Bourgeois Deviant

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Domestic Spying Perspective

Just to inform the debate over the whole "domestic spying" thing... DCeiver has a tidy little rant that has some choice bits and fair comments that put this shenanigan into perspective. Yours truly comments as well.

If I may be so pedantic as to attempt to extend this thread a little further here in this space... Domestic wiretapping has, in many ways, revealed where we are by way of national zeitgeist. We find the moderate intrusion of government into our personal lives acceptable so long as it is in efforts to enhance our safety. Rather, this monitoring is excusable in the name of preëmption of an attack on us, the scared to death and lightweight citizenry of this once fair nation. The Romans had Genghis Khan, we've got Osama bin Laden. History repeats indeed.

Here's what I want to delve into. A while back I read that “A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality” (Irving Kristol). Preëmption is one of the cornerstones of neo-conservatism. Richard Perle, who is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a high level advisor to the Department of Defense (read: advocate for the war in Iraq), a proud neo-con and a man who has one of the scariest world views I have ever been aware of, says that preëmption is perfectly acceptable in the name of defending the country. At face value, I think there are few who would disagree. In the film WHY WE FIGHT, Perle is interviewed and says that if you are standing next to a missile launcher that is aimed at our country and have the ability to knock it over and save lives, why wouldn't you. It does make sense but, in reality, it is incredibly myopic.

Domestic wiretapping is in a similar vein to what Mr. Perle alludes to abstractly, i.e. if you can, you should, in the name of defense. It is, in my estimation, an effort to aggressively seek out the terrorist who would use our phone systems to do this country harm. But what is the true cost of doing so? How much is our privacy worth? September 11 was the worst mugging reality could have dished out. The insular reaction we, as a country, had is perfectly understandable and enables people to buy into the basic underpinnings of neo-conservatism, i.e. kicking over the missile launcher and saving us because you can.

So, when this whole wiretapping thing came out, Bush emphatically stressed that the measure was not breaking the law. He authorized it shortly after 9/11. I am unclear as to what channels this action passed through to assure its lawfulness. This is the same President who decided that the FISA court wasn't fast enough or sure enough to accomplish the task of adequately defending the nation against all enemies.

To all these new, "aggressive" defensive measures, Bush and his administration give assurances that, sub-textually and substantively, boil down to saying "Just trust us." It begs the question that, without a court's warrant, where is the oversight? Without full and immediate disclosure to congress, where is the supervision? A select few, friendly and understanding congresspersons does not full disclosure make. What is becoming of this system of government that should be rife with checks and balances?

Freedom is defined as: the absence of restraints upon our ability to think and act. (Except those restraints that are of natural cause.) Liberty is defined as: generally considered a concept of political philosophy and identifies the condition in which an individual has immunity from the arbitrary exercise of authority. These are, at least in theory, American values. They certainly are the ideals that are the selling points of the Bush doctrine as well as what the Bush administration think they are ensuring for us and for all future Americans. However, with all these actions: domestic wiretapping, (so called) spreading democracy, bypassing the FISA to *ahem* enable faster action to the terrorists... These are all eroding our system of government and what should be the American way of life. If we are to be damned, let us be damned for whom we truly are. (FYI, I totally cribbed that last line from Star Trek TNG, Encounter at Farpoint. Picard rules!)

Part of what I understand about neo-conservatism is that it espouses the virtues of the office of the chief executive and believes, mightily, in the broad expansion of these powers. To my mind, this enhancing would enable the ability to implement preëmption and short term fixes quite well. Again, at face value and in the spirit of doing good, there is nothing wrong with this. However, how do we keep these abilities in check? As the expression goes - Absolute power corrupts absolutely. How do we account for, prevent and curtail hubris? Again, why is the system being changed in our name when it doesn't serve our interests? All these things being done for out defense have the profound potential to undermine our way of governance and life to an irreparable state.

Practically speaking, this monitoring of our domestic calling patterns does us no harm. This is how it appears on the surface and what the Bush Administration wants us to believe. If it protects us or is serving in the name of our protection, it isn't bad. Right? Wrong! It undermines our liberty, the very thing the Bush doctrine is trying to protect and spread. I have only heard a little bit about this in the press so far. That alone, I find amazing. If the government can monitor our calling patterns, they can, certainly, monitor the calling patterns of journalists. If they actually are or aren't monitoring the calls of journalists specifically really doesn't matter. What does matter is that those who would call to inform journalists potentially lose their chance at anonymity, which protects them on any number of levels. With this potential, the free flow of information is inhibited. If knowledge is power, the American electorate loses power in this system. There goes yet another way to keep hubris in check.

Bush campaigned on transparency (as have others) and changing the "tone" in Washington for the better. He has been the antithesis of both for the entirety of his Presidency. He and his administration say we have to trust them. Really? Why should we when they chip away at the very foundations of what it means to live under an "American" style of government. This is supposed to be a nation of laws. When those laws are bent, changed quickly or even bypassed in the name of security without review and oversight, what reason do we have to just trust them? Protecting and spreading freedom and liberty indeed!

But hey! It's not like they are totally trying to fuck us. They are still looking out for the little guy. Pets, specifically. Compassionate conservatism indeed. (HuffPo)

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