I drew this last year for an earlier post about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping and data mining. It seems even more apt now. Under the guise of FISA reform, a gutless Congress has pretty much invited Bush and his minions to drive a truck up to edge of the information highway and start loading it up, indiscriminantly, with bits and bytes from damn near everyone's e-mail and other Internet communications.
The pretext is that we're only monitoring overeas communications, data mining the stream of information to detect suspicious patterns of possible terrorist activity, discovering nodes of terrorist networks almost before they form. Yeah, right. Meanwhile, we're once again failing to distinguish friends and foes abroad and basically sweeping up most Americans in the net we're casting, as well. In an interconnected world, uncontrolled foreign surveillance basically means you can spy on anyone -- "six degress of separation" and all that.
I'm really ashamed of the Democrats, who supposedly are the majority party in both houses of Congress. They lined up like sheep to give Bush everything he asked for in his latest assault on the Constitution. This is how the lead editorial in today's New York Times began:
It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.You know you're in trouble when even the New York Times is telling Congressional Democrats they need to grow a spine.
There was plenty of bad behavior. Republicans marched in mindless lockstep with the president. There was double-dealing by the White House. The director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, crossed the line from being a steward of this nation’s security to acting as a White House political operative.
But mostly, the spectacle left us wondering what the Democrats — especially their feckless Senate leaders — plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president.