Fisa Ammendments Act – July, 2008


Last month, on July 10th, President Bush signed the FISA Ammendments Act into law, providing lawsuit protection for telecommunications companies and supporting eavesdropping on Americans in “emergencies” without court approval.  No surprises there.  But our beloved, so-called “progressive” presidential front runner also supported this legislation, insisting that
In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people.”  
Jonathan Turley, Professor of constitutional law at George Washington University calls Obama’s support of this legislation not just a compromise but a “cave-in“.
This is all very amusing and no doubt Turley is right.  Still there are better questions to be asking.  The media presents these issues as if there were only two choices; we should either be pro-Fisa court (lefty) or we should be for the President and telecom immunity from legal action (righty).   Why does the media love this partisan presentation?  Because those who control the media don’t want people engaging in issues intelligently and they know the masses find partisanship irresistible.   We should all be good little righties or lefties and pick a side.  We should all listen to the cattle call and allow ourselves to be herded into our respective corrals.  But is the FISA court a good thing in the first place?  And is the FISA court really doing what it’s purports to do?  These are some of the better questions that we’re not supposed to ask that the bipolar media presentation of the issue obscures and distracts from.  Business as usual.   
Is the FISA court a good thing to begin with?  Good question.  Why?  Because the court is a secret court, closed to the public.  Only the number of warrants applied for, issued and denied is ever reported.  And the number of warrants approved by FISA has grown from a few hundred in its first year to almost 2400 in 2007.  Only a handful of warrants have ever been rejected.   What’s so good about that?  Don’t secret courts sound like something out of Nazi Germany? 
And is the FISA court (even it it were a good thing) really doing what it claims to?  Does it really provide a check against government abuse of its surveillance of Americans?  Why would we assume that it does?  On good faith?  Is FISA exempt from the rogue’s gallery syndrome that plagues everything else in the halls of justice?  The scandals and government corruption that we see everywhere we look?  Are guys like Elliot Abrams and Alberto Gonzales not allowed to be involved with the FISA court?  Cheney? Abramoff?  Rove? Libby?  Is the FISA court some sort of moral safehouse?  A special, upstanding entity where government corruption is not tolerated?  Then why would we expect it to be any different?  Because it feeds our hankering to brawl and bicker over moral, ethical, and ideological issues, as well as our need to belong in our group.  And it’s so conveniently ready-made and nicely pre-packaged like so many other things we can’t resist.  Someone else has already done all the thinking and formed all the opinions.  All we have to do is sign on the dotted line, and suddenly we’re hip and politcal and we have membership to boot.  Get off the fence!  Pick a side, and start swinging!
Watering down immunity provisions?  Expanding the power of the FISA court?  Who signed what new legislation?  Who blocked what?   Granting legal immunity … retroactive immunity …   Who cares!?  The better questions to regulation issues are always the same;  Who’s behind the oversight/regulation?  Are they really doing what they are supposed to be doing?  Who’s in their pockets?  Who elected them?  Who appointed them?  Who’s controlling them?  
 This FISA court issue is just another theater, in this case on the political left, where rubber stamping, log rolling charades are played out, not unlike our Congress.  Righty and lefty scripts are presented and imaginary democracy rehearsed, providing the masses a gossip forum in which they can scratch their civic duty itch without actually getting anything done – the intellectual equivalent of a rubber room.  Any issue or controversy involving government regulation is pretty much the same.  It doesn’t matter one iota if there is regulation or oversight.  Who regulates the regulators?!?!   Ah, but we mustn’t ask real questions.  We should stick to the script.  We should toe the line.  
Unfortunately,  popular government is not possible under these circumstances.   In fact, this mentality is quite reminiscent of The Holy Alliance which, as you may recall, resulted in prisons filling up with thinking people wishing nothing more than self-rule.  ( See Senator Robert L. Owen’s entry placed in the Congressional Record of April 25, 1916 )   But there’s no room in the jails anymore and that’s bad PR anyway.  So today it’s done a bit differently, using ditraction, diversion, sophistry, rhetoric and propaganda to get the people to hand over their free-choice willingly.  Issues are always presented, by a controlled media, in bipolar fashion to keep us distracted and preoccupied, relieving us of the burden of having to think, and relieving the overclass of their worst nightmare; popular government.  So they offer up ready-made scripts.  Righty and lefty opinions are prefabricated like big macs, tailor made for the harried life of the partisan, “team player” corporate slaves, tethered to our respective party lines.  We live vicariously through the stars – in sports, in Hollywood.  Why not here too?  As long as it feels good and it’s easy, who cares if it’s pretend?  All is well in Neverland.
We all know what’s coming – more or less – no matter who wins this election.  Yet we find this charade we act out  irresistible, as if any of it mattered … as if this time there really will be “change“.  There won’t.  Any changes will be superficial, and more war and more debt are guaranteed.   But perhaps the charade helps us to feel better about it all.  And the costs are well hidden too, which facilitates our tolerance all the more.  We conveniently pass these costs on to someone else (our descendents), as in a ponzi scheme.  The results are always the same … more war, more debt, and happier corporate giants, regardless of who is in power in the White House, The Supreme Court, and Congress.Always more war.  Always more debt.  This is unwavering.  Both sides of the political spectrum support this, and so do “we the people“.  Otherwise we would have kicked the bums out long ago.  But we don’t have the stomach for that anymore … we’re not of the same ilk as our forefathers.  Besides, it’s easy money on easy street.  When we run out of money we just print more.  What’s not to like?  How convenient to take the future of our children and grandchildren and bring it onto the current account.  What a lovely legacy.   

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

                                   — James Madison, Political Observations, 1795


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