S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"Polarization" revisited

"Raymond" and I have been periodically continuing a comment thread in this blog since November 20th title linked above. And, so Raymond will feel comfortable, I am again using the image I used on the 11/20 post.

He asks some very provocative and interesting questions that pertain to the post I put up yesterday.
Here is his comment in italics in its entirety, to which I will reply with interspersed regular font bullet points, as openly and completely as I can.

Raymond begins,

"Those are good points. Good open and honest discussion is the best way to solve issues. How do you feel about the Patriot Act? Some feel it is vital to America's protection, some also feel the same about the spying revelation. Some feel o.k. with the topic of spying, others feel violated.

  • I have a gread deal of ambivalence about the Patriot Act, and did at the time it was passed. What bothers me about the revelation of domestic spying is that it was apparently done without the proper FISA court oversight. It is my understanding that the U.S. operates under the rule of law. That is not too much to ask.

How do you feel about the admission by the Pentagon that domestic spying has been going on for some time in America?

  • Unfortunately, I was not the least bit surprised. As I think about it, I had assumed it was going on ever since the Patriot Act was adopted. At that time I was telling myself that the act opens the door for all kinds of mischief in the name of security. It is important to make the distinction clear about this revelation. The spying was done by the National Security Agency, which sits within the Pentagon, the "military." I believe it is the FBI that is charged under the law to collect domestic intelligence.

Do you feel protected or do you feel violated?

  • I would feel more protected if I had confidence that valid info gathered about potential upcoming terrorist attacks would be shared, pushed up through the DNI's office, and used to keep us safe. Antiwar protestors probably feel violated as they now find out that their activities have been monitored as perhaps "dangerous."

Is there, and can there, ever be a balance between protection and privacy?

  • Yes, officials must maintain a balance because that is the law. If it is impossible, rather that just inconvenient, then the law needs to be changed. Unfortunately, the current administration has too often operated outside the law. I am not sure why. Perhaps it was out of arrogance, or it was too messy, or deemed too "risky." I just can't know for sure.

Is the president taking advantage of our civil liberties or is he just more remembering of how tragic the events were when the terrorists took advantage of American trusts and freedoms?

  • It is very hard to make assumptions about the internal motivations of another person. All I can be positive about are my own motivations and, even then I could be fooling myself. I try to give our current president the benefit of the doubt, but my perception of a pattern of too much secrecy increases my mistrust.

Have we forgotten how painful the tragedy is when we are not prepared?

  • The passage of time very often lessens people's levels of heightened anxiety. It is just too demanding and difficult psychologically to "sit in the bunker looking through the slit, scanning the horizon for the imminent attack of all our enemies." Also, our level of preparation has gotten better since then.

Many are concerned by the news that the US Defense Department is intensifying domestic intelligence collection on individuals in the domestic United States. There have been proposed moves to additionally increase the military’s domestic intelligence activities from its current levels. The policy was originally enacted as a response to the tragic events regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to a recent Washington Post article, it was stated that, “ The Pentagon formerly focused on protecting its US bases and military operations, Pentagon intelligence collection inside the United States has already expanded to cover broader terrorist threats to the country.”

  • I believe that the policy was increased at the point back then when our current president secretly gave permission to raise the level of domestic spying. This was the story the NYT broke earlier in the week. There is no way the level of spying should go even higher than its already unacceptable level. It has been "above the law" since that secret policy was handed down.

Many ACLU activists strongly oppose this maneuver as a violation of our civil rights, opposing positions advise that the policy is enacted to investigate most individuals who are not actually legalized permanent citizens of the United States anyways. Are we at a point in time where we must consider what a reasonable amount of privacy is or should we stick to our guns and hold to the already standing policies?

  • This is what the current policy should be: surveillance of United States groups or individuals should be under court order and time limited. Our constitutionally protected rights must not be abridged. Illegals in the U.S. do not have those same protections.

Does limiting the governments’ ability to spy on what it considers characters of interest actually jeopardize our own safety?

  • Domestic spying not authorized under the Patriot Act has not been lawful. The administration must share responsibility with judicial and legislative oversight in place under the law. Otherwise we live in a police state, not safe from the armed forces acting as it chooses within our borders. Such a contingency was why the governor of Louisiana bristled when there was talk of federalizing the National Gaurd during Hurricane Katrina. We cross those lines at our peril.

Are you willing to give up some of your safety to prevent your loss of any privacy?

  • I feel that is a false choice. Because I know that I am not a threat, that our military has nothing to fear from me but criticism, then I have the right to feel safe from our military spying on me for disagreement. It is not that I have anything to hide. I am very open with my criticism, as we all our in the blogosphere. I am also aware that my anonymity is absolutely not protected if the military wants to pursue me into my home under this current policy. The minimum I expect is that it would be the FBI that comes after me, after having had it authorized by a FISA judge. I would also want to be assured that the chairmen and ranking members of the Intelligence Committees were regularly briefed on the manner and scope of all domestic intelligence gathering on our citizens.

If you ask these questions immediately after a tragic event like 9-11 you may get different answers. What do you think?

  • I think you are right. And we did get different answers in the form of the USA Patriot Act. Wise heads, however, included the sunset provisions in order that, when the dust settled, we could take another look at that rather broad brushed approach. And that is exactly why it is so good that all these news items (Patriot Act extension, NSA spying, torture, Iraq election, etc.) are converging at this very point in history. It will make it easier to get it right. And we can get it right. We have all the foundation, the history, the experience, the bipartisanship, the institutions we need. We can and will find our way again.

Raymond #

posted by : 8:44 PM"

Thank you again, Raymond, for this very interesting conversation over time. I like it that you make me think out what I believe, and then have to articulate it.


No comments: