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
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
The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the
Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others.
Visit his website:
Other Articles by Jack
* 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
Presidential Power Grab
Surrealistic Pillow: The West Virginia Mining Disaster
* Pataki &
Bloomberg: How to Bust a Union
Imperial President and the NSA Spying Scandal
and the Burning Embers of Repression
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
Tolerance: Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers
Chavez and the American Slug: Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
* The Lie
of a Strong Economy (Beneath the Towers of Avarice)
Again: Major Party Turnabout
* The New
War Candidate: Major Paul Hackett for Congress
Judy! The Fine Art of Calling a Bluff
Executive Blackmail: The Betrayal of Democracy in Haiti
the Democrats & Move On: The Federalist Court
the Wind: The Inevitable End of the Iraqi Occupation
and Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror
Miller: The Anti-Hero
Scherzo: The Last Waltz
* The Last
Throes: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Bush -- US Out Now!
* The Gates
of Hell: Occupied Iraq
* May Day:
The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
* The Papal
Aristocracy: Confessions of a Nonbeliever
Citizen Left Behind
* A Marine
Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
Defense of Barry Bonds
Defending Dan? Rather Not
Went to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun