RIGHT NOW!! You know they would! But Obama can twist and turn any which way, and they find some way to excuse him!

ANd really, he has NEVER been that much of a progressive. I meant to ask my brother how he could support someone who, not only tainted Clinton's presidency, but wants to return to the foreign policies of DONALD RUMSFELD, the man we all loved to hate! Or someone who voted for the Bush/Cheney energy bill?? HOw can they claim to be progressives and SUPPORT this man, no, CHOOSE him out of all of the options available to them at the beginning of this whole endeavor?? It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I DO consider myself Progressive - I have always been EXTREMELY liberal, fighting for social justice and the environment, and I just do not get it.

It does seem that our votes don't matter any more. Makes me wonder if they ever really did...

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

I meant to say, too, that I think OBama is SO certain he Will be KING that he wants every dictatorial tool at his disposal. When people say things like, "I will always keep the best interest of the people at heart when I supersede their civil liberties - TRUST me!" you know it's trouble. Bush did the same thing when he got the Congress to violate our Constitution and enable him to pre-emptively start wars.

So, I am not at ALL surprised that King of the Universe Obama wants to be able to spy on the peple with reckless abandon. Not at all...

carissa said...

Once the Prez has the power, good luck trying to get it back.

Even worse, once WE give up our rights, good luck trying to get them back. Honestly, our country may be called the United States of America, and on the outside it may still look the same, but inside it has been hollowed out by the power grabs of its leaders and the complacence of its citizenry.


Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Amen, Carissa. That is exactly right - WE have given up our rights. And we began to do that in 2000 when we allowed the Supreme Court to supercede the will of the people. Instead of shrugging our collective shoulders and allowing George Bush to take over the White House, we should have taken to the streets and fought against that bloodless coup, because that is EXACTLY what it was. The NY Times actually DID the recount, and found GORE to be the winner, yet our Fourth Estate chose to mention that as a footnote. It SHOULD have been shouted from the rooftops, from every news show, from every newspaper. Just because Bush had already begun his preparations we let it go?!?! What the hell is the matter with us??

And now we are here. Embroiled in two wars, losing right after right after right, watching the Constitution get shredded before our very eyes. And YET, people still talk at OBAMA being the Dem. nominee. His voting for FISA should have knocked him off the ballot immediately.

Along those lines, it boggles my mind that his followers are SO surprised by this. I guess I cannot believe how BLIND they truly are. I would think after Bush, people would be MORE cynical and critical (as in looking at our politicians with a critical eye), not LESS!!! How did THAT happen?!?

I honestly think that if Hillary is not our nominee, our country will be even further removed from what it was just 10 short years ago. It has already moved from being a democracy. Who knows what other rights we will surrender by then? (Not to sound alarmist or anything - but the past 7 yrs bear this fear out..)