Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Quote of the Day: "It's the right thing to do."

You may recall curmudgeonly, veteran actor Wilford Brimley and his well-known line from his years as a spokesperson for Quaker Oats. He encouraged everyone to do "the right thing" every morning by eating a bowl of Quaker oatmeal for breakfast. Sound advice, no doubt.

But today's quote has nothing to do with oatmeal. And it has nothing to do with sound advice.

No, today's quote is from the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. And if he were to grow a bushy mustache similar to Wilford Brimley's, one might think he had become the newest spokesperson for Quaker.

If only it were true.

Sadly, Cheney's comment was in response to the burgeoning brouhaha over President' Bush's secret campaign to spy on Americans without the benefit of court oversight, as required by law.

According to Cheney, "It's good, solid, sound policy. It's the right thing to do."

If that isn't one of the most frightening things we could ever hear from a senior elected official in this country, I don't know what is. Maybe in the old Soviet Union such activities were considered "good, solid, sound policy", but NEVER in the United States. Silly me, I thought the United States was supposed to be free of such totalitarian tactics.

The express purpose of the FISA law that has been on the books since 1978 is to allow surveillance with approval of the designated court. And, despite the protestations from Bush and Cheney that circumventing the court was necessary in order to be "quick to detect and prevent" terrorist attacks, the FISA law allows for surveillance for up to 72 hours before requesting a warrant from the court. So, effectively, the NSA could jump onto a hot surveillance target at any time as long as they submitted a warrant request to the court within the designated 72 hour period. Is that such a problem?

And why has the NSA been submitting thousands of warrant requests under FISA since the President's executive order was signed in late 2001, especially when they apparently didn't have to? Was this to act as a smokescreen so the court - and ultimately the American people - wouldn't get suspicious if the number of FISA warrant requests suddenly dropped to nil?

So why does our government feel that the FISA law doesn't adequately address its needs to root out terrorist plots in the U.S.? Why did Bush and Cheney feel the need to go around an existing law in order to perpetrate unfettered spying in this country? Is there a more nefarious reason for approving such unfettered spying on American soil?

According to the Washington Post:

(Bush) contended that his "obligation to protect you" against attack justified a circumvention of the traditional process in a fast-moving, high-tech battle with a shadowy enemy. "This is a different era, a different war," the president said at a year-end news conference in the East Room. "People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this . . . requires quick action."

A different era, eh? What...an era without civil rights? An era without the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? An era that says it's okay for the President of the United States to violate a federal law?

And, Mr. Bush, in case you missed your history classes at Yale, your obligation is to protect our rights. We live in a democracy, or so I thought. The actions you took to go around the FISA law was a blatant affront to the long-fought-for rights of every America citizen. Oh, and it was AGAINST THE LAW!

My overriding hope at this point is that people in this country wake up and realize that an insane preoccupation with fear is threatening to topple the personal rights we have held dear for over 200 years. Why would the terrorists need to strike us again? They will have already won without firing another shot across the proverbial bow.

The events of 9/11/01 were terrible. They rocked this nation like few events ever have. But what the President and his henchmen have unleashed is far, far worse. It threatens to undermine everything this country stands for. Attacks on Americans can be overcome. Attacks on the Constitution - and our fundamental rights as citizens - cannot.

It's time to stop the madness! After all, it's the right thing to do!


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