On the way home from work today, I happened to flip over to the local conservative AM station just as Mark Levin’s show was starting. Knowing that he wrote a book blasting so-called “activist” Supreme Court Justices (you know, the same ones that installed his so-called president in 2000), I just knew he’d have some choice words to say about the judge in Michigan that ruled the NSA warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional. Boy, was I right. He said he read the 40-page decision and “it was stupid.” Wow. So eloquent. Then he launched into the age-old tirade about how the lack of the ability for the (p)resident to wiretap as he sees fit is letting the terrorists win. Plus, there was all the wonderful bits about how “liberals hate America.” Haven’t we all grown tired of this yet? I had to change the station.
That’s right, Mark, we liberals hate America. That’s why we fight so hard and cry so loudly when we fail to live up to our ideals as a country… Because we hate America. Because we think America can’t do any better than it’s doing now. We should just shup up and let our rights be trampled, let the current administration thumb its nose at the rest of the world, and overall just generally destabilize the world so much that we as Americans are much less safe than we ever were before 9/11.
Levin tried to make the case that because of this judge’s ruling, any situation similar to that which evolved in the UK wouldn’t have been solved. WRONG. That plot was illuminated because of a tip from a person who had been concerned about the activities of an acquaintance after the July 7, 2005, terror attacks in London. That article also goes on to state that “U.S. government officials say there were two phone calls made from London to the United States recently by suspects. Those calls were tracked down and investigated. But there is no evidence of any involvement of people in the United States in the alleged plot.”
OK, so phone calls were tracked down. You know what, Mark? The (p)resident or anyone else could’ve tracked down those calls legally. Warrantless tapping does NOT mean “NO TAPPING AT ALL” as most conservative pundits and talk show hosts would have you believe. “Oh my god, they want us to stop tracking terrorist calls. They hate America. They want to talk with their terrorist friends in peace.” No, Mark.
You see, there’s this thing called FISA. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Here’s some Frequently Asked Questions in case you need to do any reading up on it, Mr. Levin. Among other things, you’ll find that “surveillance is generally permitted based on a finding of probable cause that the surveillance target is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power — not whether criminality is in any way involved.” So you don’t even need to prove any kind of criminality. You just have to have some probable cause. “Oh, now you want probable cause,” say the hatemongers. Yeah, but check this out, folks. You want to talk about a broad sweep of power? You don’t even need a court order to wiretap someone at first. “In general, the Justice Department may engage in electronic surveillance to collect FII without a court order for periods up to one year. 50 U.S.C. — 1802. There must be no “substantial likelihood” that the intercepted communications include those to which a U.S. person is a party.” No substantial likelihood. Is that broad enough for you? Well, there have been only FOUR rejections for warrants on wiretapping in the whole history of the FISA court. I’d say if Bush and his administration had even a shred of evidence that someone was planning something and they requested a wiretap, they’d get it under the law. But that wasn’t good enough for that gang.
It was only after the FISA court rejected the DOJ’s proposed changes under the new “Patriot Act” that the Bush administration decided it didn’t need a warrant to tap phones. Nice, right? They didn’t get their way under the law, so they did it anyway. Imagine if we all lived our lives like that?
By the way, big kudos to Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security, for his comments on Hardball last night. Anytime Chris Matthews trots out someone formerly from the Bush administration, I fully expect them to hold the party line and defend the administration. However, Ridge (after some initial comments about how we’re safer now than we were pre-9/11) had some surprising things to say about privacy and phone tapping:
MATTHEWS: What about phone taps? I know a lot of Americans obviously don’t want their phones tapped for a lot of reasons, but if we find out it’s the only way to nab people in the last couple days before they act is to hear them talking to each other, will the American people say, well we don’t like giving up our rights, but this is not a matter of individual rights anymore, it’s a matter of national rights. We have to protect the country. Will people change?
RIDGE: I don’t think they have to. I think you have laws on the books. If you had that kind of information going in, you could tap those phones. What I worry more than that, during the whole debate about N.S.A is I heard Americans tell me, I don’t care, I am not doing anything wrong, it’s OK if you tap my phone, and I don’t think we ever want to reduce our threshold that low?
MATTHEWS: Why not? Do you think we will?
RIDGE: No, nor do I think we want to. I mean, the notion that we would surrender, voluntarily, knowing that we are not doing anything wrong, our rights, to have the government intervene or intercede or listen to a phone conversation, I think is absolutely unacceptable. But there are provisions in place in the law, tools in the law now, if you have that kind of information going in, you certainly can, under the FISA, can get that.
MATTHEWS: Let me flip this around, Governor. Suppose you are homeland security secretary, and you find out that there may be a suspicious group of people doing things, but you want to honor their civil rights and you don’t want to tap their phones. Can you explain the deaths of thousands of people because you were honoring civil rights after the fact?
RIDGE: No, I don’t think it’s honoring civil rights, if you have cause, if there is justification. There are plenty of ways for the law enforcement community to do it within the constitution and the rule of law, period.
Matthews’ last question was rather loaded. Um, Chris, you won’t have to explain away the “deaths of thousands of people because you were honoring civil rights after the fact,” you can wiretap first, get the warrant later. The only reason people are making a big deal out of this judge’s decision is because they hate liberals. Perhaps they also hate America? After all, if they hate our Constitution, there’s probably a pretty good chance they hate America in general.