I take national security seriously, but apparently not as seriously as the U.S. Congress. Driving to a business meeting yesterday, I was stunned to hear that Congress has bent over like Gumby for the president and extended warrantless wiretapping and seizure. Steve Hodson has an excellent write-up about the situation that explores a bit of the law and the blogosphere’s reaction (or really, lack of reaction) to it. Via the Threat Level blog that Steve quotes in his piece, Ryan Singal lays out the situation:
A new law expanding the government’s spying powers gives the Bush Administration a six-month window to install possibly permanent back doors in the nation’s communication networks. The legislation was passed hurriedly by Congress over the weekend and signed into law Sunday by President Bush.
The bill, known as the Protect America Act, removes the prohibition on warrantless spying on Americans abroad and gives the government wide powers to order communication service providers such as cell phone companies and ISPs to make their networks available to government eavesdroppers.
I’m in total agreement with Steve. Who honestly believes that once these powers are granted they’ll every be taken back? Sigh. Any time the government starts acting like my mother, I worry. Politicians must believe that Americans no longer pay attention to what they are doing in Washington. Otherwise, what politician in their right mind would pass such a shoddy piece of legislation? I’d also love to hear the rationalization for why Congress’s approval rating on they’re handling of the Iraq war is at 3% if they believe we don’t notice what they’re doing in Washington. (link) Talk about an example of non-bold thinking.
On a slightly different note, the passage of this law reminded me of two earlier posts I wrote, The Illusion of Safety and Bold Words Used for Bad. We’re told that laws that continue to nudge at our personal freedoms are about protecting us and that we’ll be safe if we just trust other people who know better to look out for us. Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (link) What is your safety worth to you? What happens when they go from demanding you remove your shoes to fly on a plane to requiring a strip search? Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but it’s worked so well for the government, why not for me too?
To borrow a line from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I question how many of our leaders subscribe to this thinking.