Monday, December 19, 2005

A Government of Laws and Not of Men

Part Two of smintheus's series over at Daily Kos. Posted in its entirety with permission.

"Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people." Archibald Cox

This is the second of three diaries planned to orchestrate a campaign to inundate D.C. with expressions of outrage about President Bush's illegal use of the NSA. It is a matter of the rule of law, no less. Bush ordered the NSA to conduct covert spying inside the U.S. without even seeking warrants, as required by law (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978). Fundamentally, he violated the Fourth Amendment. In his radio address on Saturday, he bragged of doing this and promised to continue the policy as long as he is President. Therefore Bush has flagrantly violated the Constitution, the latest instance in a "long Train of Abuses and Usurpations." It is not extreme to conclude that he has made himself an enemy of the Constitution and of the rule of law as such.

What we as a nation do in the next few days may help to determine the future of constitutionalism. To employ the NSA for domestic spying should terrify us.

    It would be the ultimate tool of tyranny in the U.S., since it's able to detect the heartbeat of a mouse in Uzbekistan. The NSA has always been forbidden from spying upon the U.S., ever. It was the very foundation on which the Agency was built and a point of pride among staffers at the NSA that USSID 18 absolutely prohibited the NSA from domestic spying.

    Here is what Frank Church said in 1975 (tip of the hat to kitchen table activist):

    "If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know.

    "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [NSA] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

    Back from the abyss: an overview of this campaign

    The first diary here tried to start a network of support (go there for further background). There is an urgency to this campaign. We cannot allow Congress to recess without even trying to confront the President; we cannot allow weeks to be lost in dithering, the outrage to subside, the spin to rise like an evil tide engulfing us all. The moment is now. Bush's speech on Saturday showed he is shaken by the revelation. His surprise speech tonight is another token of how dangerous this constitutional crisis appears to the WH. (If we are lucky, Bush will provide us with a "I am not a crook" moment. Look for it.)

    More needs to be done to expand the network created today, though it is already becoming large. We especially need to make the jump outside blogtopia, to link up with local groups. (I'm slowly building a coalition with my local Pennsylvania contacts; have you done the same in your own state?) Also, let's work to ensure that the jolly giants, like MoveOn, are fully behind it. Meanwhile, many thanks to all who've taken the initiative thus far. I think this campaign touched a nerve; people are ready to help if we just ask. The single most important thing is to maximize the impact we have on politicians and journalists on Monday. We want to create a firestorm they'll remember.

    A word about tactics. When you build a fire, you don't smother it with fuel too quickly. Most of us agree that the President's actions are impeachable offenses. Does the rest of America agree? Can Congress bring itself to address the constitutional crisis head on? Our first job is to make backsliding and excuse-mongering as difficult as possible. That is the thinking behind the goals I outlined yesterday. These are not meant as an end in themselves, but as a first step along the right path. Because these goals are reasonable, and the members of the administration are not, it should be possible to wrong-foot Bush from the start. A firestorm is not very useful to us unless it leaves the President isolated.

    GOALS (slightly modified from yesterday to take account of comments)

    As far as possible, our declared goals must be as clear, straightforward, plausible, and uncontroversial as possible. I have no illusions that it will be easy to achieve these goals; George Bush and friends stonewall almost as a matter of course. But our declared goals must throw into stark relief the illegality of the administration's policies and the nature of the constitutional crisis.

    I propose that we ask each U.S. Senator on Monday to demand that President Bush:

    * immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying

    * promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans

    * cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy

    * release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on

    * immediately petition the FISA court to grant warrants for all such surveillance conducted by this administration since 2001

    * identify the number of residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional surveillance between 2001 and 2005, and report to all appropriate Senate committees the name of any of those residents for whom the FISA court refuses now to grant a warrant

    Contacting your Senator

    Please contact both Senators whether they are a Feingold or a Roberts. The main thing will be to maximize the impact on D.C. on Monday, so that all 100 Senators know that Bush's use of the NSA has created a firestorm of protest. The most effective means of getting their attention are, in order:

    (i) Faxing a letter
    (ii) emailing the Senator's chief of staff. This address is unlikely to be widely advertised, but you can probably discover it by doing a few minutes of googling of fairly obvious strings. For example, if his name is Winston Smith and your Senator Duckspeak's general office phone is 202-432-5455, you might try searching for "wsmith@" plus "202-432" plus "Duckspeak". If you don't know his name, you could try "chief of staff" plus "". I've done this many times with success. For example, the address for Senator Levin's Chief of Staff is (or was)
    (iii) phoning the general comment number for the D.C. office
    (iv) sending a letter to the Senator's general email or webmail address.

    There is no reason why you should not do several of these things.

    Many of the main issues are outlined above, including specific requests you can make. There are many more points raised in comments on the first diary, and in various diaries at dKos and other sites. If you need further ammunition, consult John Aravosis at America Blog, who's been all over this story. Also, the diary by ybruti provides a good roundup.

    Do not fail to put your Senator on the spot, as necessary. You might indicate that if the Senators do not take a decisive stand about holding Bush accountable before the recess, you'll consider it a dereliction of duty and you will try to build public pressure to force the Senate to reconvene immediately after Christmas to address this constitutional crisis. The Senators are sworn to defend the Constitution, not the President. It would not be unfair to warn that you'll organize protests outside their houses or district offices unless they act immediately.

    Here is a gateway for contact info for all Senators: link

    Contacting your Representative

    This could be very useful in getting attention, especially if you take Peanut's advice. He points out that most Reps have webmail forms where constituents may post requests for assistance from their Congressperson. Well, we all have the same problem now: Were we spied upon by the federal government without a warrant? Why not bring it home to each of our Representatives how egregious that is, by inundating them with requests to investigate and report back whether your own privacy has been violated? Do not be put off by their assurances that you may file a FOIA request with the NSA. The federal government is out of control, and you should not be expected to take it on as an individual. It is your Representative's duty to see that justice is served. If they refuse to investigate on your behalf, promise to make that known in LTEs.

    Of course, more ordinary communications with your Representative's office would also send a message. Here is a gateway to all House members' contact info: link

    Contacting journalists

    Tomorrow morning I will post a third diary providing links to some national and Washington journalists, whom I'll encourage you to contact. The idea is to convey our outrage over this scandal and to help to shape coverage of this constitutional crisis. This will bring pressure upon politicians from another direction, and also create opportunities for those who are outspoken to take center stage.

    Further links

    Originally I'd assembled quite a few links to relevant sections of the federal code; analysis; and news. But a crash wiped out nearly my entire diary this afternoon before I could post, and rewriting has taken long enough. Those of you with links at hand could help by posting them in comments. If I have time, I'll update by adding some links and harvesting the best from the comments.

    Cross posting

    Please do it with my permission. No need to ask.

    This isn't partisan B.S., this is the rule of law we're talking about. If you think the President of the United States can ignore the laws that give his Administration legitimacy, stay quiet and do nothing. If you think that everyone in the United States should obey the laws, from the poorest field worker to the President himself, get up off your butt and get to work, now.

    No comments: