Friday, December 23, 2005

Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled

Sen. Byrd voices his shock and dismay over the Bush administration's practice of spying on U.S. citizens

I am giving over this post to a speech made by Senator Robert Byrd in the Senate on Dec. 21st. Take it away Sen. Byrd:

" Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous president. It has become apparent that this administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution.

We have been stunned to hear reports about the Pentagon gathering information and creating databases to spy on ordinary Americans whose only sin is to choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Those Americans who choose to question the administration's flawed policy in Iraq are labeled by this administration as "domestic terrorists."
We now know that the FBI's use of national security letters on American citizens has increased 100-fold, requiring tens of thousands of individuals to turn over personal information and records. These letters are issued without prior judicial review, and provide no real means for an individual to challenge a permanent gag order.
Through news reports, we have been shocked to learn of the CIA's practice of rendition, and the so-called black sites, secret locations in foreign countries where abuse and interrogation have been exported, to escape the reach of U.S. laws protecting against human rights abuses.

We know that Vice President Dick Cheney has asked for exemptions for the CIA from the language contained in the McCain torture amendment banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Thank God Dick Cheney's pleas have been rejected by this Congress.
Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order that President Bush has circumvented both Congress and the courts. He has usurped the third branch of government -- the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people -- by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the people's branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the president, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What is the president thinking? Congress has provided for the very situations which the president is blatantly exploiting. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, housed in the Department of Justice, reviews requests for warrants for domestic surveillance. The court can review these requests expeditiously and in times of great emergency. In extreme cases, where time is of the essence and national security is at stake, surveillance can be conducted before the warrant is even applied for.
This secret court was established so that sensitive surveillance could be conducted, and information could be gathered without compromising the security of the investigation. The purpose of the FISA court is to balance the government's role in fighting the war on terror with the Fourth Amendment rights afforded to each and every American.

The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the president that amount to little more than "trust me." But we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.

When asked yesterday [Dec. 18] what the source of this authority was, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had no answer. Secretary Rice seemed to insinuate that eavesdropping on Americans was acceptable because FISA was an outdated law, and could not address the needs of the government in combating the new war on terror. This is a patent falsehood. The USA Patriot Act expanded FISA significantly, equipping the government with the tools it needed to fight terrorism. Further amendments to FISA were granted under the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. In fact, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission noted that the removal of the pre-9/11 "wall" between intelligence officials and law enforcement was significant in that it "opened up new opportunities for cooperative action."

The president claims that these powers are within his role as commander in chief. Make no mistake, the powers granted to the commander in chief are specifically those as head of the armed forces. These warrantless searches are conducted not against a foreign power, but against unsuspecting and unknowing American citizens. They are conducted against individuals living on American soil, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is nothing within the powers granted in the commander-in-chief clause that grants the president the ability to conduct clandestine surveillance of American civilians. We must not allow such groundless, foolish claims to stand.

The president claims a boundless authority through the resolution that authorized the war on those who perpetrated the September 11 attacks. But that resolution does not give the president unchecked power to spy on our own people. That resolution does not give the administration the power to create covert prisons for secret prisoners. That resolution does not authorize the torture of prisoners to extract information from them. That resolution does not authorize running black-hole secret prisons in foreign countries to get around U.S. law. That resolution does not give the president the powers reserved only for kings and potentates.

I continue to be shocked and astounded by the breadth with which the administration undermines the constitutional protections afforded to the people, and the arrogance with which it rebukes the powers held by the legislative and judicial branches. The president has cast off federal law, enacted by Congress, often bearing his own signature, as mere formality. He has rebuffed the rule of law, and he has trivialized and trampled upon the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed to Americans by the U.S. Constitution.

We are supposed to accept these dirty little secrets. We are told that it is irresponsible to draw attention to President Bush's gross abuse of power and constitutional violations. But what is truly irresponsible is to neglect to uphold the rule of law. We listened to the president speak last night on the potential for democracy in Iraq. He claims to want to instill in the Iraqi people a tangible freedom and a working democracy, at the same time he violates our own U.S. laws and checks and balances? President Bush called the recent Iraqi election "a landmark day in the history of liberty." I dare say in this country we may have reached our own sort of landmark. Never have the promises and protections of liberty seemed so illusory. Never have the freedoms we cherish seemed so imperiled.

These renegade assaults on the Constitution and our system of laws strike at the very core of our values, and foster a sense of mistrust and apprehension about the reach of government.
I am reminded of Thomas Paine's famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls."
These astounding revelations about the bending and contorting of the Constitution to justify a grasping, irresponsible administration under the banner of "national security" are an outrage. Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time to ask hard questions of the attorney general, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the director of the CIA. The White House should not be allowed to exempt itself from answering the same questions simply because it might assert some kind of "executive privilege" in order to avoid further embarrassment.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Historical Perspective

Recently, as in last week, as noted in the press:

"Another line was certainly crossed by Joe Lieberman last week, when he said, "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Mark Schmitt TPMCafe

So here Joe Lieberman's endorsement of the Cheney view of the role of dissent, together with his blindness to the fact that only the president undermine's presidential credibility, from just an historical perspective,
is truely astounding.

Even during World War II, in the 1944 election, Thomas Dewey and the Republicans critized Roosevelt , the then Commander in Chief, all throughout the campaign. Did this effect the outcome of WW II. Not really.

Moving up to the Korean War, the first two years of that war, the Republicans gave Pres. Truman unmitigated Hell, especially after the Chinese came in and kicked the Allied forces back down to the 38th Parallel. Plus they gave Truman Holy Hell when he fired MacArthur.

During the Vietnam War, in the time period Dec. 67 thru January 1968 especially, both Democrats and Republicans were attacking LBJs prosecution of the war as Commander in Chief.

Further on in the Vietnam war, when Pres. Nixon opted for the invasion of Cambodia in April 1970, dissent exploded in this country. Nixon as Commander in Chief was severly criticized in other words.

Yet, now in the case of a war that was never all that popular with Democrats anyway, if we are to follow the Lieberman dictum, suddenly Democrats are to stop criticizing George Bush as Commander in Chief, and I suppose sit on their hands for the next three years.

Granted Liberman may be a big fan of the Iraq War, because he is a big fan of Israel. But in this case I think Lieberman is full of horse shit.

Friday, December 16, 2005

4th Amendment gets poked with holes

James Risen and and Eric Lichtblau report in today’s New York Times that President Bush once again violated the Bill of Rights for the sake of “security.”

"Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches."

As the Mahablog ( points out:
"Let’s see …

Amendment IV
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.
So how is monitoring emails and telephone calls without a warrant not a bare-assed end run around the 4th Amendment?

It is fairly easy to point out that once you start poking , say 5000 exceptions in the 4th Amendment, then we have become a country of men having supreme power, and not a country of laws.

Pick and choose which Bill of Rights to disregard, and then you really don't have a Bill of Rights anymore. You get what Hunter S. Thompson called," a Kingdom of Fear".

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.


I remember Dec. 8 1980, I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, staying at a friends, Chris W. Was on my way down to Albuquerque, to catch a flight to
Houston. It was already a dispiriting time what with the election of Reagan, just a month previously. A dark day, and a dark time period
Imagine Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 02, 2005

Crackdown on Drepung Monks

"(Reuters) - Several Tibetan monks have been detained for their opposition to a Chinese political campaign they were forced to participate in, leading to a rare mass protest, two advocacy groups said on Thursday.
The Dharamsala-based Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said five monks at the Drepung monastery, on the outskirts of the capital Lhasa, were expelled and detained after refusing to sign a document denouncing the Dalai Lama as a separatist.

In protest, more than 400 monks staged a sit-in in Drepung's main courtyard on November 25, refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama and accept that Tibet is a part of China and calling for the release of the five monks.
Soldiers and police put down the protest and "resisting monks received severe beatings", the report said.

After the crackdown, severe restrictions have been placed on the monastery and nobody has been allowed to either enter or leave the premises since 25 November 2005. The officers maintain strict vigilance of the monastery and the monks’ activities round the clock."

My opinion: Asking Gelugpa monks in Drepung Monastery, the main Gelugpa monastery in Tibet, to foreswear the Dalai Lama , is analogous to asking Catholics to renounce the Pope.

I suggest writing the Secretary of State a letter bringing this to her attention, at:

The Honourable Condoleezza Rice
Office of the Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.Washington, DC 20520, USA

and also sending an email to Brian Williams at NBC Nightly News.
He might even write back according to a story in USA Today.