Losing liberties is a small price to pay for ensuring the nation’s safety. That’s the conclusion the Bush administration seems to have reached. President George W. Bush must have missed history class when Patrick Henry was the man of the hour. Henry was more than ready to give up his life in pursuit of liberty for all in the our nation’s early days.
“We’re at war and we must protect America’s secrets,” Bush said during a Monday press conference.
Bush is staunchly defending a once top secret domestic spying program, unmasked by the New York Times last Thursday.
“We looked at the possible scenarios…The people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that’s important. We’ve got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent,” he said.
He also responded to questions about circumventing the court born out of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by conducting surveillance without warrants. Bush said the court is consulted when long-term monitoring is necessary. What? I’m missing something. If some current monitoring was less than “long-term,” then how effective is it? Of course, the bigger question is how legal is it. Bush said both the U.S. Constitution and Congress gave him the authority to put the program into action.
“I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is: absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress,” he said.
When pressed for details what powers Bush was exercising, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn’t go into specific detail about the sources of that power during a visit to NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday.
She did say FISA was one of those sources. But Rice became vague.
“The president has drawn on additional authorities that he has under the Constitution and under other statutes,” Rice said.
When “Meet The Press” moderator Tim Russert asked Rice what those “additional authorities” were, she pleaded a modicum of ignorance.
“I’m not a lawyer, but the president has constitutional authority and he has statutory authorities,” she said.
That “ignorance” is appalling, since Rice was national security adviser when Bush Oked the spying program. It’s more than curious that a celebrated foreign policy expert like Rice was unaware of what authority our government is using to deal with and/or prevent foreign threats. The whole situation sounds familiar.
When Donald Rumsfeld was named Secretary of Defense, it was hard for me not to automatically dub the Bush administration: Nixon: The Sequel. Rumsfeld served as assistant to the president and director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Russert couldn’t shy away from the comparison.
“President Nixon tried to wiretap American citizens and the Supreme Court ruled he violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans,” Russert said.
Nixon’s hubris’ inspired him to violate Americans’ rights for his own purposes. Bush’s hubris has inspired him to hijack civil liberties for the greater good. Rice said as much.
“Let’s remember that we are talking about the ability to collect information on the geographic territory that is the United States. Some people are American citizens; others are not. What the president wants to prevent is the use of American territory as a safe haven for communications between terrorist operating here or people with terrorist links operating here and people operating outside of the country,” she said.
That answer is rather chilling. Should international students be wary of pursuing their studies here? Even if their backgrounds have been thoroughly reviewed before entry, could they become victims of a zealous Bush administration?
While, on some level, it’s good to know the government’s keeping an eye on terrorist activity. I find the administration’s zeal, excused by invoking Sept. 11, disingenuous. The tragedy occurred because the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations were asleep at the wheel. People seem to forget that the second attack on the World Trade Center occurred on Sept. 11. Why didn’t the government make homeland security a priority after the first attack in 1993?