Rule of Law

October 2007


The Federal Government has just completed some legislation that grants legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the administration's illegal domestic surveillance program. This is tantamount to a passive admission of guilt. Why aren't more people mad about this?

Now, I am not a big fan of laws on conspiracy. I don't think that they're generally a good idea, but they are the law of the land and tens of thousands of people are in jail today because of them. But they don't apply, apparently, if you're a big telecommunications company and you aided and abetted the government in breaking the law.

Here's what happened, if you need a refresher: the Bush administration went to the major telecommunications firms and asked them to set up wire taps on an unspecified number of US citizens. The telecommunications companies said, "where're the warrants?" The Bush administration replied that they did not need warrants and that it was a matter of national security. Most of the telecommunications companies (except for Quest) went along with the administration and complied with the illegal request.

Now, if this were you or me, and some agent of the US government asked us to do something illegal, we'd be in danger of going to jail for a very long time if we just went along with them and broke the law -- this is particularly true if we used any special knowledge or tools to accomplish the illegal act, especially if the illegal act required that knowledge or those tools.

Evidently, the folks at the telecommunications company read the rules the same way, because their lobbyists have been busy as beavers on this issue -- and this week they've been effectively pardoned for their role in what might be the largest single act of anti-constitutional piracy in this nation's history.

This is another example of the Bush administration's lack of respect for the law - their obvious lack of respect for the other branches of government and the Constitution. During World War I and World War II, the government sought and got special powers to deal with threats to national security - but in both instances, the Supreme Court said "so far and no further" and in neither case was the administration released from judicial oversight - they had to get a sitting judge to issue a warrant. In the 1970's, the Nixon administration was caught breaking the law and spying on US citizens. This is one of the reasons why Nixon had to resign from office. At that time, the legislature considered the problems of national security and came up with the FISA court compromise - a way for the administration to get what they said they needed and still protect the rights of ordinary citizens.

This legal means was not good enough for the Bush administration (which includes many of the same players who were responsible for the Nixon domestic spying scandal, like Mr. Cheney). Citing the 911 tragedy, the Bush administration claimed the right to spy on any citizen without any oversight whatsoever, provided that they claimed to have a good reason for doing it.

Allowing your government to do whatever it wants to do because they claim to have good intentions is a recipe for tyranny. When the government tries to do things like this, it is the responsibility of every responsible citizen of the republic to oppose them in whatever ways they legally can. If they fail to do so -- if they fail to hold the law breakers accountable and demand justice -- then they deserve what they get.

This used to be a pretty good country, where the government was held accountable by the people and we used to send government officials, legislators, and even judges to jail fairly regularly when they broke the law. But today, when legislators connive with the administration to retroactively pardon wrongdoers before they've even been brought to the bar of justice, we shrug our shoulders and accept the inevitability of bad government. Bad government does not come about by itself, nor is it inevitable. Bad government is allowed to flourish when we enable it by our apathy and acceptance.

While you still have a vote: vote the bastards out - both parties. Get rid of them all, they're all engaged in a largely illegal conspiracy against us. There are other alternatives. Just because these two parties have had a lock on the political process in this country for 75 years is no reason why that has to be so going forward -- unless we accept mediocrity or worse, which makes our once proud nation something that the founding fathers would have been ashamed of: a sham shrouded in falsehoods and serving only the worst criminal elements of society.

Are we a nation of laws -- a nation of liberty and freedom? Or are we a nation of leaders who give mouth to the platitudes of democracy without cherishing or upholding a single principle save self-interest?

You choose.

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