IS THE DEFENSE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTIES REALLY A PARTISAN QUESTION, OR IS IT THE MEANING OF THE OATH SWORN BY ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS?
18 September 2007
American conservatives, from ideologues to the everyman on the street, have long touted the notion that government powers should not be expanded, that the US Constitution contemplates a small, limited role for government in American life, and that what is needed to address society's ills is not the enactment of new laws, but enforcement of the "laws already on the books". But the 21st century has seen a radical departure from that philosophy among conservative politicians in Washington, DC. [Full Story]
JUDGE RULES PART OF PATRIOT ACT UNCONSTITUTIONAL
A National Security Letter (NSL) is a secret document sent by federal investigators to an entity which is then required to pass along otherwise private information, much of which might not fit within judicial review under the protections of the Fourth Amendment. They are permitted only in cases allegedly linked to investigations of specific terror plots. Now, a federal judge has said the section of the USA PATRIOT Act that allows federal investigators to conscript individual citizens or organizations as domestic spies, in total secrecy under penalty of prosecution, violates First Amendment protections and is an assault on the Constitutional role of the judiciary. [Full Story]
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES RESIGNS
US attorney general Alberto Gonzales has resigned his office, according to sources in the administration. Amid accusations of political abuses and incompetence, prominent members of Congress from both parties had been calling for Gonzales to step down, for several months. A probe into his role in the firing of 8 US attorneys in December of last year, allegedly for political reasons, has called into question his leadership at the Department of Justice. [Full Story]
DEMOCRAT-CONTROLLED SENATE GIVES PRES. BUSH POWER TO EAVESDROP WITHOUT WARRANTS
The Democrat-controlled US Senate yesterday passed a bill that would authorize the president to not only continue, but to expand his use of extrajudicial wiretapping, a practice ruled unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court. Analysts suggest that Democrats caved to White House rhetoric, for fear of being considered 'soft on terror'. Civil libertarians say the vote is a dark day for US Constitutional law. [Full Story]
FBI DIRECTOR TESTIMONY SUGGESTS GONZALES MISLED CONGRESS ABOUT OPPOSITION TO WIRETAPS
FBI director Robert Mueller, the top law-enforcement agent within the Justice Department, testified before that House Judiciary Committee that there was in fact a heated confrontation between senior Justice Department officials and White House aides in 2004, regarding President Bush's warrantless NSA wiretapping program. Two days earlier, AG Gonzales had told the Senate there had never been any disagreements within the administration regarding the legality of the program. Mueller testified that the crisis was so severe, he had to intervene to prevent a wave of resignations at Justice. [Full Story]
FMR ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS BUSH INTERVENED TO HALT MASS RESIGNATIONS OVER NSA PROGRAM
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Comey, former deputy attorney general, who acted as AG during Ashcroft illness in early 2004, said Pres. Bush intervened to halt a raft of resignations in protest over the policy clash. Comey reportedly had to rush to AG Ashcroft's hospital bedside to prevent White House officials from gaining authorization, despite official opposition from Justice Dept. lawyers and then acting AG Comey. [Full Story]
WARRANTLESS NSA WIRETAPS RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
A federal judge in Detroit ruled early yesterday that Pres. Bush's NSA surveillance program, which uses wiretaps implemented with no judicial oversight, is unconstitutional. The ruling strongly enforced the point that there are "no powers not created by the Constitution" rejecting the AG's claim that the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (in Afghanistan) as a legal platform for sweeping new domestic powers. [Full Story]
THE NET WIDENS: WHAT ELSE ARE THEY MONITORING?
Historian and expert NSA researcher Matthew Aid has told Salon.com that he believes it will be revealed in time that Internet service providers and cellphone companies also cooperated with the NSA spying and data mining programs. He offered no proof, but cited past examples of NSA overreaching and the key fact that the article exposing the collaboration of 3 major telecoms failed to explore the complicity or innocence of cable, cellular and Internet companies. [Full Story]
NSA BUILDING DATABASE OF ALL PHONE CALLS MADE IN U.S.
The National Security Agency, which has been the center of a major legal controversy over its eavesdropping on law-abiding American citizens without judicial approval, has now been revealed to be collecting phone records of tens of millions of people. The effort is reportedly part of a strategy to amass a record of all phone traffic in the US, no matter its purpose. [Full Story]
GOV'T DOCUMENTS SHOW SURVEILLANCE OF FAITH-BASED PEACE GROUP
New information acquired by the ACLU by way of the Freedom of Information Act, shows the FBI and the Joint Terrorist Task Force have been monitoring, infiltrating and spying on innocent, law-abiding individuals and both non-religious and faith-based activist groups whose activities are entirely peaceful and are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. [Full Story]
An insistence on near absolute secrecy threatens to undermine two vital elements of the security of the United States: 1) the democratic process itself, without which there can be no system to secure; 2) the intellectual dissent which is necessary to enforce truly reasoned thinking in planning of operations and information analysis. [Full Story]
AT&T SUED FOR VIOLATING LAW IN NSA DOMESTIC SPY PROGRAM
AT&T was once the nation's telecommunications monopoly, and abuses there led to the break-up of the Bell monopoly and the regulation of telecoms, with the intent of encouraging competition and achieving the goal of forcing providers to serve the customers first. Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit alleging that the telecommunications giant has violated federal law by assisting the government in spying on innocent Americans without any court authorization. [Full Story]
OFFICIAL SECRECY POWER UNDERMINES FREE ENTERPRISE
In American society, it's worth asking whether secrecy in the hands of the powerful is compatible with representative democracy. There is no secrecy power in the US Constitution, and no law enacted by Congress provides such power. In the case of the Crater Coupler, the government's assertion of a right to conceal all activities related to a covert operation, under official secrecy claims, actively allowed a major company to usurp the intellectual property rights of an inventor, by stripping that individual and his partners of the constitutional right to seek redress in court. [Full Story]
AG SAYS CONGRESS KNEW FULL EXTENT OF WIRETAPS
Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales, while speaking to a group at Georgetown University, defended the president's authorizing the warrantless wiretaps carried out by the NSA on US citizens. He reiterated the drumbeat that it was the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Al Qaeda that gave the president the authority to execute warrantless wiretaps, despite prohibitions in federal law.
During the speech, a group of about 20 protesters stood with their backs to Gonzales, while some held up a banner reading "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither", quoting Benjamin Franklin. [Full Story]
JUSTICE DEPT. ISSUES REPORT DEFENDING WARRANTLESS WIRETAPS
The US Justice Dept., under AG Alberto Gonzales, who advised Pres. Bush as White House Counsel, during the planning of the extrajudicial wiretaps, has issued a 42-page report that claims authorization for the wiretaps was implicit in the preliminary "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" (AUMF), passed after the attacks of 11 September 2001. Critics note a number of problems with the report and its premises. [Full Story]
Former US Vice President Al Gore gave what is being described as an historic non-partisan speech, calling for a passionate nationwide movement to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States. Gore gave the speech in a non-partisan context, speaking at the Daughters of the American Revolution hall, with the express support and participation of Representative Bob Barr, Republican of Georgia. [Full Story]
TRANSCRIPT OF GORE SPEECH FOR LIBERTY COALITION, ENDORSED BY REP. BOB BARR (R-GA)
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power. [Full Transcript]
DATA SHADOWS & IMPROBABLE CONSENT
Neither contracts nor "terms and conditions" including indemnities disclaimers, can be classified as legislation. They do not make or construct legal limits by themselves. Obvious as this may seem, it is a necessary introduction to the problem of the trade in personal information and "soft surveillance", whereby one is routinely subjected to interrogation, inspection and even physical search, not for having broken any laws or even aroused any reasonable suspicion, but simply because "that's policy". [Full Story]
PRIVACY MAY BE KEY TO ALITO'S FATE
Judge Samuel Alito, by most accounts named to become Associate Justice on the Supreme Court for his so exceedingly surpassing the ill-fated Harriet Miers in judicial experience, has tried to stay clear of the privacy issue. That is because privacy —and its constitutional guarantees— is essential in the Roe v. Wade ruling that struck down abortion bans in 1973.
Alito has already been blitzed with criticism after it was revealed he advised the Reagan administration he did not believe there was any constitutional right to privacy relating to abortion rights and the Roe v. Wade decision. But now, newly released documents seem to show Alito has expressed a lack of support for other constitutional privacy rights. [Full Story]
JUDGE QUITS SECRET 'SPY COURT' IN APPARENT PROTEST
Judge James Robertson —one of eleven members of the secret tribunal that hears cases related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its sanctioned investigations— has resigned his post in protest. Judge Robertson reportedly told associates he believed Pres. Bush's order to the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans may violate federal law.
Though Judge Robertson gave no official reasons for his departure in his letter of resignation, Washington Post writers Carol Leonnig and Dafna Linzer reported on 21 December that "two associates familiar with the decision" report his concern that "warrantless searches" —which underwent no judicial review— "may have tainted the FISA Court's work". [Full Story]