“You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they’re gonna be sued. I…I mean…It is..These people are responsible for shareholders. They’re private companies.”
—President George W. Bush, January 28, 2008, talking about the warrantless wiretapping program and the “Protect America Act”.
What is it about that statement that makes my blood pressure spike? Again, when did my rights as an American citizen suddenly vaporize? Whatever happened to my Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure?
I don’t give a shit about the telco companies. I don’t give a rat’s ass if they get sued six ways to Sunday by every one of their customers. They chose to aid the government with this program (except for Quest), they have cadres of expensive lawyers who tell them what to do, and they can sink or swim on their own. It’s obvious Bush doesn’t care about being responsible for us, the citizens of his country, by the letter of the Constitution, which requires that a warrant be supported by probable cause and sworn to by someone who is accountable for it. We as citizens should be outraged by this invasion of our privacy, but we’re not.
The argument “I don’t care if they listen, because I’m not doing anything wrong,” is weak and ignorant. We have laws that state clearly what the President is allowed to do in the interest of national security; in this case it’s the 1978 FISA act, which never required a court order in the first place. This administration felt it needed to expand the scope of its powers beyond any type of oversight or accountability, which immediately makes me suspicious of its motives.
When a government oversteps the written laws, the erosion of those laws is the inevitable result. Grabbing for unlimited power is human nature, and our laws are there to keep that impulse in check. This administration has repeatedly asserted that it is not accountable to Congress for its actions, many of which make a mockery of its claim to defend “freedom”.
I feel less and less like I want to participate in this society if I feel like I’m living in a police state, governed by vague threats of fear and panic. My President should be accountable to his shareholders too, but nobody seems to give a shit about what this administration does.
Update 3.7.08: See this article for more information on abuses of power.