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(DV) Random: Constitutional Suspension -- An Abdication of Democracy







Constitutional Suspension: An Abdication of Democracy 
by Jack Random
February 14, 2006

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It is increasingly difficult to find outrage against the assault on civil liberties epitomized by the USA Patriot Act and the NSA domestic spying scandal. The sad truth about the recent “compromise” to extend the Patriot Act is that it may not matter. 


Under the most arrogant interpretation of constitutional war powers in recorded history, congressional mandates have been reduced to an exercise in symbolic posturing for the duration of an eternal war. 

If an authorization for use of force against the Taliban and a nebulous group of terrorists under the banner of Al Qaeda can be used to justify a sweeping program of surveillance on American citizens, in direct defiance of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, then any cosmetic modification of the all-encompassing powers of the Patriot Act are frankly irrelevant. 

Fundamentally, if this miserable excuse for a congress does not stand up as an equal branch of government to challenge the blatantly illegal NSA spying program, even if it requires impeachment, then the entire debate on reauthorization of the Patriot Act is nothing more than a public display of the castration of the opposition party. 

Assuming a relevance that does not in fact exist, the proposed changes that have reportedly satisfied such Democratic luminaries as Senators Diane Feinstein and Hillary Clinton are so miniscule that the New York Times could not delineate them with any degree of clarity. 

Under the proposed changes, could the government still conduct “sneak and peak” searches of a citizen’s home on the most specious of grounds, under the authority of a secret court, without recourse or even informing the victimized citizen?  Yes. 

Under the proposed changes, based on the lowest legal standard of relevance, could the government tap your library records, business transactions, internet activities, health records and other personal information? Yes. The only change is that, a year after the fact, the collaborating agents would be free to inform you, leaving you with the impossible burden of proving that the government’s actions were both unfounded and irresponsible. 

Are there any limits on how long such information can be stored or to what nefarious uses it might be employed?  No. 

In short, under the new and improved Patriot Act, the individual citizen yields his or her rights and the government is shielded from any reasonable recourse or accountability. Under the most egregious circumstances of abuse, such as those revealed under the Nixon administration and the reign of J. Edgar Hoover, the abused would have to prove beyond doubt that the government acted in bad faith. 

Not even the National Security Administration can document “bad faith.” 

In short, for those of us who still believe in civil liberties, these are trying times. 

These are times in which a singular tragic event has been employed to render our bill of rights, the core and foundation of our democracy, null and void. 

Ultimately, it does not matter that our president has already nullified our basic rights by executive decree, if our elected officials do not understand the essential nature of universal human rights to the democratic form of government, then it is our solemn and highest duty to replace them with those who do. 

It does not matter whether the betrayers of our democracy are Republican or Democrat: There is no place for them in a nation founded on law, a nation that values liberty and justice above privilege and wealth.  There is no place for them in the future of our democracy. 

If we believe in liberty, if we believe in democracy, if we believe in a society that respects all cultures, all religions, all philosophies and freedom of expression, the we will not endure what our government has thrust upon us in the name of security. 

Do not believe that the American experiment in democracy is a straight line from the revolution to the present.  Our liberties are the product of an endless struggle against the forces of oppression by an elite class often found in our government.  The same arguments that are now given for unrestricted executive spying and the Patriot Act were once delivered by the defenders of the Alien and Sedition Acts. 

Historically, we have had to struggle to establish a theoretical republic (rather than an aristocracy) after the revolution. We endured with the newly formed constitution of 1789.  We fought back John “Alien & Sedition” Adams and the Federalists with the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800. We fought for the abolition of slavery circa 1865, the enfranchisement of minorities (circa 1870) and women (circa 1920), the rights of labor to organize (circa 1930s) and freedom from racial discrimination (circa 1965). We fought against the excesses of McCarthy (circa 1954), Nixon (circa 1972) and countless others throughout the pages of history. 

The struggle is not over. The pact that the people made in the original revolution was made with a higher authority than government. It was a promise to future generations of vigilance in the pursuit and protection of liberty and justice.  The lesson of history is that those who do not value liberty will surely lose it. 

The next revolution begins in November 2006. 

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: Random Jack.


Other Articles by Jack Random

* Right and Responsibility Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed
* Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan: Challenging the Pro-War Democrats
* The State of the Union: A Stumbling Illusion of Strength
* The Presidential Power Grab
* Surrealistic Pillow: The West Virginia Mining Disaster
* Pataki & Bloomberg: How to Bust a Union
* The Imperial President and the NSA Spying Scandal
* France and the Burning Embers of Repression
* The Activist Court & the Neoconservative Agenda
* The Agnew Factor: Clearing the Impeachment Path
* Iraq and New Orleans: The ABCs of Police Lawlessness
* The Age of Catastrophe: Preparing for Disaster
* No Tears for Rehnquist: The Legacy of a Chief Justice
* Zero Tolerance: Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers
* Hugo Chavez and the American Slug: Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
* The Lie of a Strong Economy (Beneath the Towers of Avarice)
* Fooled Again: Major Party Turnabout
* The New War Candidate: Major Paul Hackett for Congress
* Free Judy! The Fine Art of Calling a Bluff
* Executive Blackmail: The Betrayal of Democracy in Haiti
* Blame the Democrats & Move On: The Federalist Court
* Against the Wind: The Inevitable End of the Iraqi Occupation
* London and Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror
* Judith Miller: The Anti-Hero
* Schizo Scherzo: The Last Waltz
* The Last Throes: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
* Impeach Bush -- US Out Now!
* Recall the Governator
* The Gates of Hell: Occupied Iraq
* May Day: The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
* The Papal Aristocracy: Confessions of a Nonbeliever
* No Citizen Left Behind
* A Marine Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
* The Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
* In Defense of Barry Bonds
* Defending Dan? Rather Not
* David Went to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun