The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Those are the words of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. But in post-9/11 America, those words have held little sway in the country’s “war on terror,” which, in many ways, has been a war on our own freedoms, and some would argue that because of the measures instituted post-9/11, that war on ourselves has been the ultimate victory for our enemies.
One such measure is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which grants the NSA permission to spy on American citizens’ emails and telephone calls, whether they’re suspected of terrorism or not. That measure was reauthorized by the Senate in a 73-23 vote on Friday (emphasis added):
In addition to the fiscal debate, the farm bill, and the Violence Against Women Act in need of attention, Congress also hoped to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) before the end of the year. It’s generated less attention, in part because of bipartisan support, but it shouldn’t go by unnoticed.
FISA passed the House in September — most Republicans supported it, most Democrats opposed it — and this week, it reached the Senate floor. But as quickly became clear, proponents had two goals: (1) pass the already passed House version; and (2) kill every amendment, regardless of merit, because it would have sent the bill back to the House, which probably wouldn’t have had time to consider the revised Senate version before the law expired on Monday.
Who says bipartisanship is dead, eh?
In a further blow to civil liberties, the measure was reauthorized only after dropping several amendments which would have required increased transparency and control mechanisms to reign in abuses:
Four separate amendments designed to install oversight mechanisms into the National Intelligence Agency’s vast spying capabilities enshrined in the 2008 FISA Amendments Act all failed Thursday with the majority of US Senators insisting that secrecy continues to trump civil liberties in the post 9/11 era.
[...] the defeat of the amendments spells near complete legalization of domestic spying practices which would have previously been found criminal. First uncovered during the Bush years and slammed by Democrats, the FISA law passed in 2008 gave retroactive immunity to the Bush era abuse and strove to codify the program going forward.
Though he ran against such measures during his first run for president, the secret spying laws have now been embraced fully and championed by President Obama.
That last paragraph is important.
It used to be, during the Bush years, that the loudest voice against these encroaching measures on our civil liberties was the collective Progressive voice. In fact, many a Progressive, myself included, voted for Obama based on the promises of his first campaign, but since his election and subsequent reelection, that collective Progressive voice has been strangely and glaringly absent to the point where you can now hear a pin drop. Or, as Glenn Greenwald would put it (emphasis added):
Just four or five years ago, objections to warrantless eavesdropping were a prime grievance of Democrats against Bush. The controversies that arose from it were protracted, intense, and often ugly. Progressives loved to depict themselves as stalwartly opposing right-wing radicalism in defense of Our Values and the Constitution.
Fast forward to 2012 and all of that, literally, has changed. Now it’s a Democratic President demanding reform-free renewal of his warrantless eavesdropping powers. He joins with the Republican Party to codify them. A beloved Democratic Senator from a solidly blue state leads the fear-mongering campaign and Terrorist-enabling slurs against anyone who opposes it. And it now all happens with virtually no media attention or controversy because the two parties collaborate so harmoniously to make it happen. And thus does a core guarantee of the founding – the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment – blissfully disappear into nothingness.
Harsh words, but uncomfortably true. As with the NDAA or Arctic drilling, the supposed principles of Progressives seem to be quickly forgotten when it’s their guy at the helm. It’s understandable, I suppose, but I have to admit I find it rather frustrating and hypocritical.
After all, if you can’t or won’t hold your own guy accountable, then who are you to ever point fingers?