Bush tells us he is trying to keep America safe from attack. But what about attack from within our own borders? For the past six years, our own democratic freedoms have been continually attacked by the Bush administration. This is not new for our government. We are dangerously headed down the same path McCarthy recently paved, only this time, the president himself is heading the scare, and terrorists have replaced communists.
The current House Surveillance Bill would actually restore some measure of the freedoms we have lost since Bush fueled and exploited the climate of fear after Sept. 11. But Bush has threatened to veto the bill because it would force all government agencies to once again obtain court orders before being granted legal wiretaps of U.S. citizens.
Our intrepid leader obviously feels impervious to his 19 percent approval rating of last February — an all-time low for U.S. presidents. In a stoic display of staying the course, American dissatisfaction still doesn’t warrant a change in Bush’s plans.
Furthermore, the bill would remove legal immunity from telecommunications companies who helped the government eavesdrop on U.S. citizens after Sept. 11. Yet, it would still provide for judges to privately review sensitive government documents to determine whether telecom companies acted lawfully. At least one party would be held responsible to the American people. Interestingly, in the current lawsuits, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) would replace the telecom companies as defendants with the government itself.
Consider that without judicial intercession, the government and our telecommunications companies can and have worked out whatever "arrangements" they want in secret, at the expense of citizens. There is no oversight. There is no recourse. The House Surveillance Bill would stop this.
But Bush says current and possible lawsuits against telecom companies would expose state secrets. (No George, this is addressed in the bill.) Moreover, and more illuminating, Bush says that such lawsuits would make companies and individuals in the private sector less willing to work with the government in apprehending terrorists.
I wonder if he would have won more support if he had just come out and said lawsuits would make it harder to trample American freedoms.
Bush then essentially ordered the House to do as he wished, saying, "They should not leave for their Easter recess without getting the Senate bill to my desk." The Senate bill on surveillance would give him what he’s had and what he wants: "a blank check," in Arlen Specter’s words.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) pointedly questioned why Bush is misrepresenting the House bill. He suggests the fight over the House bill is less about surveillance issues and more about the House refusing to bend to (King) George’s wishes.