A political writer from the alternative media wrote a clear, well-researched, pretty much irrefutable 0p-ed for the Digital Journal , crystallizing an issue that should have been obvious all along. The NSA’s incursions on the privacy of U.S. citizens are a bright line violation of the Fourth Amendment, one of the bulwarks of American individual rights. Yesterday, President Obama rationalized and embraced those unconstitutional acts and policies. The writer, Ralph Lopez, is angry and outraged. Why isn’t everybody?
In particular, why isn’t the very same group that compared the less obtrusive Patriot Act measures imposed by the Bush administration to “1984” and fascist regimes screaming bloody murder? That group would be, in case you’ve forgotten, liberals, progressives and Democrats. The technical terms for this are “hypocrisy,” “absence of integrity,” “dishonesty,” “blind loyalty,” “misplaced priorities,” and “foolish.” The technical term for the consistent Republicans who support the NSA’s over-reach is “wrong.”
Unfortunately, Lopez’s piece is burdened by a ridiculous title (“Should Obama be tried for treason after his NSA speech on Friday?,” indicating that either Lopez or his headline writer has been infected by the signature delusion of this President and his enablers—that giving a speech is the same as doing something), but its main points are as solid as granite:
- “The language of the amendment, which embodies the sentiment in Patriot speeches of the American Revolution that “a man’s house is his castle,” is beautifully crystalline in clarity as all the Founding Fathers’ declarations were. The Fourth Amendment guarantees:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
“In modern times, electronic communications such as emails and telephone calls have been held to be an extension of a person’s “papers and effects,” from a time when the only non-verbal communication was written letters, i.e. “papers.” This means, quite simply, that all private communications of private citizens are none of the government’s damned business, unless it can show “probable cause” that they involve a crime, and the government can prove it to a judge. In the real world judges already tend to give wide latitude to police and prosecutors who are convinced they have “probable cause,” a fairly low standard which might consist of a mere hunch based on the most circumstantial of evidence, like a man rooting around in a dumpster where, the day before, the cops found a cache of drugs.”
In his speech yesterday, the President said, “…in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.”
Really? They are collecting private data that can allow them to do that when and if they choose, and that is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The point has been made, in the New York Times and elsewhere, that Obama did not “endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records.” Lopez properly notes,
- “Endorse?” It is not up to the president to “endorse” anything in the Constitution. He is sworn by oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” since it was here before him….It is instructive that the oath of office required by the Constitution, before assuming office, makes no mention of defending the nation’s borders, territories, or even people. The president is sworn to defend one thing and one thing only: ” the Constitution of the United States.”
Well said. The President pointedly avoided condemning the use of so-called “national security letters,” which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation, saying,
“Now, these are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.I’ve therefore directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.”
To which proposition Lopez responds,
- “The feds maintain that sweeping up bulk data held by telecommunications firms, such as phone records, emails, and and browsing histories, does not violate the Fourth Amendment, because a “search” is not a “search” until they look at them. That is like saying, we will take every receipt, hospital record, prescription, and and old love letter in your big bottom drawer, but we promise not to look at them”….It is not up to Obama to decide he requires court permission. It is the Constitution he is sworn to uphold which requires it.”
He goes on…
- “The truth is, Obama cannot declare any part of the Constitution null and void. In fact, any law which flies in the face of the Constitution, that is, not just questionable but repugnant, is already null and void. One of the earliest major US Supreme Court decisions, Marbury v. Madison, held that any law passed by Congress which was “repugnant” to the Constitution was “void.” Chief Justice Marshall wrote: “a law repugnant to the constitution is void, and…courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.”
Obama’s speech yesterday was, if nothing else, a strong vindication for the motives of Edward Snowden, if not his pursuit of them. There is nothing in the speech that any genuine and knowledgeable supporter of the Bill of Rights should find re-assuring. The President calls for “a national dialogue” on a topic that is beyond dialogue, the basic rights guaranteed to citizens under the Constitution. He, incredibly, talks about advisory panels and independent inquiries, when he has pointedly ignored the recommendations and conclusions of past panels, notably the Simpson-Bowles commission on debt reduction. He promises vague reviews and new standards, but the entire speech boils down to a plea to trust a President, who has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he is unworthy of trust, to oversee a Federal agency when he has repeatedly shown—the I.R.S., Obamacare, the Justice Department, the Secret Service, the NSA—that he is incapable of oversight. I’m doing all of these things, he says, and you can trust me that it will fix everything…even though I have shown no indication in five years that I 1) respect the Constitution and 2) am capable of protecting the citizens of the nation from agencies under my supervision from violating their rights.
Is that overly harsh? Tell me why. The President is currently before the Supreme Court for lawless recess appointments he made when the Senate wasn’t in recess. He is amending—as in “violating” and “refusing to enforce”—politically inconvenient provisions of his signature health care law that his supporters in the House, Senate and news media kept lecturing Republicans were “settled law.”
- “As sentiment for the American Revolution grew, one man, James Otis of Massachusetts, railed against one of the most hated of the kings prerogatives: the British General Warrant. The “warrant” was essentially a blank check for the king’s agents to search through homes, belongings, letters and personal effects of any subject, at any time, for no reason. Otis thundered from his seat in the Massachusetts State House that such law made men the “servants of servants.” “What is this but to have the curse of Canaan with a witness on us: to be the servants of servants, the most despicable of God’s creation?” The discontent which led to the American Revolution was many years in the making. But in 1761 Otis gave a particularly fiery speech in which he pronounced “a man’s house is his castle.” John Adams, who observed the speech, later wrote: “the child independence was then and there born.”
As I was walking through Houston’s Bush airport yesterday, I heard one again the recorded announcement stating that “inappropriate jokes” could lead to my arrest. Inappropriate jokes! The authors of the Bill of Rights would be horrified to know that such a statement would be routine in a public place in 2014, and even more so that travelers would shrug it off—a basic admission that in this setting, at least, the Federal Government does not acknowledge the existence of the First Amendment. The Founders would presumably be equally horrified, as Lopez points out, that a President elected in part on his promise to restore respect for the Bill of Rights—remember closing Guantanamo?— is now blithely attempting to reassure Americans as the government whittles away the right not to have one’s property searched without a warrant.
No, Obama’s speech isn’t an impeachable offense. But it is evidence of one of the most cynical betrayals of liberal principles by a Democratic President since, well let’s see, FDR, Wilson, and Jackson. All of which should prove to liberals that if you watch your enemies to the exclusion of all else, your supposed friends will stab you in the back. But I guess getting stabbed by a someone who says things that warm your heart doesn’t hurt as much. Right?
Is that it?