Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Victory, But For The Wrong Side

Ever since the 9/11 attacks we have been hearing that we should go about our business as usual or the terrorists will win. We should continue to get on airplanes, or the terrorists win. We should continue to spend money, or the terrorists will win. We should continue to get on the subways and buses, or the terrorists will win. And we all agreed that it seemed like a reasonable conclusion.

Now comes word that the President has ordered the National Security Agency to conduct secret spying on Americans. He did this without the approval of Congress, and without a court order. Bush didn't even bother going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is a highly secret panel of 11 judges specifically formed to combat terrorism. It is their job to review requests for phone taps and other surveillance in such matters, thereby keeping everything legal. When this story broke, one member of the panel quit in protest.

Our President didn't see that way, however. He chose to circumvent the courts and Congress. And when his actions became public, Bush didn't deny the accusation, or apologize, or even act chagrined. No, he instead chose to get angry and call the revelations "irresponsible." Surprisingly, many people seem to agree.

My God, is this what our nation has come to? People are willing to flush the Constitution down the toilet? Our country is founded on certain principles, and one is that no single branch of our government becomes too powerful. That's why the courts will sometimes overturn laws passed by Congress, or why Congress will sometimes override presidential vetoes. Each branch of the government thus keeps the other two in check.

But when one branch--indeed, a single individual--takes it upon himself to circumvent the other two, and then justify it on the basis that he--and he alone--knows what's best, we are on an extremely slippery slope.

And the excuse about protecting the American people by reacting quickly to terrorists who change their phone numbers is a load of crap. That is no excuse to go behind the backs of the American people. If there's one thing the commission that investigate the 9/11 attacks found, its that there were ample opportunities to stop Mohammad Atta and his band of twisted cohorts. More importantly, no secret investigations were needed to learn what they were plotting. The problem was that no one bothered to put the multitude of clues together, whether because of shear incompetence or just petty bureaucratic protection of each agency's "turf."

It no longer matters whether we get on airplanes or spend money like crazy, folks. The terrorists have already won.

0 thoughtful ramblings: