Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Scare tactics again

The Bush-Cheney regime is again revving up their favourite spin machine, spewing scare tactics with reckless abandon. This time, it’s over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but it’s the same nonsense they’ve tried for the past seven years.

FISA is a thirty-year old law that governs how the president can spy on people on US soil. Under FISA, the president needs a warrant to spy. The Bush-Cheney regime found obeying the law too restrictive and ordered illegal wiretaps, without a court order.

The regime convinced telecommunications companies to help with the illegal spying, and that’s what the current battle is all about. The Bush-Cheney regime wants to retroactively grant telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution.

This is a typical of the Bush-Cheney regime’s above-the-law mentality, but no one—including them—should be able to flout the law and get away with it. Their cry that telecommunications companies won’t help them spy without this legal dodge is utter nonsense: Telcos will cooperate as they did before the Bush-Cheney regime—in accordance with law, pursuant to warrants. If they refuse, they can be prosecuted.

The companies would have known that what the Bush-Cheney regime was asking was illegal—that’s why they all employ armies of lawyers. They should have refused to spy without a warrant, but instead they broke the law and they must be held accountable for that, just as the Bush-Cheney regime must be.

But the regime is also trying to frame Democrats as preventing spying on terrorists, which is an outright lie. The old FISA law—including the requirement that warrants be obtained—is again in force. There’s no need for Congress to do anything, but there’s a moral, legal and constitutional obligation for them to stand up to the Bush-Cheney scare tactics.

The Bush-Cheney regime has successfully used scare tactics in the past, most notably to win the 2002 midterm elections and the 2004 presidential election. This time, though, Congress isn’t being run by the rubber-stamp Republicans, and he may not get his way.

Given the Bush-Cheney regime’s belief in dictatorial powers of the presidency (a subject in itself), it’s probable that they’re conducting illegal spying right now. The difference is that without immunity from prospection, telecommunications companies are unlikely help them break the law.

As long as Congressional Democrats remain firm in their resolve to stand up for the rule of law, this stand-off can be carried on until a new president is sworn in. Not a perfect solution, but probably the best we can hope for until this rogue regime is gone.

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