American Samizdat

Sunday, August 05, 2007. *
The passage of the new FISA bill by the Senate and now the House demonstrates that the Democrats stand neither for defending civil liberties nor for checking executive power.

They stand for nothing at all.

Conversely, the new bill shows that the Republican Party can get the Democrats to surrender almost any civil liberty-- indeed, to give the President just as much unchecked power as he might obtain under a Republican controlled Congress-- simply by playing the fear card repeatedly and without shame. And this the Republicans did with gusto in the past few days, with one Senator even suggesting that America would immediately be attacked if the President was not given everything he wanted, no matter how unnecessary the demands, and no matter what alternatives were available.
Behind the current events is a more troubling trend. As Sandy Levinson and I have written, we are in a gradual transition from a National Security State to a National Surveillance State. We pointed out that although the Republicans got first crack at constructing many features of this emerging state, it would be a bipartisan effort. The only issue will be what kind of national surveillance state we would have, and whether government would put in place the appropriate checks and balances to protect civil liberties, prevent the multiplication of secret laws and secret methods of enforcement, and restrain an increasingly ambitious executive.
Between the Party of Fear and the Party Without a Spine, there does not seem to be much opportunity to keep the National Surveillance State benign. Nor does there seem to be any political check on the development of an increasingly authoritarian Presidency, which controls the levers of secrecy, surveillance, and military force.

Do not be mistaken: We are not hurtling toward the Gulag or anything that we have seen before. It will be nothing so dramatic as that. Rather, we are slowly inching, through each act of fear mongering and fecklessness, pandering and political compromise, toward a world in which Americans have increasingly little say over how they are actually governed, and increasingly little control over how the government collects information on them to regulate and control them. Slowly, secretly and imperceptibly, the mechanisms of government surveillance are being freed from methods of political control and accountability; and the liberties of ordinary citizens are being surgically removed under a potent anesthesia concocted from propaganda, fear, ignorance and apathy.

I hope the Democrats are justly proud of themselves for their cowardly contributions to this slow-motion destruction of our constitutional system.
posted by Uncle $cam at 9:30 AM
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