I would like to request that each reader ask a question of all who they think may listen.
Who is President Bush really spying on?
If they answer that he is spying on suspected terrorists, then I would recommend the following response:
But that doesn't make any sense. If he is spying on suspected terrorists, why is he afraid to go before the courts? The courts are not going to stop him from spying on suspected terrorists. The courts are only going to stop him from spying on people who are not suspected terrorists. So, doesn't it make more sense to think that he is spying on people who are not suspected terrorists? Which makes me ask, who is President Bush really spying on?.
If they insist that Bush is only spying on suspected terrorists, ask:
How do you know this? If he was submitting his information to a court, we could at least have some assurance that he is, in fact, focusing on terrorists. However, all we have to go on right now is his word -- and how many times has he lied to us? We still have the question; if he is really after suspected terrorists, then why not use the courts? The courts will not stop him from spying on suspected terrorists.
The reason that this is an important question to ask now is because Congress is considering legislation that will allow the President to spy on Americans without a warrant. This means that the President alone gets to decide who is to be spied on. (See “Unclaimed Territory” for an account of the legal and social issues.)
If the people are not aware of the fact that this law will give the President the ability to spy on whoever he wants.
Let's say the President wants information on the leaders of some organization that is supporting a political rival. All he needs to do is add that name to the list of targets. Nobody who works under him has the authority to question his orders. He does not have to show the request to any court. Somebody might think that it is odd, but the law makes the President himself the final authority on whether spying is legitimate. If he decides that spying on organizations that support political rivals is legitimate, there is nobody who can say otherwise.
Or, let's assume that a wealthy campaign contributor is worried about the actions of a competitor. The President can say, "Give me a few minutes, and I will get back with you." Again, there is nobody to say he can't do this. The President alone gets to decide of this is a legitimate use of government power.
Or, the President might be concerned about some organization that is pursuing programs he does not like. Let's say, an environmental organization is trying to get some country to change its laws -- to protect the environment. An oil company stands to lose profits if this law passes. They go to the President, who has his spies determine what this nonprofit organization is up to, and he then takes step to interfere for the sake of the oil company.
There are lots of things that a President can do when he has an unrestricted license to spy – with nobody to answer to – not even the people, since these actions are conducted in secret with severe penalties inflicted on any who ‘leak’ the details of these programs.
We may disagree about whether such an act is consistent with the spirit of the law. However, the spirit of the law has never been important to this President, and might be even less important to some future President (if possible). The only question this President seems to ask is, "Is there some interpretation of the law -- no matter how twisted and warped it may be – that would allow me to stand in front of an audience and say they are legal with an almost-straight face?”
Also, in speaking about how some future President may use this power, it is important to understand that even the worst tyrants tend to think of themselves as good people. Hitler thought that he was a great leader, creating a model society that would be envied for a thousand years. Those who opposed him either did not have the ability to understand his greatness, or they had decided to ally themselves with ‘lesser people.’ In short, the tyrant views his critics intellectually or morally confused. “They just do not understand that I had to do what I did – for the good of the people, for the good of the race, for the greater glory of (my interpretation of) God.”
If the President acquires a power to spy without a warrant, then it will only be a matter of time before Presidential candidates and the parties they belong to put this power on the auction block to the highest bidder – with the other powers that politicians buy and sell. Only, in this case, there will be nobody to stop him from using this power as he sees fit – nobody to look over his shoulder. Even revealing (leaking) the fact that a President or his party is using this power for personal or political gain would be treated as treason.
Who is the Bush Administration spying on - really?
It could be that the Bush Administration has really low standards on what counts as a "suspected terrorist." It could be that its definition of a "suspected terrorist" is "anybody who is not a member of the Republican Party or, if they are a member, they belong to a faction that opposes the policies of President Bush." For all we know, this is their working definition of a "suspected terrorist" and they claim the right to spy on anybody who meets that description.
How can we know that they are not doing this? If there is no judge looking over their shoulder, then they get to define suspected terrorist however they like. They have already said, plainly enough, "Either you are with us, or you are against us." That is to say, "Either you are a supporter of President Bush and his policies, or you are a suspected terrorist."
It is not at all uncommon for arrogant leaders to presume that they are the truth and the light and that all that is good on the planet comes through them (from God?) - and to define 'treason' as 'anybody who does anything that gets in my way.'
This is the reason that intelligent and rational people insist on a system of checks and balances. This is the reason why intelligent and rational people insist that their President get an “outside opinion” on whether his is an act of prudence and justice, or an act of tyranny. Left up to his own judgment, no President will ever judge himself a tyrant. No President will ever judge himself as unjust. No President will ever judge his own acts as wrong. If that judgment is to come at all, it must come from some other source. It must come through a system of checks and balances.
I would like to ask that you, the reader, explain this fact to those who will listen – before Congress acts to destroys our system of checks and balances.
I would like to offer the idea that a useful way to explain this most valuable lesson to people is to ask them, “Why is Bush afraid to stand before a judge and justify his actions? We are talking about a secret court, whose deliberations are not published, so it cannot be the fear of publicity. What is he doing that he thinks that all Judges are his enemy? What is Bush really doing with all of these secret powers?”
Who is President Bush spying on, really?