Last night, Bill Moyers Journal on PBS ran a story about the illegal wire tapping by Bush:
After Congress hurriedly passed the enlargement of the FISA Act last month before adjourning and going home where they got an earful from their constituents, they began having second thoughts. They’ve launched a hearing about the law they, themselves, had passed less than a month before. Moyers mentioned the fact that bloggers left and right came out screaming. The ACLU published an ad depicting Pelosi and Reid as sheep.
The guests at Moyers’ table were:
Mickey Edwards, former Representative [R-OK], a founding member of the Heritage Foundation and a member of the Constitution Project [a non-partisan group whose mission is to defend the Constitution] and Anthony Ramero, the Executive Director of the ACLU who took office on September 7, 2001 [what timing!] and has presided over it as it has taken on numerous suits in regards to the President’s steps to gather more and more power into the Executive Branch.
What follows is a somewhat loose but pretty accurate transcript of the part of the program that dealt with this situation—the gist of what was said has not been altered. ‘Uh’s and phrases that, if written literally, would have changed the meaning of a sentence have been cleaned up.
I also deleted some of the introductory content.
We join the program already in progress :)
Edwards: [very passionately]:
“He’s not the head of gov’t. He’s not head of the branch that can declare war. He’s not the head of branch that has power to decide what to do with prisoners of war.
“All those powers belong to Congress. Congress is the branch of the people.
“What we have here is a presidenCY that is seeking to change the entire system of gov’t we have in order to accrue more power into the hands of the few individuals and say, ‘It’s none of your business.’ Even though the Congress, the law-making branch, is the branch that’s supposed to represent the American people. ‘We’re not going to tell you anything.’
“You create a new bill, you tell a Federal agency to do this and file a report with Congress and they say, ‘We don’t have to.’”
“The President wants to give these big telecommunications companies complete immunity [Ramero: “Big mistake.”] from criminal prosecution and from civil liability if they help the government spy on Americans. What concerns you about that?”
“Well, first of all, any time you start taking away from the American people the right to go to court to FIND OUT whether their rights have been violated, then you START with a serious problem.
“I don’t know what the court would find in any case. The same with suspending Habeous Corpus. Taking away the right to be HEARD in court. That’s a heck of a big step away from the Constitution.”
“And the point for the telecommunications companies in particular, for the FIRST TIME, you would be giving the telecommunications the immunity for their consumers to challenge them. For the FIRST TIME, you would give the government direct access to people’s private data through the telecommunications.”
“I think that when you sign up with AOL for an email account, or you sign up with Verizon to be your phone company, it never occurs to you that what you’re doing is giving them the permission to turn over the records of who you call and who you email and then you have no recourse. You’ve lost your ability to go after them.”
“No one wants another 9/11 and the fact remains, someone must be doing something right. We haven’t been attacked again. If you two guys have your way, will that make us more vulnerable?”
“What we want to make sure is that there are rules of the road that are followed as the government conducts good, lawful intelligence gathering.”
Who makes the rules?
“I think the rules have to be made by Congress, and the Judicial branch—but the idea that the Executive Branch, on its own, has the power to bypass the Judicial Branch—as it did now with this new FISA Bill—or to completely bypass Congress as the President did when authorizing the
National Security Act spying program really robs the country of the basic tenets of our Democracy.”
“Did you ever see the shell game at the fair where you put the pea under the shell and you move it around? That’s what the President is doing. The issue is not about protecting us against terrorism. The issue is about how it’s done. Whether you have to do it lawfully. Whether you have to get a warrant. The old FISA act said, ‘Hey, do it! If there’s a big rush and you have to surveil in a hurry, go ahead and come back and get the warrant retroactively.’
“What the President wants to do is cut the Congress out of it, cut the Court out of it, get rid of the requirement in the Constitution to get a warrant.”
“This is a very important question because, when they went to Congress, and asked Congress for what they wanted, they got it! Congress has been going along! So, isn’t there a greater fear that in a time of terror that both branches are willing to go over the edge in the terms of civil liberties?
“Exactly. The reason we’re so angry with the House and Senate is that they didn’t have to go along with this bill so quickly. They acted like sheep. We need leadership— not ‘leadersheep’ as the ad said.”
“I think there are too few people in Congress —of either party— who understand that the Congress is the equal branch, [Ramero: "Exactly."] not just separate and independent—but equal.
“So, when the President requires, in his view, these additional powers, that should be grounds for a very serious set of hearings, debate, serious discussion by the Congress. . . .”
Ramero went on to describe a 20-year-old college student who was protesting —handing out leaflets and so on— and then discovered that he had been listed by a Federal agency as a ‘credible threat’ to the security of the country.
Edwards went on to make the point that, yes we are under threat. But, when the founding fathers created the Constitution we were under a much more serious and profound threat. The British and the French had the power to wipe us out as a nation—not just kill a few thousand people. Nevertheless, they sat down together and drafted a Constitution that refused to create a Presidency that had total power. He stated that this President doesn’t get that. He believes he’s the boss and is answerable to no one and to no law— and that simply is not true.
Both guest also made the point that this ‘War on Terror’ is not like a war that will, one day, end. It has the potential to become an ongoing threat. So, the question arises: Do we want our country to become a totalitarian state under the guise of fighting terrorism when, in reality, it will simply become a totalitarian state with no end in site? The issue is power—not fighting terrorism.
The program put the issue front and center and laid out the facts clearly and succinctly.
By the way, this segment was followed by a lawyer who, [so he says], was instrumental in helping Bush and Cheney skate just this side of the law in order to do what they wanted to do when ‘fighting terrorism.’ He even admitted to having second thoughts when he saw a video of a prisoner at Gitmo shivering, in fetal position, in his bunk. He seemed to view these second thoughts as a sign of weakness on his own part.
If, within the next day or two, I’ve recovered sufficiently from this transcript, I’ll do a follow up— but not right now. **pant pant**
The good news, though, is that the MSM is finally sitting up and taking notice! Well, PBS is at least KINDA the MSM, isn’t it?