Monday, February 13, 2006

Freepers: Then and Now

I don't normally spend much time -- uh, no time -- trolling around looking at what these days passes for "conservative thought" at Free Republic. But Glenn Greewald points out an article that appeared there in November of 2000. Clinton had expanded the jurisdicition of the FISA courts to include physical searches, apparently having been prompted to this action after his own administration had authorised the warrantless search of Aldrich Ames' home, among other things. At the time, FISA only had authority to issue warrants for electronic surveillance.

The article represents a fascinating trip back in both time and political space. Back then, the freepers were apoplectic that the government even had a secret court that the public had no ability to scrutinize:
with a barely noticed pen stroke President Bill Clinton virtually killed off the Fourth Amendment when he approved a law to expand the already extraordinary powers of the strangest creation in the history of the federal judiciary.

Since its founding in 1978, a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA rhymes with ice -a) has received 7,539 applications to authorize electronic surveillance within the U.S. In the name of national security, the court has approved all but one of these requests from the Justice Department on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. Each of these decisions was reached in secret, with no published orders, opinions, or public record. The people, organizations, or embassies spied on were not notified of either the hearing or the surveillance itself.
The article even goes so far as to point out that the ACLU, you know, that group of commies who hate America, could gain no access to FISA court records:
The American Civil Liberties Union was not able to unearth a single instance in which the target of a FISA wiretap was allowed to review the initial application.
It would seem that freepers and the ACLU were tight back then, back when Clinton wanted to expand federal surveillance powers.

Philip Colangelo really fretted about the ability of the feds to spy on Americans that this secret FISA court represented.
When Clinton signed Executive Order 12949 on February 9, the frightening mandate of the FISA court was greatly expanded: It now has legal authority to approve black-bag operations to authorize Department of Justice (DoJ) requests to conduct physical as well as electronic searches, without obtaining a warrant in open court, without notifying the subject, without providing an inventory of items seized. The targets need not be under suspicion of committing a crime, but may be investigated when probable cause results solely from their associations or status: for example, belonging to, or aiding and abetting organizations deemed to pose a threat to U.S. national security.
Note how Colangelo presses the concern about expanded state authority, even quaintly pointing out it's potential meaning for "activist groups."
The spy case proved a convenient vehicle on which to hitch expansion of state power. It also offered a glimpse at the state-of-the-art domestic counterintelligence techniques that might well be turned on an activist group near you.
Given the context and tone of today's debate surrounding the powers of Congress and the White House, Colangelo's article begins to take on a surreal aspect. Here he appears to bemoan the fact that Congress did not exercise much oversight over the FISA or the Intelligence Authorization Act, referring to the whole unseemly process of Congressional approval of secret courts as a "rubberstamp":
Granting new powers to the FISA court was accomplished quietly and treated as a non-event in the national media. The lack of reporting was somehow fitting, though, following as it did the silent debate last year when Congress rubberstamped the annual Intelligence Authorization Act.
Now, of course, pro-Bush acolytes want Congress to simply butt out of his secret spy program.

Conlangelo's article is certainly of a piece within broader mainstream conservative thinking -- or at least what used to be considered mainstream conservative thinking -- about the restraints, or lack of, in government conduct. And these were high-minded concerns, to be sure.

That is until George Bush and 9/11 happened along. Suddenly, the government could do no wrong and freepers were no longer agog at impudent government intrusions because, by god, there were terrorists!

Today, freeper love of Bush coats them in a warm, yummy goo, insulating them from their previous distrust in a government that was determined to abuse our civil liberties. With Bush at the helm, there is no governmental distrust; the Bush administration is all good, no abuse is at all possible.

Today, freeper comments about secret spying become an twirling prism by which to examine the minds of those who formerly distrusted government.

Then: This does not bode well for continued freedom.
Now: Better to be fast and illegal than slow and dead.

Then: Franz Kafka would have judged this to wild to fictionalize. But for us - it's real.
Now: As I have said before the terrorist are counting on the US Senate to help them in many ways. One is for the TRAITORS in the US Senate to make it impossible for any intelligence gathering and if we are attacked again it will be fault of the US Senate.

Then: a "shadow government" has been set up all around us my friend. It's foundation is not the constitution, but Executive Orders, Presidential Procalamations, Secret Acts, and Emergency Powers. It has all the tools to be an absolute tyranny and those behind it (on both sides of the aisle) who crave power and their form of "governance" continue to move towards it while we are distracted by so many other goings on.
Now: Congressional muddling and asking a JUDGE to "approve" of how we capture terrorists is GARBAGE. No judge is going to lead our soldiers, the Commander in Chief leads. No congressman is going to order missiles fired into a city, the Commander in Chief gives the orders. And the same goes for looking for terrorists on telephones.

Kafkaesque, indeed.

In a truly anti-prophetic moment, someone had the notion that it would be George Bush who would reign in this whole FISA project:
Any chance of Bush rolling some of this back?
Little did this commenter realise "rolling" back the FISA would not be on the table so much rolling around it.

The overridding emotion in the "now" comments is an markedly pronounced fear. The Bush administration's manipulation of these feeble-minded nitwits has apparently worked rather well and, of course, the denizens of this realm of political discourse represent some of the most easily manipulated. How soon they forget their "conservative" values.

By the way, the Greewald post cited above is highly recommended and well worth a look.


Blogger Phillybits said...

You liked that article, huh? Wasn't it was great?

11:47 AM  

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