â€œAnd you a fool if you donâ€™t think that they already tapped your line.â€ â€”Talib Kweli, your favorite MCâ€™s favorite MC, on â€œGood Mourningâ€ from Reflection Eternal
Folks have long known that president Bush has taken several liberties with our privacy rights in the years following 9/11, mainly in the form of the USA PATRIOT Act (actually the: â€œU.niting and S.trengthening A.merica by P.roviding A.ppropriate T.ools R.equired to I.ntercept and O.bstruct T.errorism A.ct of 2001â€), which gave the government the right to read your email, search your home without your knowledge and detain suspected foreign terrorists indefinitely. Bushâ€™s related National Security Agency-operated wiretapping program from 2002 also gave him constitutional power to intercept the communications of suspected terrorists without a warrant, and weâ€™ve all seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that isnâ€™t kosher.
Any time I have convos with my friends that include the word combos â€œBlackâ€ and â€œPower,â€ â€œ9/11â€ and â€œSo-Called Terrorists,â€ or â€œBushâ€ and â€œAss-face,â€ we joke that the tap just kicked in. But it seemed the jig was up when lawsuits were brought against several telecommunications companies in 2006 for participating in program, which had finally been deemed illegal.
Alas, it was too good to be true. On Friday, June 20th, 2008, the House of Representatives passed an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (download the full text here) that will absolve the companies, of which AT&T is one, of all wrongdoing. Surprise, surprise. On the â€œgoodâ€ side, the bill also calls for an investigation into the NSA program, requires individual court orders to tap lines outside the U.S., and limits domestic eavesdropping to seven days without a warrant if exigent circumstances permit (it was originally three days). Thanks, Democratic Congress. We â€˜preciate you!
All of this came after Bush threatened to veto any bill that did not pardon the companies, which each acted on a presidential order to tap the lines. Bush is ecstatic: â€œIt will help our intelligence professionals learn enemiesâ€™ plans for new attacks,â€ he said Friday.
The Democrats also view this as a victory, however partial, saying it is a huge step up from what the White House originally pushed for, and point to the checks on Bushâ€”and any future presidentsâ€™â€”power to create similar programs without congressional and judicial approval. Yeah, I dig the checks and balances. But if we hadnâ€™t been sucked into this dark place by a self-interested, oil-loving, fear-mongering administration, the system would never have been circumvented in the first place.
The Senate is expected to vote on it this week, and senator Obama says itâ€™s an improvement over the bill he opposed last year, which tells me that he will vote for it, if heâ€™s present. I guess weâ€™ll have to wait and see. â€œUnder this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the presidentâ€™s illegal program of warrant-less surveillance will be over,â€ he said . â€œIt is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay.â€
But who determines who our threats are? And should I just chalk it up, change my name and move to Australia?
What do you think?
If you like Kenryaâ€™s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.
Currently listening to: Lupe Fiasco’s “American Terrorist”