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Oh, so the government isn’t spying on you through your toaster… (June 8, 2013)

At the White House petition site:

We petition the Obama Administration to:

Repeal, in whole or in part, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, in order to stop secret, warrantless collection of data.

In order to recognize and preserve the 4th Amendment rights of the American People, to stop the warrantless and unjustifiable collection of personally identifiable information deemed to be private by the majority of Americans, and to put measures in place to prevent future abuses of power, we resolve to amend and/or repeal, in whole or in part, the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001, as amended.

Created: Jun 06, 2013

Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties, Government Reform, Regulatory Reform

Signatures needed by July 06, 2013 to reach goal of 100,000 99,329

Total signatures on this petition 671

[emphasis added]

There is another:

We petition the Obama Administration to:

Impeach federal judge Roger Vinson for authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of millions of Americans’ phone records.

On April 25 2013, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson issued an order authorizing unchecked surveillance of millions of innocent Americans by the NSA. Several US senators have expressed outrage at this sweeping, overly broad interpretation of the PATRIOT act by the secretive FISA courts and Judge Vinson.

Rather than serving as a check on executive power, Judge Vinson conspired with the NSA to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights without due process, transparency, or oversight.

We the people demand a full congressional investigation into the NSA surveillance program, and the immediate initiation of impeachment proceedings against Judge Vinson for violating his oath to uphold the constitution and the high crime of conspiracy against the basic civil rights of the American people.

Created: Jun 06, 2013

Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Homeland Security and Disaster Relief

Signatures needed by July 06, 2013 to reach goal of 100,000 99,081

Total signatures on this petition 919

[emphasis added]

Such a groundswell of support. Apparently for the American people there’s now only one sacred amendment in the Bill of Rights.

From the incomparable Charles P. Pierce:

Jun 7,2013

Civil Liberties Are Not Something You Trade

By Charles P. Pierce

at 1:00PM

The blog doesn’t like to get all civics class on your ass that often, but there’s one trope zipping around out there at the moment in connection with the current storm over phone records and data mining that makes me a little bit crazy — and that is the discussion of whether or not the American people will “trade off” civil liberties for what is really merely a sense of security. (You know what, folks? Don’t tell me about all the terror plots you’ve foiled if you’re not going to give me details. There is no reason to believe you. Either don’t mention them at all, or convince me. There’s no third alternative.) The terms of the transaction are obviously incorrect. The American people are not being asked to “trade” their civil liberties. They are being asked to surrender them, for all practical purposes, permanently.

Civil liberties are not something you get to “trade,” not least because they don’t all belong to you. They belong to me, too, and to the woman at the next table here at the Commonwealth Avenue Starbucks — Oh, c’mon, you knew where I was anyway, NSA guys. — and to the four people who just walked down the street past the big plate-glass window. You give yours away, you’re giving mine away, too, whether I want you to do so or not. Therefore, we all surrender those civil liberties. We do not trade them because we don’t get anything back. And it’s not like we can cut another deal later to get them back….

[emphasis in original]

The silence from the teabagger darlings in Congress is deafening, don’t you think?

Over seven years ago:

Warrensburg, Missouri

The Daily Star Journal

Thursday, January 12, 2006

page 5 [no link, this paper is still in the 19th century]

Rule of law?

By Michael Bersin


The recent revelation that our government, with the direct approval of George W. Bush, is illegally spying on American citizens in violation of the prohibition of warrantless searches in the 4th Amendment of our Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) should give us all pause. Among the provisions of FISA is a 72 hour “emergency clause”. Up to this point one FISA judge has resigned and the remainder of the court will be attempting to hold the administration accountable. It’s not as if the FISA Court has been reluctant to grant surveillance warrants – there have been thousands over the past few years with only a hand full of rejections.

The administration’s defense of their illegal activity appears to be that filling out the paperwork is too onerous. And we have ex cathedra assurances from Kansas Senator Pat Roberts and Missouri Senator Kit Bond that this is all somehow constitutional?

Our founders were perceptive as shown by a statement first published in 1759 and attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

Rule of law is a recurring theme in civilization. In Bolt’s 1960 play A Man for All Seasons Sir Thomas More states: “…when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

The courts here and abroad have a lot to say about the rule of law. In the Supreme Court case Ex parte Milligan (1866) Justice David Davis eloquently wrote: “…By the protection of the law human rights are secured; withdraw that protection, and they are at the mercy of wicked rulers, or the clamor of an excited people.

“The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence…”

In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled (which this administration’s White House Office of Legal Counsel cited for a legal memo on another issue): “….This decision opens with a description of the difficult reality in which Israel finds herself security wise. We shall conclude this judgment by re-addressing that harsh reality. We are aware that this decision does not ease dealing with that reality. This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties….”

Billmon’s June 15, 2004 commentary on the Israeli court ruling finds where this administration misses the mark: “….what I find most striking are not the legal issues involved, but rather the enormous contrast in intellectual intent between what the Israeli high court and the Bush Justice Department have been trying to do. The Israeli justices, for all their hypocrisy, were attempting to extend the rule of law into areas that have traditionally been regarded as the exclusive domain of the national security state. The Bush legal team is boldly and arrogantly trying to do the opposite.

“It’s the difference between a legal system that has been trapped in a moral cesspool for almost 60 years, and desperately wants to get out, and a small clique of legal extremists who are determined to throw themselves, and their country, into the same stinking mire, regardless of the risks.”

All the trees are down and an ill wind is blowing. Just not from the direction we think.

We’re all chumps now.