Politrix: American Terrorist

“And you a fool if you don’t think that they already tapped your line.” —Talib Kweli, your favorite MC’s favorite MC, on “Good Mourning” 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: “U.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 2001”), which gave the government the right to read your email, search your home without your knowledge and detain suspected foreign terrorists indefinitely. Bush’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 we’ve all seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that isn’t kosher.

Any time I have convos with my friends that include the word combos “Black” and “Power,” “9/11” and “So-Called Terrorists,” or “Bush” and “Ass-face,” 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 “good” 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 ‘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: “It will help our intelligence professionals learn enemies’ plans for new attacks,” 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 Bush—and any future presidents’—power to create similar programs without congressional and judicial approval. Yeah, I dig the checks and balances. But if we hadn’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 it’s an improvement over the bill he opposed last year, which tells me that he will vote for it, if he’s present. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. “Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the president’s illegal program of warrant-less surveillance will be over,” he said . “It 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.”

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 Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Currently listening to: Lupe Fiasco’s “American Terrorist”

Last 5 posts by Parlour

  • Diane

    That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. Who?

    Do you think it’s just one person? Do you think it’s our ‘elected’ officials? Is it a combination of private/public figures who talk behind closed doors, or under a plastic dome (think Maxwell Smart, the original), or who are part of a ‘Chamber’ or ‘Group’ that manipulates all manner of US policy?

    Maybe I read too much. Maybe there are nuggets of truth in fictional tales. Maybe we’ve allowed government to operate as it has for a tad too long. We turned a blind eye and we’re reaping what we’ve sowed. Big business gets to defraud and yet get bailed out. They refuse to listen to Congress and insist on making windfall profits with oil. Who’s in charge here?

    Threats? Some US businesses are no better than overseas terrorists – they just did it in the name of capitalism. Bin Laden is likely laughing mightily as he couldn’t have planned a better demise of the US. It feels like Fall 2001 – except worse. Because we did it to ourselves.