I guess the PATRIOT Act wasn’t good enough for the Bush administration. In his never-ending quest to grab more power at the expense of the ordinary citizen’s constitutional rights, Bush signed an executive order (back in 2002) calling on the National Security Administration (NSA) to wiretap international communications inside the U.S.-without a warrant, no less. Bush can call it a “terrorist surveillance program” all he wants, but it won’t change the fact that he’s using the NSA to spy on Americans.
Every American should be worried about this. The president of the United States (or Congress, or the NSA, or even the disgruntled, surly old lady processing you at the DMV-any element of the government) should not be able to spy on U.S. citizens. The KGB spied on its citizens. The Gestapo spied on its citizens. Big Brother spies on his citizens. Should Bush be able to?
The reactions I get from Bush apologists (note: how I didn’t use “Republican” or “conservative” here-there are many Republicans and conservatives who are just as concerned about this as moderates and liberals) usually fall into two categories: 1) “I’m not doing anything wrong, I’ve got nothing to hide, so I have no problem with it,” and 2) “But wait-Clinton did it! Blame him!” I’ll now address both of these responses.
As for the first one, let’s pretend for one minute that there actually exists, somewhere in America, a person who actually does no wrong, and has no skeletons in his closet, has never so much as told a white lie, who.actually, you know what? Forget it. We all know everyone’s done wrong, and everyone has at least one dirty little secret they would rather not let the world know about-which is why we have an essential right to privacy.
Don’t believe me when I say “essential?” Then let me ask you this: Would you remove the shades from your windows and open your doors and let your neighbors/roommates/RAs peek in whenever they wanted to? Do you put your steamy conversations with your significant other on speaker phone? Have you ever kept a diary or a journal (and no, livejournals do not count), and if you did, how would you have felt if your parents/siblings grabbed a megaphone and stood on your roof to read it out loud? Do you have sex on the UC Breezeway? America, the same principle applies with the wiretapping program in question: If you wouldn’t want your neighbor or roommate to know or see something (anything), chances are you wouldn’t want the government to know either. Privacy is an essential right.
As for the second one, I realize one of the great conservative pastimes these days is to blame Clinton whenever Bush gets called out on something. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t quite work that way-mostly because Clinton’s surveillance powers were not as powerful as the ones Bush claims to have. According to a report by Media Matters for America, surveillance under Clinton still required a warrant from FISA, and this included use of the potentially Orwellian “Echelon” program-and this is backed by congressional testimony by George Tenet himself). Now, I’m not a fan of FISA or it’s unsettling degree of power; I’m not very fond of the CIA, either, and personally, would love a world in which neither existed. However, the distinction I’m trying to make here is the fact that there’s no concrete record of Clinton using the NSA’s insidious Echelon program to spy on Americans. You can’t say the same for Bush and his warrantless (and this is a key word, America) wiretaps.
But more importantly, Clinton isn’t running the show anymore.Bush is. And Bush not only used the extensive surveillance power available to him, but grossly exceeded said power, setting a very dangerous precedent while breaking the law and not making us any safer. Once again, he has gone too far.
Jay Rooney is a junior majoring in journalism and history. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Rat from 4 to 7 p.m.