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The Conyers Files
December 20, 2005 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Conyers Flies Paper Airplane into Whitehouse. Rep. John Conyers has submitted motions to censure Bush and Cheney, and to establish a select committee to investigate their offenses. He outlines the evidence in The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War. (3.8MB pdf)
posted by stonerose (139 comments total)

 
"He" should read "The House Democratic Committee Staff".
posted by stonerose at 10:54 AM on December 20, 2005


"The House Democratic Committee Staff" should read "The House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff."
posted by grouse at 10:55 AM on December 20, 2005


Conyers is sooo dreamy.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 10:58 AM on December 20, 2005


If only we had more like Conyers in office.
posted by j-urb at 11:03 AM on December 20, 2005


In the linked article, when they say HR635, they mean H.Res.635.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:08 AM on December 20, 2005


Am waiting for the Republican personal attack in 3...2...1...
posted by billysumday at 11:08 AM on December 20, 2005


it's about time someone did something--you go, Conyers!

(altho censure isn't enough)
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2005


Oh, and you can also find info on H.Res.636 and H.Res.637, too. It's too soon for official copies of the resolutions to be available, but the rawstory article has links to pdf versions.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2005


This will most likely go nowhere, though I'll sadly admit a certain perverse pleasure in watching the fur fly so frantically (and from so many quarters) as it seems to have been doing over the last several weeks.

If Fitzy indicts Rove I'll officially need to cease some critical bodily function to keep space in my brain for all the scandals.

If it weren't deadly serious it'd be damn hi-larious.
posted by jalexei at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2005


Good, keep these bastards on the ropes.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Treason? Check. I'd say lying to intentionally drive a country into an intractable war counts for treason.
Bribery? Check (but they prefer cash). No-bid contracts to Halliburton ring a bell?
Other high Crimes and Misdemeanors? Check. Illegal wiretaps are just the tip of the iceberg.

amberglow, censure can lead to impeachment if I read the first link correctly.
posted by fenriq at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2005


Heh. This will go far.
posted by caddis at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2005


While these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable misconduct,
because the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have blocked
the ability of Members to obtain information directly from the Administration
concerning these matters, more investigatory authority is needed before
recommendations can be made regarding specific Articles of Impeachment.


Barbara Boxer is beginning to whisper the I-word too.

*does little dance*
posted by If I Had An Anus at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2005


And, of course, ParisParamus thinks Bush should be indicted.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2005


It's certainly a good list of al the things this admin has done wrong, but as the first link says, it won't go far in the Congress.

Although, in a time where the Prez and the Admin are on the ropes, it'd be good to force a vote on the matter, and come 2006, it can be used against any member of Congress that votes against a measure to create a select committee.

Good On Yer, Conyers.
posted by santiagogo at 11:21 AM on December 20, 2005


santiagogo, excellent point on using the vote as a lever to pop some of these entrenched partisan wanks out of their seats. Because, as you've alluded to, who wouldn't be in support of a committee to uncover the truth except someone with something to hide?
posted by fenriq at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2005


They play the Diane Rehm Show at midnight here. The guest last night was supposed to be Charles Krauthammer and his Ticking Bomb Torture Apology. But he had a family emergency--couldn't find the keys to the chains in the playroom or something--so instead she had three conservatives on to discuss The Bush Iraq PR offensive, McCain's torture amendment, the Patriot Act filibuster and the NSA revelations. They were not happy campers at all. They were going after Bush hammers and tongs. It was startling.

They got hammered with impeachment questions during the call in segment. It was something to hear Norman Ornstein agree that, compared to Clinton's lying about sex under oath, this was by far a more serious offense. Everyone, of course, doubted impeachment proceedings would happen as they expect Bush to back down in a couple of weeks like he did with McCain. But they all seemed to agree that he deserved impeachment if he doesn't back down.

Man, bipartisan outrage--it's getting more like Watergate every day.
posted by y2karl at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2005


I got my idea from the GOPers who forced a vote on immediate withdrawal on troops the other week. I thought it was pretty crafty.

I think Conyers timing is good... now is the time to be with the Prez or against him. I think it's becoming increasingly easier to be against him, and hopefulyl the tables will turn that way.
posted by santiagogo at 11:39 AM on December 20, 2005


Conyers is pretty good. but I have ALWAYS like Feingold. He has been ahead of the pack consistently.
posted by edgeways at 11:55 AM on December 20, 2005


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10536559/site/newsweek/
Newsweek: Dems if they get in power may well call for impeachment
posted by Postroad at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2005


Where are the blowjobs? All this seems trivial without a White House a hummer.
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:01 PM on December 20, 2005


We'll see more and more rats jumping off the sinking GOPer ship as the months wear on. These guys love Georgie, but not enough to take an electoral bullet for him in '06.

Expect to see more and more newly "moderate" Repubs edging away from him like the guy who farted in a crowded elevator.
posted by stenseng at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2005


Before you get all jazzed about Conyers, read this. Feingold is the only guy left, after Wellstone's untimely passing, that I can unequivocally get behind in the senate. Even Harkin voted for the war.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2005


So, wasn't Conyers a member of the communistic Catholic Workers? I also heard he had a illegitimate black baby, and he doesn't deserve his three Purple Hearts.
posted by orthogonality at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2005


he doesn't deserve his three Purple Hearts.

He does deserve a White House hummer though. So does each and every American citizen at home and abroad at this point. It would be a nice change from the ass fucking we've been getting.
posted by spicynuts at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2005


"We'll see more and more rats jumping off the sinking GOPer ship as the months wear on. These guys love Georgie, but not enough to take an electoral bullet for him in '06."

Dream on. Conyers is an irrelevant extremist of the Left.

President Bush will leave office and be remembered as a great leader. And do so way after Howard Dean "resigns" as the latest evidence of the Democrat's freefall into irrelevancy.

I'd love to see Senator Leiberman either form a new party, or take control of the DNC.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2005


I hope to god he doesn't windsurf. Only stuck up aristocrats windsurf. Unlike ordinary folks who have to settle for golfing on courses where a membership costs $100K.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:30 PM on December 20, 2005


The GOP goon squad will drape themselves in a bloody American flag to slip past censure, but make no mistake : ordering the NSA to spy on Americans is an impeachable offense.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:37 PM on December 20, 2005


Am waiting for the Republican personal attack in 3...2...1...

Conyers is an irrelevant extremist of the Left [...] after Howard Dean "resigns" as the latest evidence of the Democrat's freefall into irrelevancy


Dammit, Paris! Why did you wait so long to post a comment? My joke would have worked a lot better if you had just ponied up and written that right away.

But seriously, I've got to say that you make some really great points about what Conyers is saying.
posted by billysumday at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2005


I'd love to see Senator Leiberman either form a new party, or take control of the DNC.

Yeah, and I'd love to see him take control of the RNC. Seems more likely.
posted by grouse at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2005


Every single time some new scandal breaks there are claims that all the "rats are going to jump ship this time" but it never seems to happen. Scandal after scandal after scandal and still NO ONE seems to give a shit or even notice except for "bloggers." Nothing actually CHANGES in the grand scheme of things. It still appears to me that King George is in fact still made of teflon. While there may be chinks appearing in his teflon armor, the fact of the matter is that it STILL is teflon and nothing seems to stick.

I give up.
posted by afx114 at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2005


ParisParamus writes "President Bush will leave office and be remembered as a great leader"


Do the "Daily Show"'s writers also write ParisParamus's comments? A "Great Leader"?
posted by orthogonality at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2005



posted by orthogonality at 12:51 PM on December 20, 2005


afx114, please don't give up! Metafilter will be less fun.


In fact, Metafilter is sort of like a Leftist Theme Park; Leftworld, a la those 1970's movies with Yul Brenner; LEFTWORLD!

Leftworld; where sane people come to joust with excessively liberal freaks!

;- )
posted by ParisParamus at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2005


yeah, Feingold was the only Senator with the balls to vote against the Patriot Act. An act very few Congress members had a chance to even read before voting on mind you. I wish we could throw 95% of Congress out on their ass and put some real Americans - Americans who have actual jobs to return to after their term in office is up. I'm sick of career politicians. Their only incentive is survival in their next election when they should be just voting their conscience.
posted by any major dude at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2005


Russ Feingold's got the DFC's (who?) endorsement, which of course puts me solidly in his corner for 2008.

As for this surveillance brouhaha, meh. This is just TIA. I don't have an expectation of privacy for overseas communications or email, so surveil away is what I say, no harm no foul (though I understand and somewhat sympathisize with the argument that tools of totalitarianism should not be assembled, even for a good purpose).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2005


ParisParamus : "Conyers is an irrelevant extremist of the Left."

PP, there are absolutely no "extremist of the Left" in the US Congress. Not one Senator, not one Representative, not one security guard, not one janitor. Not one. Nil. Nada. Zero. If you think there are, I am quite certain you don't have the faintest idea of what an "extremist of the Left" actually is.
posted by nkyad at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2005


If Conyers is on the "extreme left", Paris, why's he cosponsoring, along with Sensenbrenner, the RIAA's corporatist legislation to close the "analog hole"?
posted by orthogonality at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2005


President Bush will leave office and be remembered as a great leader.

Really now.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2005


Extremist is Republicanspeak these days for anyone who catches them in a lie. It tests well in their focus groups as a tool of dismissal. They wore out the term "far left" so now they are up to extremist. What's next? What's worse than an extremist? I heard someone called Howard Dean a traitor the other day. How many CIA agents has he outed lately?
posted by any major dude at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2005


Here is Kevin Drum's take from today:
It seems clear that there's something involved here that goes far beyond ordinary wiretaps, regardless of the technology used. Perhaps some kind of massive data mining, which makes it impossible to get individual warrants? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Lots of people have suggested that the NSA program has something to do with Echelon, a massive project that vacuums up communications of all kinds from all over the globe. The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before — so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon. What's more, it's something disturbing enough that a few weeks after 9/11 the administration apparently felt that even Republicans in Congress wouldn't approve of it. What kind of program is so intrusive that even Republicans, even with 9/11 still freshly in mind, wouldn't have supported it?
DefenseTech: New Tech Behind NSA Snoop Case ?

DefenseTech: Wiretap Mystery: Spooks React

Secondary Screening: Something's Happening Here

Secondary Screening: Who says Bush's end run around surveillance laws are illegal? The Supreme Court.
posted by y2karl at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2005


Please ignore the resident idiot and focus on the topic. I know it's hard, I know.

Anyhoo,
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
Frankly, I get much, much more worked up by the State's right to stop me at the airport and when driving, seizing weapon-like objects in my carrry-on personal property and drugs in my car.

no skin off my nose if a computer listens in on my phone conversations for keywords or my email is scanned. My person , papers, and property is unmolested, at an unknown cost to my privacy, admittedly.

Seriously. These modern methods are noninvasive, unlike searches of the 18th century.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:34 PM on December 20, 2005


/s/State's right/State's apparent power
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:36 PM on December 20, 2005


Seriously. These modern methods are noninvasive, unlike searches of the 18th century.

I'd rather know that someone is looking through my stuff than not know; in fact, I'd rather that nobody look through my stuff without my permission without a traditional warrant or some sort of cause, but that's just crazy lil' ol' me. I'm pretty conservative in that respect, or, rather, I'm pretty what-used-to-be-called conservative. Also, I'd be amazed if no politico has realized that, hey, we could use these abilities to dig up dirt on our political enemies!
posted by 235w103 at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2005


I'm convinced ParisParamus' eyes are brown, for the obvious reason.
posted by alumshubby at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2005


...a computer listens in on my phone conversations for keywords...
An urban myth. Read Bamford's two books and get a grasp of the real situation.
posted by warbaby at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2005


So is there an actual constitutional or common-law right to privacy in one's communications? Should there be?

It's arguable that a sealed letter is personal, physical property entrusted to the carrier, and I never want the Federales pawing through my personal, physical property without cause, but it seems to me that communications are a different class entirely.

Frankly, I'm not convinced these fishing expeditions are worth the time, money, and potential risk of eventual slouching into totalitarianism, but I in fact know jack schitt about what useful information counter-terror peeps are finding in their efforts so I'm willing to remain on the fence about this.

If The People are serious about this, we need a Constitutional Amendment laying down an explicit right to privacy, and/or support politicians that will legislate this.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:48 PM on December 20, 2005


I'd be amazed if no politico has realized that, hey, we could use these abilities to dig up dirt on our political enemies!

yes, this is of course the most salient issue. cf. Hoover, Nixon, and Clinton apparently/allegedly getting FBI dirt dossiers.

The SCOTUS in a good decision held that infrared searches of houses, while noninvasive, where violating the right to privacy of physical property.

I'm just not seeing the connect between physical property and utterances into the aether.

Sealed letters, and even postcards for that matter, being physical and thus damageable, are in a different class.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:52 PM on December 20, 2005


Great links y2karl.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:56 PM on December 20, 2005


(actually reading Stevens' dissent in the above SCOTUS case I take back the "good decision". The issue was "off-the-wall surveillance" vs. "through the wall surveillance", and the infrared scans were monitoring emissions, not contents.

...Trickier case).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2005


Huh, I really, honestly don't understand your point Heywood. Why does the "physical" nature of a letter make it more protected than any other sort of communication? I do almost all my correspondence via email. Those are intended for the person(s) I send them to. Not any random third party. They are my papers. Heck, I don't even own a printer. Private communications (as opposed to public communications like postings to Metafilter) are most certainly my papers and my effects. The White House has to retain and store emails and lots of them will end up in presidential libraries. They are every bit the "papers" that the founding fathers referred to. They didn't specify "e-mail" for reasons which, I hope, are obvious.

That being said, what ever happened to the notion that the Constitution does not enumerate all the rights of the people? Rights are not derived from the Constitution, they are inherent (that whole natural rights bit that we acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence). The Constitution merely codifies some of the most important ones. Privacy and the right to be free from the prying eyes of an overzealous government is one of those fundamental rights. We don't need to have an amendment, we just need for people to stop being assholes.
posted by afflatus at 2:24 PM on December 20, 2005


Bruce Fein, former Associate Deputy Attorney General under Reagan, on last night's Diane Rehm Show--
It's more power than King George III had at the time of the revolution in asserting the theory that anything the President thinks is helpful to fighting the war against terrorism he can do. That was why he claimed he can ignore the torture convention...
Over and over on last night's Diane Rehm Show, all three guests said, one way or another, This cannot stand--the precedent that this arrogation of powers would set if left unchallenged will destroy the Republic.

While no doubt they'd be perfectly OK with an absolute dictatorship now, Bush apologists need to reflect upon the following three words:

President Hillary Clinton.

What's sauce for the goose....
posted by y2karl at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2005


Hero
posted by theora55 at 2:40 PM on December 20, 2005


I give up.

Never give up. Not all people are as deluded as the ParisParamuses of the world. The koolaid is wearing off--has been all year--and each of these scandals and criminal acts wakes up more and more of them. If we only had better media. I haven't seen one person on tv mention the President investigating the leak to the NYT for endangering our security while at the same time his whole administration is being investigated for leaks that endangered our security.

And Cheney just said that their actions are the reason we haven't been attacked since 9/11. Well, since they're taking away our freedoms, we don't need terrorists to do it, do we? It's as if they're all on Osama's payroll, really.
posted by amberglow at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2005


"Our decision in Katz refused to lock the Fourth Amendment into instances of actual physical trespass. Rather, the Amendment governs "not only the seizure of tangible items, but extends as well to the recording of oral statements . . . without any `technical trespass under . . . local property law.'"
hmm, I see with Katz, 1967 the court abandoned the "trespass" doctrine that made warrantless searches unconstitutional (no trespass == no violation of rights).

Interestingly, following the citation chain, the 1961 Silverman case swivelled soley on the fact that:
On the record in this case, the eavesdropping was accomplished by means of an unauthorized physical penetration into the premises occupied by petitioners, which violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment
But in their Katz decision, the court explicitly used Silverman as a basis for extending 4th Amendment protections to conversations:
(a) The Fourth Amendment governs not only the seizure of tangible items but extends as well to the recording of oral statements. Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511 . P. 353.
Silverman explicitly did not go that far:

"The facts of the present case, however, do not require us to consider the large questions [of non-invasive, remote survelliance] which have been argued."
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2005


Harrison Ford - '08 !!
posted by Balisong at 2:47 PM on December 20, 2005


Another quote from last night's Diane Rehm Show:
Daine Rehm Is spying on the American people as impeachable an offense as lying about having sex with an intern?

Bruce Fein, constitutional scholar and former deputy attorney general in the Reagan Administration:

I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.

Norm Ornstein: I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.
posted by y2karl at 2:53 PM on December 20, 2005


Never give up. Not all people are as deluded as the ParisParamuses of the world. The koolaid is wearing off--has been all year--and each of these scandals and criminal acts wakes up more and more of them.

That same thing was said after no WMDs, the same thing was said after Abu Gharib, the same thing was aid after 500, 1000, 2000+ US soldiers dead, the same thing was said after Plame, the same thing was said after Katrina, and it's being said now with the spying, but where is the tipping point? Is there a tipping point? I kept telling myself that each of the prior scandals was THE tipping point, but I'm beginning to believe that it doesn't exists, or if it does, just keeps getting pushed further and further away.
posted by afx114 at 3:05 PM on December 20, 2005


I disagree that eg. emails sent via an ISP are necessarily "papers", though I'm not scholar and my mind is open on this.

I do not necessarily disagree that we should have a common-law right to be secure in our communications from warrant-less government surveillance.

However, the plain reading of the 4th amendment is guarding against the (literally and figuratively) unwarranted physical intrusion of the State pawing my person, papers, and stuff, and this is what the SCOTUS held until the late 1960s.

What we have here is the collision of two abstract forces:

1) the implied powers of the State to preserve public order & security
2) the implied right to personal privacy.

Given the immense loss of life of 9/11 and the general assholery of terrorists in particular, I am more willing to reevaluate the balancing of these forces.

I find the present SCOTUS logic that electronic surveillance is in fact "search and seizure" to be suspect.

If we fear government overstepping its powers of its public security mandate, we can outlaw that behavior. (Good luck with enforcing that, I know, but theoretically we are a nation of laws not men, right?).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:07 PM on December 20, 2005


It should be the job of every good American to call up his state and federal representatives and give them an earful on the state of the nation.

It's the only way you're going to push them into cleaning
house.

If you don't, you'll just end up with the same liars and cheats as you've had this past decade.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on December 20, 2005


That same thing was said after no WMDs, the same thing was said after Abu Gharib, the same thing was aid after 500, 1000, 2000+ US soldiers dead, the same thing was said after Plame, the same thing was said after Katrina, and it's being said now with the spying, but where is the tipping point?

The construction of the WMD casus belli was the mother of all scandals IMV. Totally impeachable.

Abu Ghraib, the explicit abandonment of treaty protections on the treatment of prisoners by the administration, was equallly criminal.

2000+ KIA is a cost, not a scandal.

Plame is several administration peeps mostly unintentionally getting their hands caught in the cookie jar wrt the outing of an intelligence asset. The coverup will hopefully provide more punishment than the offense itself.

FEMA and the complete malfeasance of the chief executive during the crisis is not criminal, just incompetence in action.

As for spying, I fear most people are "law & order" types, willing to see the present guilty hang at the risk of potential abuses down the line.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:16 PM on December 20, 2005


Freedom isn't free.
posted by hatchetjack at 3:18 PM on December 20, 2005


afx, i think you need to take action--it always makes me feel better--email your senators and reps and all your local officials. Call in to talk radio shows if you have time. Write an op-ed for a local paper...
posted by amberglow at 3:19 PM on December 20, 2005


OMG! I just listened to the Rheem interview! Unbeleviably good news for a change... Apparently people are so fed up with the blatant power abuses, lies, half-truths, and under-the-table deals that they're no longer worried about being branded a terrorist - they're gonna speak out, and angrily!

This is a good day, friends.
posted by TheStorm at 3:21 PM on December 20, 2005


if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense.

I don't disagree with the idea that there are impeachable offenses that could be pinned on this administration, but Bush continues to maintain that he has briefed Congress on numerous occassions.

Now, the argument can be made that a briefing does not equal a consultation, which usually implies asking for advice and or agreement, but at the very least a brief means informing Congress of what is being done. In that sense, if Congress is informed and then CONTINUES TO DO NOTHING (which, given that the Times article was withheld for a year, those who were briefed in Congress essentially did nothing) then I see Congress (or at least those members that were briefed) as equally culpable criminally as Bush.
posted by spicynuts at 3:30 PM on December 20, 2005


I was debating on making this a new FPP, but I think this will suffice for now, if someone thinks its FPP please post it to the FP...
    Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution. - President G.W. Bush, in Buffalo, NY - April 2004
posted by SirOmega at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2005


I see Congress (or at least those members that were briefed)

That's the problem; 8 members of Congress held to personal secrecy, apparently unable to even consult with lawyers and technical types, is not Congress.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:47 PM on December 20, 2005


SirOmega, ah, but that was prior to 11/2/04, the world changed on that day, doncha know.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:48 PM on December 20, 2005


Here we go: Leftworld, d'après un scenario de ParisParamus, inspiré par Westworld.

Leftworld: where nothing is left because everything went....

Sorry Conyers, there's a war going on. Your pseudo-Constitutional objections will fall on deaf ears.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:06 PM on December 20, 2005


... "And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, ... collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in, your nation, your people is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way....
posted by amberglow at 4:06 PM on December 20, 2005




Keep going, this is another waste of Left-wing pseudo rightious indignation. These calls are SO within the constitutional powers of the President that its laughable. KEEP IT UP. YOU'RE WASTING YOUR FUCKING CONSTITUTIONAL TIME.

But it is a free country...
posted by ParisParamus at 4:42 PM on December 20, 2005


No, Paris, I think this is going to turn into a big deal for Bush. I doubt it will lead to impeachment or anything that drastic, but this is an issue that even conservatives can get upset about.
posted by caddis at 4:51 PM on December 20, 2005


If you don't, [Inevitably] you'll just end up with the same liars and cheats as you've had this these past [several] decade[s].
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:51 PM on December 20, 2005


Dear ParisParamus, thank you so much for your heartfelt concern for those of us who disagree with everything this president and his administration stand for.

Thanks but no thanks, I think I will be sticking to my guns on this one. Bush flaunted his right to break the law and that's drawing ire from within and without his party so maybe you should wonder why you wish to stifle debate here?

Could it be because you know you're wrong? Yep.

If this was a solely Left-Right issue then why would Bob Barr be speaking out against Bush's actions? Why would Arlen Specter declare an investigation for January? But keep to your "talking points", they're so much easier to dismiss as the fool's words that they are.
posted by fenriq at 4:55 PM on December 20, 2005


Somewhere between PP's repeated poo-flinging and amberglow's 1984 hystrionics there is a policy debate to be had, but guess this place ain't it. Out for a while.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:03 PM on December 20, 2005


The current threat to American society is nowhere near the level that it was during the Cold War (shoe bombers vs. complete annihilation?), and this unnecessary power grab by a highly suspect administration stinks to high heaven.
posted by fleacircus at 5:13 PM on December 20, 2005


Good point fleacircus, although we certainly had some abuses then too, it just came more from a certain Senator from Wisconsin than from Ike.
posted by caddis at 5:28 PM on December 20, 2005


There's a war going on? Do we have a declaration of war? Can someone please show me the declaration of war on terra? Or Iraq? Because as far as I know we don't have one. The only war going on here is the war on our personal freedoms. What about FISA? GWB is too good to get a warrent 72 hours retroactively? What the hell is that about? The FISA court has denied something like, oh, ONE, request for a warrant since 1979. This man is not above the law, and in fact, because he's got so much power, it's really more important that he observe the letter and the spirit of the law. He's guilty as sin and deserves some horrifying 13th-century style punishment, but the most we can do to him is boot him out of office, assuming enough Repubs can stand up from groveling at his feet to do the right thing.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:29 PM on December 20, 2005


Paris, will you please move to Israel? You really make a lousy, terrible citizen of the United States.

Your hawkery will probably go over better there, and you'll get your chance to do battle with the TERRRRISTS directly when you do your mandatory stint in the Israeli Army.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:40 PM on December 20, 2005


zoogleplex, please move to France....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:41 PM on December 20, 2005


As soon as you demonstrate how I'm a horrible American, honey. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 5:46 PM on December 20, 2005


ParisParamus, please move to Hell....

in case you missed it, you have zero credibility left....
posted by alumshubby at 5:46 PM on December 20, 2005


I love you all!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:54 PM on December 20, 2005


in case you missed it, [PP has] zero credibility left....

Yet people still respond to his trolling.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:58 PM on December 20, 2005


Well, it is fairly entertaining, if patently offensive. He's pretty good at it, really!

Of course, nothing he says makes much actual sense outside the Freeper Gestalt Mind.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:00 PM on December 20, 2005


Well, it is fairly entertaining, if patently offensive. He's pretty good at it, really!

Of course, nothing he says makes much actual sense outside the Freeper Gestalt Mind.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:06 PM on December 20, 2005


woops, sorry for the double. jrun timed out.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:06 PM on December 20, 2005


(which is the active outrage thread; we have three going?)

Drudge is citing two presidential orders under Clinton and Carter which authorize searches under FISA without a court order. However, read the required certifications (no US citizens involved). You will see the Bush toadies pushing this. Of course it is nothing but an irrelevant distraction because US citizens are involved this time; that is the whole point of the outrage. Drudge is such a tool sometimes.
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on December 20, 2005


All of the calls originated outside the US, by the way.

Did I say I love all of you?
posted by ParisParamus at 6:19 PM on December 20, 2005


All of the calls originated outside the US, by the way.

for a lawyer, you should know the SCOTUS has established that "the people" referenced in the 4th Amendment refers to US citizens and associated peeps, domestic or overseas:
Another matter of scope recently addressed by the Court is the category of persons protected by the Fourth Amendment--who constitutes 'the people.' This phrase, the Court determined, 'refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with [the United States] to be considered part of that community.'
cite.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 275. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 279. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 279. BLACKMUN, J.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:31 PM on December 20, 2005


For someone who never leaves his apartment, you sure have a lot of top-level insider intelligence information, Paris. Are you a foreign agent? Perhaps we should forward your name as someone who needs to be investigated.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:33 PM on December 20, 2005


that may be true, but I'm just narrowing the set of phone calls involved here.

Again, you and your ilk only find this noteworthy because you HATE President Bush. When Carter or Clinton was doing it, "no big deal." YOU ARE SPINNING YOUR LEFTIST WHEELS...
posted by ParisParamus at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2005


furthermore:

"The United States is entirely a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source. It can only act in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution. When the Government reaches out to punish a citizen who is abroad, the shield which the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution provide to protect his life and liberty should not be stripped away just because he happens to be in another land."

and:

"When the United States acts against its citizens abroad, it can do so only in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution..."

Reid v. Covert, 1957
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:44 PM on December 20, 2005


I'm just narrowing the set of phone calls involved here

which probably has no basis in fact, given your sourcing of what passes for the "information" you usually present here.

When Carter or Clinton was doing it

When Carter or Clinton was doing it, if in fact they were doing it, I did not know about it and sure as hell wasn't arguing on the internets about it.

I've argued here that the State's police powers basically scale with the threat. I believe that:

a) given terrorists wanting to do bad stuff here in the US
b) who use communication networks used by US citizens
c) an efficacious surveillance system that does not screw around with US citizens' property, person, or papers.

there might be Constitutional daylight for the executive, with sufficient Congressional sign-off, to implement the system to see how well it gathers intelligence, even with the concomitant risk of doomsday 1984 scenarios / abuse of said intelligence, and potential loss of citizen's privacy rights.

My reasoning is that I'm not fully buying the conflation of electronic surveillance with "search & seizure" of the 4th.

Whether or not this system is employable for lesser threats to public safety, I remain uncommitted.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:57 PM on December 20, 2005


Again, you and your ilk only find this noteworthy because you HATE President Bush. When Carter or Clinton was doing it, "no big deal." YOU ARE SPINNING YOUR LEFTIST WHEELS...

When Clinton got his dick sucked it was no big deal. We are ALL now sucking Dubyas dick, and that IS A BIG DEAL.
posted by afx114 at 7:02 PM on December 20, 2005


Ah, Conyers, he does such a good job for Detroit, how can he fail the nation? I'll take a thousand George Bushes over one such soft on crime, easy on welfare recipients, tough on productive business hack like him.

Civil liberties reality check: either we'll suffer no more terrorist attacks, and Bush will get the credit, or we'll suffer them, and there will be a civil liberties crackdown which will make today's state of affairs pale by comparison.
posted by MattD at 7:05 PM on December 20, 2005


Civil liberties reality check: when we lose them, either because of Bush as is happening now, or because of another attack, the terrorists have won. "They hate our freedom", remember?
posted by amberglow at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2005


Restricting our rights and disregarding the Constitution to fight people who want to do exactly the same is simply insane.
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on December 20, 2005


Restricting our rights and disregarding the Constitution to fight people who want to do exactly the same is simply insane.

See, I see our AQ friends as wanting to blow shit up, not "restrict our rights".

The SCOTUS did a penumbra-thing in 1967, finding a right to personal privacy in the search & seizure limitations of the 4th amendment.

I don't see it; getting a warrant to intercept every piece of communication between the US and eg. Afghanistan is simply impossible, and unreasonable, to use the language of the 4th amendment.

I fully support the efficacious collection and analysis of communications to & from the U.S., whether or not US citizens are potentially involved.

Though I wish the president had gotten congressional sign-off, eg. via a secret session (is such a thing possible?).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:54 PM on December 20, 2005


See, I see our AQ friends as wanting to blow shit up, not "restrict our rights".

We're told that AQ hates our freedom and wants us to abandon everything we stand for. I believe that this is something that they and the Bush Administration can agree on, and -- without suggesting deliberate conspiracy -- the net progress of their interaction is in the direction of this shared aim.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:06 PM on December 20, 2005


Paris, where did you read that all calls orginated outside the US? I read that all calls involved a transnational component, but your statement is different. Not that I really believe the president.

Fundamentally though, I'm a bit confused. There are secret courts in place for these sorts of wire taps. I really disagree with the concept of secret courts, but at least its something. The president has said that time was of the essence, but really, these warrants can be obtained very very very quickly from the evidence I've seen. What kind of statement does it make when a government refuses to even bother with the formality of a *secret* court?
posted by afflatus at 8:19 PM on December 20, 2005


Outside of nibbling at the edges, like allegedly sending FBI agents to interview people trying to check out Mao's Quotations, the DOD infiltrating and doing formal threat assessments on Quakers and vegans, the bullshit airport security kabuki shows, being labelled traitors and cowards for expressing thoughts policy debates (though I guess this is just coming from right-wing attack dogs rather than the administration per se) I don't see the admin abanding American principles.

PP is right in this instance, if Gore had instituted a similar policy wrt bulk intercepts of communications to & from areas of interest I would not see the big deal. Intelligence saves lives. Demanding the admin get warrants for each intercept is simply unreasonable, given the threat we presently face.

I understand worries about slipping into totalitarianism, and the potential for slime collection abuses (but if in fact the surveillance is limited to eg. Afghanistan, who the fuck is calling eg. Afghanistan anyway???) but me, I'm not particularly worried about that. Frog in a pot, dunno, but I give our law enforcement peeps some credit, plus our wonderful 2nd-amendment militia-types who are prepared to provide the necessary countervailing force if necessary :)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:31 PM on December 20, 2005


where did you read that all calls orginated outside the US?

the usual place, his ass. News says Gonzales is saying to/from the US, not just to the US. Not that it makes any difference anyway.

There are secret courts in place for these sorts of wire taps

I think the admin wanted to intercept EVERYTHING to/from eg. Afghanistan. By providing a corpus of intelligence, should a break come in a case, eg. capturing a terrorist's phone, they can go back through the corpus and track down domestic threats.

Given the threats of another 9/11 or worse, this appears eminently reasonable to me.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:34 PM on December 20, 2005


So basically, Heywood, it's the Ashcroft argument recouched in terms more palatable to this audience: that the nature of the threat and the fact that you personally trust the people involved mean that unlimited and unmonitored executive power is just fine, y'know, this time.

I think you're mad, but more to the point, where is the constitutional, or more broadly, principled basis for this position?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:37 PM on December 20, 2005


What kind of statement does it make when a government refuses to even bother with the formality of a *secret* court?

It seems to tell me that the courts, even this FISC kangaroo court, would not have approved of said actions, perhaps tapping an American citizen or some other blatantly illegal action. Thats really the only reason FISC would reject the wire-tap - no real shades of grey in which to dispute the point. I cant imagine that it would be because they're lazy - this is national security we're talking about here.
posted by SirOmega at 8:39 PM on December 20, 2005


either we'll suffer no more terrorist attacks, and Bush will get the credit, or we'll suffer them, and there will be a civil liberties crackdown which will make today's state of affairs pale by comparison.

The terrorists have already won; they have stolen our civil rights through the cowardice of such logic which has pervaded this administration. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin.
posted by caddis at 8:59 PM on December 20, 2005


Given the threats of another 9/11 or worse, this appears eminently reasonable to me.

Yeah! Say, any news on the capture of Osama? How's that goin' anyway? I know they're working really hard on it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:02 PM on December 20, 2005


Well, at least some of can enjoy your histrionic delusions that our civil rights are being lost or reduced.

Keep going.

And thank you President Bush for upholding the Constitution and protecting our country.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:05 PM on December 20, 2005


where is the constitutional, or more broadly, principled basis for this position?

The Constitutional/principled basis is that there are no absolute individual rights. cf. "Fire!" in a theater. Ideally, we would be free to talk in total privacy to anyone in the world, any time. However, there is a present threat to our national security, and we have delegated to our government Constitutional powers to provide public order and security.

With these goverment mandates come implied/inherant powers. The "necessary & proper" clause enables Congress to bundle & grant powers to the the executive to fulfill its Constitutional duties to direct the common defense.

With modern technology comes bigger threats (instant worldwide communications) and better tools to collect intelligence (computer storage and analysis of communications)...this was the rationale for permitting wiretaps in the 20th century.

IMV, requiring intelligence agencies to prove probable-cause & obtain bench warrants prior to intercepting communications to/from the middle east is an undue burden on the Government, given the needle-in-the-haystack nature of useful intelligence, and ability for massive NSA computers to back-sift collected intelligence to find important datums to rolling up terrorist cells.

At some point, yes, it's a matter of trust. The Constitution is, in fact, just a piece of paper -- it takes all of us working collectively to secure our rights.

With a free press and people of conscience in government, eventually, one must assume, any abuses would be uncovered eventually.

That the secret intelligence court rejected on the order of zero requests in 20+ years tells me the judicial oversight is a bullshit hoop to jump thru anyway.

Checks & Balances must exist, though, and that's where Bush has pissed on the Constitution -- when the Executive is delegated extraordinary powers, it must remain accountable to the Congress, and this means more than just briefing 8 congresspeople in total secrecy.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:27 PM on December 20, 2005


No, the President has always had extraordinary powers in matters of national security. This is nothing new. What's new is the its being publicized.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:40 PM on December 20, 2005


He's like the Mefi Rock'n Rollen. So needy. It's a fascinating pathology.
posted by y2karl at 9:42 PM on December 20, 2005


additionally, I find the idea of "constitutionally protected privacy of speech" present in the 4th Amendment contentious. As I detailed above, this "constitutional right" magically appeared in the jurisprudence in 1967, and the actual provenance of that decision is somewhat mysterious to me.

I agree that privacy of speech is a good idea, I wouldn't want to live in a 1984 world where everything and everywhere is bugged , but I think private long-distance communication with putatively hostile regions, is a weak right in face of the present threat. The court has held that where the expectation of privacy does not exist, there is no 4th amendment guarantee of privacy.

The issue then becomes the societal harm incurred by government intrusion in transnational communications, and that's where I say "no harm, no foul".

I would like to dig up the founding fathers and hear what they would have to say about eg. intercepting US citizen's mail on the high seas to/from enemy states in a time of war (but I note that intercepting communication is in a different class, since physical mail is still property, while bits travelling down an undersea cable are not property at all).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:48 PM on December 20, 2005


who the fuck is calling eg. Afghanistan anyway???

Probably any one of the many US South Asians with family there (over a million are here from that region), especially during a war. I'd be calling my relatives a lot to make sure they're ok. You?
posted by amberglow at 9:49 PM on December 20, 2005


(60,000 Afghans in the US, apparently.)
posted by amberglow at 9:52 PM on December 20, 2005


Heywood Mogroot: See, I see our AQ friends as wanting to blow shit up, not "restrict our rights".

Seriously? What do you think they're trying to accomplish by blowing shit up then?
posted by benign at 9:53 PM on December 20, 2005


A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.
Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:57 PM on December 20, 2005


A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.
The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."
Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil. ...

posted by amberglow at 10:01 PM on December 20, 2005


What do you think they're trying to accomplish by blowing shit up then?

Goad us into overreacting, give us a taste of our own medicine, take us down a peg or two economically, generally fuck with us as much as they can.

My eyes made dents in my forehead when I heard Bush's "they hate us for our freedoms" BS, and I have a similar reaction to talk of "existential threats", but the bottom-line is AQ peeps have the means and motive to do substantial harm to this country, and I don't have a problem with throwing billions of dollars of resources at the challenge of rolling them up. I think secretly tapping everything and anything that communicates to & from the mideast, or other suspicous communications, is a prudent investment in the common defense.

That the communications of some US citizens get caught up in this technological dragnet is somewhat unfortunate & perhaps inconvenient for them, but we are kinda, sorta in a quasi-war with AQ and allied forces right now and them's the breaks. Technology has changed in the past 30 years, and so must the law, viz. the SCOTUS-created constitutional right to privacy read into the search & seizure of persons & property language of the 4th amendment.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:14 PM on December 20, 2005


(overreacting militarily)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:15 PM on December 20, 2005


to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message

sure, I can totally see this, for emails especially. IIRC the FBI installed Carnivores all over the place, and the black-box nature of Carnivore made it impossible for informal private-sector monitoring of what exactly the FBI was capturing.

If we're afraid of abuses, I think we've come to the crux of a) big enough risks b) complicated enough technologies that we would benefit from allowing more surveillance powers; concomitant with these powers we would need more Congressional oversight and explicit legislative boundaries as to what is usable and what is not, and penalties for abusing these new powers. Laws aren't just for us peons, of course.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:23 PM on December 20, 2005


even the Washington Times is speaking out (and they're entirely a GOP/Moonie operation): President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms....
posted by amberglow at 10:32 PM on December 20, 2005


http://www.censurebush.org/
posted by caddis at 10:46 PM on December 20, 2005


Heywood Mogroot - I don't see it; getting a warrant to intercept every piece of communication between the US and eg. Afghanistan is simply impossible, and unreasonable, to use the language of the 4th amendment.

Errr... the entire Bill of Rights is a check on the powers of the government over people, not a standard where, in the case, the President can say, "Well it says 'Unreasonable' search; I can't be arsed to go through all that paperwork, so therefore getting a warrant is unreasonable."
posted by nathan_teske at 10:47 PM on December 20, 2005


Goad us into overreacting, give us a taste of our own medicine, take us down a peg or two economically, generally fuck with us as much as they can.

If that were Al Qaeda's mission, it would be far more difficult for the organization to recruit than news and government reports indicate. No, Al Qaeda has specific aims. Read bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war on the US. He and his cohorts have a list of grievances and a desire to see them addressed. You can disagree with his goals (as I certainlt do), but to sismiss it all as if it were aimless nihilism is to ensure that the killing will continue at the current rate indefinitely.
posted by Cassford at 10:54 PM on December 20, 2005


the entire Bill of Rights is a check on the powers of the government over people, not a standard where, in the case, the President can say, "Well it says 'Unreasonable' search; I can't be arsed to go through all that paperwork, so therefore getting a warrant is unreasonable."

while I agree, I also believe we live in a different world than the one of 1783. 8 guys could not have killed 3,000 and accomplished a 1% hit to the GDP of colonial America.

The ramped-up technologies and threats mean the powers of government need to be similarly ramped up, via the "necessary and proper" clause.

It's not a matter of inconvenience, it's a matter of possibility. The tool of listening to 100% of communications to/from a region was simply unthinkable in 1783, it is doable now, but judicial oversight, in the traditional probable-cause bench warrant, is simply impossible.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:34 PM on December 20, 2005


Just because you can do it does not make it right. Turn the NSA on our own citizens and there is no more privacy, no more fourth amendment. It's coward who trades freedom for safety, and even worse, the illusion of safety. This is not a nation of cowards, at least we didn't used to be.
posted by caddis at 11:48 PM on December 20, 2005


Somewhere up there somebody actually trotted out the "Freedom isn't free" slogan.

No, but it must be pretty damn cheap to you if you're ready to throw it away the minute you get a little scared.

Here's a tip: courage consists of doing what's right not when it's easy, but when it's hard. Anyone who counsels abandoning their principles the moment someone frightens them never really had any principles in the first place.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:54 PM on December 20, 2005


(Belatedly I've glanced through the commenter's posting history and come to the conclusion that he used the slogan in the opposite sense that the jingoists use it, and that his point was evidently meant to be the same as mine.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:03 AM on December 21, 2005


no more fourth amendment

I read this amendment as securing persons and property from unwarranted search & seizure.

The "privacy" angle was invented, apparently out of thin air, by the SCOTUS in my lifetime.

I believe Congress has the power to, in fact, turn the NSA on us, should security conditions warrant, and that the powers the NSA uses are directed soley toward constitutional ends of providing for the common defense (necessary and proper), and actual constitutional and common-law rights do not suffer undue burdens.

And should these measures prove unbearable, we have the freedom to throw out our representatives in 2-6 years and rework the balances.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:31 AM on December 21, 2005


(and should the latter prove stymied by extra-constitutional usurpations of governmental power, engage in armed insurrection just like good ol' Jefferson would want us to)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:37 AM on December 21, 2005


Communication in the day was "papers." Now communication is mostly electronic. I see no reason why the constitution should not also apply to new technology. I will choose not to get into the general issue of privacy as it is inexorably linked with issues of abortion. However, the fourth amendment clearly spoke to issues of privacy for the people in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. If the government comes along and reads my papers this right of privacy has been broken. When those papers are now stored and transmitted electronically they are still protected. Turning a blind eye to this important protection of liberty, even to enhance security, is not the act of a patriot, but rather the act of a coward.
posted by caddis at 6:45 AM on December 21, 2005


Communication in the day was "papers."

I am agnostic on this question but note that Justice Black's dissent in Katz disagrees with this.

Madison's original formulation of the 4th Amendment stated:

'The rights to be secured in their persons, their houses, their papers, and their other property, from all unreasonable searches and seizures..."

and I find his argument that "search and seizure" does not mean "eavesdrop" to be sensical.

This is an interesting case, since the government did not have the potential power in the late 18th century to intercept nonwritten communication at a distance.

The government did have the common-law power to eavesdrop (without trespass) in the 18th century, and in the 20th century upheld this power until reversing itself in 1967.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2005


If a machinegun is legal due to evolution in weaponry then surely the rest of the law should move forwards in terms of technology. Private mail is private mail, regardless of whether it's ink or electrons. Voice conversation is a separate matter but if there is even a single terrorist cell discussing activities over the phone without relying on code words, encryption or euphemism then I'd be very surprised indeed. My contention would be that listening in to phone calls only works on those not trying to conceal their activities.
posted by longbaugh at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2005


Private mail is private mail, regardless of whether it's ink or electrons.

Actually I see an important disctinction. Private mail (including postcards) is physical property entrusted to a third party. The 4th clearly protects against unwarranted inspection of physical property (though they have somewhat oddly carved out an "expectation of privacy" exception, so post-cards aren't protected, while I would prefer that even post-cards be protected, because government handling can damage/lose them).

Eavesdropping is a different police power altogether. Like the UK's street cameras, they are a powerful tool that can make a real difference in improving public safety, yet widescale eavesdropping of course is pretty much a yellow-brick road to eventual abuse if not totalitarianism.

Congress has the power to restrict the Executive's reach in this area, unless the administration can successfully argue that spying on citizens does in fact come under its Article II powers as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2005


Private mail (including postcards) is physical property entrusted to a third party.

I'll take "What is an ISP's hard drive?" for $200.
posted by longbaugh at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2005


that hard drive is not your physical property, and eg. carnivore can snoop traffic over the wire, and the NSA can pull comms out of the friggin' aether now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:58 AM on December 21, 2005


Actually Heywood, all the cases in this area focus on an expectation of privacy. If you are discussing your personal business in the market square there is none, but if you send a letter, send an email, or talk on the phone, there is an expectation that your communication will be private. Whatever, your attitude seems to be that the government can do whatever it wants and that is a good thing. I think it is a bad thing and I think allowing the government that sort of power is a coward's game. You have worn me down and I tire of this argument.
posted by caddis at 12:07 PM on December 21, 2005


It is however "entrusted to a third party" in that it exists on a piece of hardware somewhere with your permission. If the argument is that they can read it during transmission I see no difference between that and getting the postal agency to steam open your envelope to glance inside.
posted by longbaugh at 12:12 PM on December 21, 2005


and getting the postal agency to steam open your envelope to glance inside.

This disturbs the piece of property in question.

your attitude seems to be that the government can do whatever it wants and that is a good thing. I think it is a bad thing and I think allowing the government that sort of power is a coward's game

note that I am playing devil's advocate here to some extent. I, too, am afraid of the potential for abuses in giving the Feds the power of warrantless searches, and I believe Congress had the right idea with FISA.

Problem is that technology has surpassed the capability of FISA to meaningfully oversee useful police powers, thanks to the ability to digital record, index, and analyze virtually every communication we send.

This is somewhat similar to the ticking timebomb scenario, except there's nobody being tortured here. Objections are to potential abuses down the road, eg the lifetime power structure that Hoover was able to assemble thanks to wiretap abuses, but that's separate from the balancing of police powers to preserve public safety and the Peoples' right to be let alone.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2005


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