Monday, February 27, 2006

Opinion pages

The Roots Project gets some traction in the KU student paper – Hold Bush administration to same laws as citizens:

It was tough being the eldest child in a large family. I didn’t have an older sibling to keep me out of trouble or watch over me when I made a phone call. Thankfully, no one has to worry about that now because our Uncle Sam is willing to be a big brother to us all.

By now you’ve heard about the National Security Agency wiretapping, but unfortunately the truth seems to be getting shouted down by myths or stories of gun toting VPs. Before debunking the spin let’s look at the cliff’s notes version of what happened. After 9/11, President Bush authorized the NSA to intercept vast quantities of international telephone and Internet communications from innocent American citizens with no warrant — a direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment.

MYTH: This is a “terrorist surveillance program.”

Changing the semantics alone doesn’t make it any better. If someone is a terrorist there are already avenues that provide the government with the power to eavesdrop, such as FISA. These legal recourses were ignored.

MYTH: FISA is too slow.

FISA allows wiretaps to begin immediately in times of an emergency as long as you go to FISA — a judicial oversight group formed 1978 by the act — within three days. The judges are available at all hours and two judges are required in D.C. at all times for such an occasion.

MYTH: The Government isn’t doing anything that Google or Facebook wouldn’t do.

What Google does is creepy but what the government did is criminal. Even the American Bar Association has come forward saying the unlawful surveillance should stop.

MYTH: The president has the power to say what the law is.

“When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal,” argued President Nixon not that long ago. Our country hasn’t had a King George in years and after the last one I doubt we’ll be getting a new one any time soon. No one is above the law in our country and the president is no exception. He was never given the authority to spy on U.S. citizens without some form of oversight, though after 9/11 he did get the revisions to FISA that he wanted including making it easier and faster to obtain wiretaps. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted during a press conference that the administration didn’t pursue enacting these changes in Congress because it would have been “difficult, if not impossible” to get this amended into FISA. So the only logical conclusions left were either that the government couldn’t meet the low warrant standards of FISA, which historically has approved more than 99 percent of all requests, or the president just didn’t care to follow the law.

MYTH: This is all about politics.

This isn’t a question of right versus left but of right versus wrong. Democrats have been outraged by the illegal eavesdropping but they are hardly alone in their confusion and concern of possible abuse. Criticism has come from across the Republican spectrum from moderates like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Grover Norquist, who has been called “managing director of the hard-core right” by the Nation, a New York based liberal magazine. Even Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) has said, “There have been as many Republicans as Democrats who’ve spoken out on the issue.”

MYTH: This isn’t a big deal.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Our forefathers created a system of checks and balances for a reason. Our soldiers have bravely sacrificed their lives protecting our freedom for a reason. To argue it is of no importance is to argue against the very pillars of what makes this nation great and dishonor all those who’ve died to keep us free.

LaMort is a Cherryvale senior in psychology and political science.
Have you written your letter yet?