Sunday, July 07, 2013

Our New Secret Government

It's outside the Constitution, it's secret, and it is unchecked.  NYT has a chilling piece today on how the FISA Court is creating new law and giving unparalleled power to the NSA.  There's no public scrutiny or oversight, no adversarial debate, and its conclusions, many of which create exceptions to the Constitution, are secret -- no one but the court and the feds is permitted to know what new "Constitutional" (sic) law (sic) they are creating.

Here are a few choice excerpts:

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

A parallel Supreme Court... I wonder what SCOTUS thinks about that?

All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Oh.  Never mind.

Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public.

Secret law, created by the security state, and no one is permitted to know its contents.  But surely there's some process, this court doesn't simply do whatever NSA, CIA, et al. ask, does it?

The FISA judges have bristled at criticism that they are a rubber stamp for the government, occasionally speaking out to say they apply rigor in their scrutiny of government requests.

Aha, I thought so...

...a single judge signs most surveillance orders, which totaled nearly 1,800 last year. None of the requests from the intelligence agencies was denied, according to the court.

Uh-oh. [Gulp.]  And it gets increasingly nightmarish...

A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court.

What?!  How the hell can there be an appeal when there's only one side, and whatever it asks is rubber-stamped?  Supposedly Verizon, Google, and the like are complaining about FISA requirements, but...

In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

In one respect that makes sense, since the FISA court itself has no legitimacy at all.  But again why would we even care about appeals... WE can't appeal, only those who make it into the court can.  WE have no standing and are not even permitted to know what the hell is going on.

Judges on the FISA court refused to comment on the scope and volume of their decisions.

That's more than enough.  Anyone who can read the NYT article and still think it is "over the top" to be worrying about an imminent police state is an idiot.

There are no checks, no bounds, no limits to what these people are doing.  The FISA Court and NSA need to be abolished and dismantled.  There should be charges against anyone who violated the Fourth Amendment and any other part of the Constitution.  There are no exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, and the "special needs" doctrine maintains otherwise must be thoroughly repudiated.  The entire body of "law" created by these shadowy dictators needs to be thrown out.  Otherwise, we proceed to a true Star Chamber world...assuming we aren't already there.  (But how would we know, since it would be secret?)

It's quite unclear to me how we could get rid of this nightmare through political processes.  Neither we nor, I presume, the majority of Congress, are privy to what is going on.  Presumably Congress is among those bugged, and were any serious attempt to stop these -- let's not mince words -- lawless people and institutions, were it ever made, could easily be thwarted by them.  (Surely the good people in Congress couldn't be blackmailed or bribed, could they?)

The Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) has a good analysis of the situation.   I  think they correctly identify what is happening and why...

[T]he American ideal of freedom and civic involvement is being replaced by a technocratic nightmare in which government bureaucrats and their allies in the corporate sector rig the rules of society in order to protect the power and privilege of a select few politicians and businessmen. All the while, the majority of the American people are kept in check via debt, imprisonment, and a vast surveillance network which keeps us monitored, controlled and marching in lock step with the government’s dictates.

If we can't count on Congress (we can't) or SCOTUS (ugh) to protect us, the who is there left to defend freedom?  The president?  Hahaha -- he's leading the attack on us.  So who is left?  Us.  TAC also has a great Independence Day blog post that's worth reading.  Highlights...

The Declaration wasn’t simply a rebellion against British rule. It declared void the old way of viewing government and authority. It boldly asserted that We the People are not subject to our “rulers.”

They are subject to us.


By declaring independence from England, the American colonists threw off the rule of the British crown. But the Declaration reaches to a deeper level. At its core, it boldly proclaimed We the People do not ultimately submit to any government. We are not subject to the president, or the Congress or even the Supreme Court. Those government institutions derive all of their power from us.

That means they answer to us.

We determine the extent of their power. We have the right to interpose and rein it in when they overstep their authority. And ultimately, we retain the right to strip every bit of their power away.

If you, dear reader, have not already committed to refuse to comply with unConstitutional diktats, if you haven't started doing what you can at the grassroots level (or whatever level you find yourself) to combat this growing totalitarianism, if you aren't ready to tell these scoundrels Don't Tread on Me! and then take measures to back it up... is the time to start.

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