Jun 22, 2008

OBAMA is right on FISA UPDATED

Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 04:24:39 AM EST

YES THAT IS CORRECT
OBAMA IS RIGHT ON FISA

PLEASE GO OVER THIS WITH ME
before you make a final decision about Barack Obama and his decision on the FISA Bill. I want the input of those who agree and criticism of those who disagree with my assessment.

SERIOUSLY - Have you really studied the FISA changes that have so many of us upset?
You can read IT HERE

Then look very carefully at this below the fold.

‘‘SEC. 702. PROCEDURES FOR TARGETING CERTAIN PERSONS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES OTHER THAN UNITED STATES PERSONS.
‘‘(a) AUTHORIZATION.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon the issuance of an order in accordance with subsection (i)(3) or a determination under subsection (c)(2), the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize jointly, for a period of up to 1 year from the effective date of the authorization, the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.
‘‘(b) LIMITATIONS.—An acquisition authorized under subsection (a)—
‘‘(1) may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States;
‘‘(2) may not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States;
‘‘(3) may not intentionally target a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States;
‘‘(4) may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States; and
‘‘(5) shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Take the last provision first

"shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States". That rules out anything that violates the 4th Amendment of the Constitution so I must agree that Speaker Pelosi is correct.

But the ACLU says it is unconstitutional - and I would like to figure out why.
Here are the LIMITATIONS - listed above from section 702
1)You can't target anyone inside the USA
2)You can't target a person outside the USA to get to one inside the USA
3)You can't target a US person outside the USA
4)You can't acquire communication where sender and recipients are in the USA
Those limitations apply to all data acquisition that can be obtained without a court order.

Down in Sections 703 and 704 there is a provision for seeking electronic data from a US Person who in no longer in the United States but that data search must be accompanied by a court order made by a judge. (see pages 34 -40)

So that's it
This is about foreign nationals on foreign soil
and they are NOT protected by the Constitution of the USA outside the USA
So where is the violation of the 4th Amendment in this law?

Or in the case of sections 703 and 704 it is about US persons outside the USA with court orders required as provided in the Constitution. So where is the 4th Amendment violation in this law?

I have spent hours reading the objections to this bill on this website and I have carefully read the ACLU'S position and it's general condemnation of anything that might be construed to curtail a "freedom" without any practical examples of how this act can harm average Americans.
Some here say "The ACLU says it's unconstitutional so that's good enough for me". This characterization by a member of the ACLU ""This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications." seems to be totally wrong given that it only applies to foreign nationals except for the 703 and 704 provisions for US Persons not in the USA. The language in those section seems to be very restrictive and it requires a court order in compliance with The Constitution.

Now this is the 4th Amendment we are all so keen to protect that I believe in strongly and completely

Amendment 4 - Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The provisions in this FISA rewrite provide for probable cause, oath and affirmation, and a court order specifically for electronic data and/or oral communication.
The men who wrote the Constitution had no way of seeing this future where our communication is worldwide and instantaneous. The telephone itself was 80 years away from invention by Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, or Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray in the 1870's some 30 years after the telegraph. Private telephone lines have only been widely available in the past 60 after area codes were introduced in 1946.
So when did these private line telephone conversations become protected by the US Constitution? Well they didn't - that protection was added and applied by the congress through additions to the US Code and the courts through precedent applied as part of the 4th amendment protection. The United States Code Title 18 Chapter 119 WIRE AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS INTERCEPTION AND INTERCEPTION OF ORAL COMMUNICATIONS lays out the law concerning domestic interstate electronic and oral communications. These laws were amended as recently as 2006 with H.R. 4709 [109th]: Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006 This and many other additions and modifications of the law have been made by Congress without amending the Constitution to do so.
The question at hand is whether or not some foreign national who is caught planning an attack against the USA can claim a violation of constitutional rights if the interception of his telephone call leads to his arrest and the end of a deadly threat.
Some of you are ready to throw Barack Obama under the bus because you believe he has capitulated to a violated the sacred rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States by his decision to not object to this bill. As a matter of law there have been cases in the past that set a precedent ruling that private telephone conversations are protected, but that protection didn't come from the founding fathers and it does not apply to foreign nationals so I believe it is time to give Barack a break.
After reading all of these laws and all of the objections and complaints here on Daily Kos I have come to the following conclusion:
WTF - why is everyone in such a twist over this narrow specific exclusion of foreign nationals on foreign soil whose telephone conversations can be monitored for an expressly limited period of time on the approval of the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence who must authorize jointly?
This is not extraordinary rendition or endless incarceration at Gitmo. This is the interception of oral or electronic communications that just may lead to the exposure of a plot to kill Americans.
I've got to say I was confused by all of the constitutional violation talk. I thought that Barack had jumped the shark and veered off into a position that was untenable and injurious to his Presidential ambitions and the best interests of the United States. But after careful consideration of the narrow scope of this language limiting the Attorney General and Director of Intelligence to application of this measure to foreign nationals on foreign soil in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States; I am inclined to agree with Barack Obama. I am relieved that I can in good conscience take that stand.

I am not covering the provisions immunizing the Telcom providers in this diary but I will later. I am not for blanket immunity for anyone but I find it difficult to make Verizon liable for providing records when requested by the Attorney General and the Director of Intelligence for a foreign national or for a United States person who is abroad when there is a court order signed by a judge.

Barack Obama is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law and was President of the Harvard Law Review. Barack Obama taught CONSTITUTIONAL LAW at the University of Chicago Law School so it seems to me that his take on the constitutionality of the FISA rewrite should carry some significant weight.
I believe that the new language is a significant improvement. I believe the Constitution is fully protected particularly with Obama's attorney General and Director of Intelligence at the head. I am not concerned with making Verizon liable for civil suits for complying with requests from the Attorney General and Director of Intelligence under Bush 's version of FISA because I feel that Bush and his cronies should be held responsible.
I am not a Constitutional Law expert so my assessment of this FISA amendment may be flawed but I have taken the time to read every word carefully so I might make an informed judgment on my own. If anyone can show me where I have missed the part where this allows mass untargeted surveillance of Americans as claimed by the ACLU I would appreciate it.

Thank you for participating.

UPDATE: Before this disappears into oblivion for a lack of recs I would like to thank everyone who participated in the spirited and detailed debate over this subject - particularly beijingbetty who took the time to read the bill and offer specific objections and maryb2004, dvogel001, and everyone else who took the time to go over this in detail. I knew that my point of view would not be very popular in some quarters but I still believe we need to work without pause to elect Barack Obama and that his stance on these amendments are not the sellout that some would have us believe. Thank you all for your assistance in making this a good debate.


THIS IS AN EXCELLENT COMMENT BY BEIJINGBETTY from the comments on my diary at Daily Kos

First of all, I commend you on your diary. You asked some great questions, and I think you are coming from a good place in doing so.

But I don't think section 702 is the concern. I think it's the later sections -- and the exceptions that are spelled out that are worrisome.

SEC. 705. JOINT APPLICATIONS AND CONCURRENT AUTHORIZATIONS.

(a) JOINT APPLICATIONS AND ORDERS.—If an acquisition targeting a United States person under section 703 or 704 is proposed to be conducted both inside and outside the United States, a judge having jurisdiction under section 703(a)(1) or 704(a)(1) may issue simultaneously, upon the request of the Government in a joint application complying with the requirements of sections 703(b) and 704(b), orders under sections 703(c) and 704(c), as appropriate.

(b) CONCURRENT AUTHORIZATION.—If an order authorizing electronic surveillance or physical search has been obtained under section 105 or 304, the Attorney General may authorize, for the effective period of that order, without an order under section 703 or 704, the targeting of that United States person for the purpose of acquiring foreign intelligence information while such person is reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.

You are correct that Sections 703 and 704 require FISA review of a request for wiretapping of US citizens. But sections 105 and 304 provide loopholes -- they expand the emergency powers of the AG -- apparently, as determined by the AG.

105 and 304 are worded very similarly. Here's the citation from 304:

(b) ORDERS.—Section 304 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1824) is amended—
[...]
(2) by amending subsection (e) to read as follows:

(e)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the Attorney General may authorize the emergency employment of a physical search if the Attorney General—

(A) reasonably determines that an emergency situation exists with respect to the employment of a physical search to obtain foreign intelligence information before an order authorizing such physical search can with due diligence be obtained;

(B) reasonably determines that the factual basis for issuance of an order under this title to approve such physical search exists;

(C) informs, either personally or through a designee, a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the time of such authorization that the decision has been made to employ an emergency physical search; and

(D) makes an application in accordance with this title to a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as soon as practicable, but not more 8
than 7 days after the Attorney General authorizes such physical search.

So the AG needs to inform FISA of the target. But what happens if FISA denies the application?

(5) In the event that such application for approval is denied, or in any other case where the physical search is terminated and no order is issued approving the physical search, no information obtained or evidence derived from such physical search shall be received in evidence or otherwise disclosed in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, office, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or political subdivision thereof, and no information concerning any United States person acquired from such physical search shall subsequently be used or disclosed in any other manner by Federal officers or employees without the consent of such person, except with the approval of the Attorney General if the information indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person.

While that language is worded to sound as if it protects Americans from the misuse of the information illegally collected on them, it also prevents us from having any legal recourse.

The entire search becomes a secret process, determined as needed by the AG, with limited oversight by FISA, and there is no way within the wording of this bill for you or I to know that it even happened.


Apparently, Even Barack Obama Thinks You're Stupid Hotlist

Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:45:08 AM EST

We'll include Barack Obama in the mix of politicians that apparently think all you who were following the FISA debates are as dumb as day-old pill bugs, and it's depressing as hell to have to do so. He may be the Democratic nominee, but he can still write a milquetoast, self-congratulatory justification for choosing the easy way out with the best of them.

You know, I don't mind politicians not agreeing with me much of the time. Or most of the time. And at this point, I'm more than used to various parts of our Constitution being considered strictly optional, and being given away like beads at Mardi Gras.

But it does grate, immeasurably, when they feed us bull and tell us it's candy. I had hoped that, given the length of time it took Obama to come up with a statement, they were going to come up with something substantive. Instead, it appears they were using that time to come up with an assortment of logic-insulting bunk.

[...] Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over.

No. It will not be "over", it will just be made retroactively legal so that it can continue. I suppose technically the "illegal" part of it will be over, so it isn't technically the baldfaced lie it sounds like -- so kudos for bending the language like Beckham, but that's not really what most people would consider that phrase to mean.

It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

No, it really doesn't. Because FISA never went away -- it doesn't need "restoring". FISA is FISA. It was FISA, it is FISA. The only reason FISA would need "restoring" is if we are all willing to accept that it had been invalidated entirely by the president's actions -- that the president was not only able to simply break the law, but managed to erase it from the books entirely on his own say-so.

That's absurd. That's asinine. A law does not need "restoring" when it is violated, it needs enforcing. And given that the Democrats have latched onto a piece of legislation designed explicitly to prevent that from ever happening in any meaningful way, there is nothing to be the slightest bit proud of. It is complete acceptance of an illegal program, dressed up as hard-fought victory, and by God the Democrats responsible for it and voting for it, Obama included, naturally presume that if they type up some lovely-sounding bullcrap about it, they'll be able to pretend it is something other than strategically planned and executed cowardice in the face of lawbreaking.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. [...]

The glowing embrace of the right-wing and administration logic used to foist corporate immunity to lawbreaking upon us: President Bush is so terribly put upon that he cannot possibly follow existing law in conducting espionage against American citizens, and nobody should expect him to, so we must urgently change the law.

But FISA was not expiring. FISA was not falling into a legislative black hole. It continued to exist, as the exclusive means for electronic surveillance of the American people, and all it required was a warrant, and all the warrant required was probable cause. That's it. That's what this entire, months-long parade of panic, bluster and torn hair has been about, that it was just too damn difficult for the administration to be asked to show two sentences of probable cause to a judge in a secret hearing before collecting whatever electronic information about you, your neighbors, your family, your friends, everyone in your town, everyone in your social organizations, everyone in every restaurant you've ever been to, etc., etc., etc. they wanted to collect.

And if you object to it, then even Barack Obama will hold the threat of imminent Terror over your head as justification for why we should ignore past violations of Constitutional rights and declare a massive, flag-waving, star-spangled do over that simply declares there's no more problem.

Oh, but don't worry. The Bush administration is charged with coming up with a "thorough review" of what the Bush administration did, in order to tell us all about whether or not they did anything wrong. Yes, let's all stand in awe that, after all that has happened the last seven years, there are still entire collections of Democrats who think that having the administration investigate itself will solve the problem. I'm not sure whether to laugh, to cry, or to simply throw my hands up at the whole thing.


I'm not sure which frightens me more, the thought that the people leading my nation could be so damn gullible, or the thought that they aren't -- but they're counting on us to be. If the Democrats are going to be so fired up about demanding that they be allowed cave on basic protections, lest the Republicans treat them cruelly in future elections, they could at least have the decency to not insult our intelligence while they're doing it.

That is my primary objection, here. Democrats: if you're going to cave, just cave. Don't draft up flagrantly insulting talking points that pretend you've gotten something in return -- you haven't. You haven't gotten squat, except for the knowledge that the illegal is now legal, that past illegalities will be swept under the rug, and that future illegalities will be met with no action more substantive than a few harshly worded reports.

We all know how much money the telecommunications companies spent "lobbying" you for this legislation; fine. So just come out and say it -- you can't piss off corporate contributors that are that important, so the Fourth Amendment can go suck eggs. We all know you don't have any confidence you can both stand up for the rule of law and get reelected in the face of conservative demands that our laws be considered obsolete in the face of our own pants-wetting fear; fine. So just say that, and quit painting us as rubes who won't know any better if you shove a few noble-sounding sentences our way.

It's beyond insulting.

Glenn Greenwald

Obama's support for the FISA "compromise"

(updated below)

In the past 24 hours, specifically beginning with the moment Barack Obama announced that he now supports the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer House bill, there have magically arisen -- in places where one would never have expected to find them -- all sorts of claims about why this FISA "compromise" isn't really so bad after all. People who spent the week railing against Steny Hoyer as an evil, craven enabler of the Bush administration -- or who spent the last several months identically railing against Jay Rockefeller -- suddenly changed their minds completely when Barack Obama announced that he would do the same thing as they did. What had been a vicious assault on our Constitution, and corrupt complicity to conceal Bush lawbreaking, magically and instantaneously transformed into a perfectly understandable position, even a shrewd and commendable decision, that we should not only accept, but be grateful for as undertaken by Obama for our Own Good.

Accompanying those claims are a whole array of factually false statements about the bill, deployed in service of defending Obama's indefensible -- and deeply unprincipled -- support for this "compromise." Numerous individuals stepped forward to assure us that there was only one small bad part of this bill -- the part which immunizes lawbreaking telecoms -- and since Obama says that he opposes that part, there is no basis for criticizing him for what he did. Besides, even if Obama decided to support an imperfect bill, it's our duty to refrain from voicing any criticism of him, because the Only Thing That Matters is that Barack Obama be put in the Oval Office, and we must do anything and everything -- including remain silent when he embraces a full-scale assault on the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law -- because every goal is now subordinate to electing Barack Obama our new Leader.

It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this "compromise" bill is the telecom amnesty part. It's true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill's expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts.

The ACLU specifically identifies the ways in which this bill destroys meaningful limits on the President's power to spy on our international calls and emails. Sen. Russ Feingold condemned the bill on the ground that it "fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home" because "the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power." Rep. Rush Holt -- who was actually denied time to speak by bill-supporter Silvestre Reyes only to be given time by bill-opponent John Conyers -- condemned the bill because it vests the power to decide who are the "bad guys" in the very people who do the spying.

This bill doesn't legalize every part of Bush's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program but it takes a large step beyond FISA towards what Bush did. There was absolutely no reason to destroy the FISA framework, which is already an extraordinarily pro-Executive instrument that vests vast eavesdropping powers in the President, in order to empower the President to spy on large parts of our international communications with no warrants at all. This was all done by invoking the scary spectre of Terrorism -- "you must give up your privacy and constitutional rights to us if you want us to keep you safe" -- and it is Obama's willingness to embrace that rancid framework, the defining mindset of the Bush years, that is most deserving of intense criticism here.

* * * * *

Last night, Greg Sargent wrote that the most infuriating aspect of what Obama did here "is that since the outset of the campaign he's seemed absolutely dead serious about changing the way foreign policy is discussed and argued about in this country"; that Obama's "candidacy has long seemed to embody a conviction that Democrats can win arguments with Republicans about national security -- that if Dems stick to a set of core principles, and forcefully argue for them without blinking, they can and will persuade people that, simply put, they are right and Republicans are wrong"; and that "this time, he abandoned that premise," even though:

if there were ever anything that would have tested his operating premise throughout this campaign -- that you can win arguments with Republicans about national security -- it was this legislation. If ever there were anything that deserved to test this premise, it was this legislation.
This superb piece from The Technology Liberation Front makes the same argument:
We are, in other words, right back to the narrative where being "strong" on national security means trashing the constitution. . . . . This is doubly disappointing because until now Obama has been a master at re-framing national security debates to get out of this box. Unlike John Kerry, he has refused to shy away from a confrontational posture on foreign policy issues. He's shown a willingness to say he has a better foreign policy vision, rather than simply insisting he can be just as tough on the terrorists as the Republicans are. He could and should have done the same with FISA, taking the opportunity to explain why warrantless surveillance isn't necessary to protect us from the terrorists. But it seems he, along with Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid, chickened out. So it's back to Republicans being tough on national security and Democrats defensively insisting that they, too, hate terrorists more than they love the constitution.
It's either that he "chickened out" or -- as Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin asserts and Digby wonders -- Obama believes he will be President and wants these extreme powers for himself, no doubt, he believes, because he'll exercise them magnanimously, for our Own Good. Whatever the motives -- and I don't know (or much care) what they are -- Obama has embraced a bill that is not only redolent of many of the excesses of Bush's executive power theories and surveillance state expansions, but worse, has done so by embracing the underlying rationale of "Be-scared-and-give-up-your-rights." Note that the very first line of Obama's statement warns us that we face what he calls "grave threats," and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.

Making matters worse still, what Obama did yesterday is in clear tension with an emphatic promise that he made just months ago. As the extremely pro-Obama MoveOn.org notes today, Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, back in in September, vowed that Obama would "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." MoveOn believes Obama should be held to his word and is thus conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised -- support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty. You can email Burton here to demand that Obama comply with his commitment not just to vote against, but to filibuster, telecom amnesty:

bburton@barackobama.com
Incidentally, Chris Dodd made an identical promise when he was running for President, prompting the support of hundreds of thousands of new contributors, and he ought to be held to his promise as well.

* * * * *

The excuse that Obama's support for this bill is politically shrewd is -- even if accurate -- neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it's the opposite. It's precisely because Obama is calculating that he can -- without real consequence -- trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it's necessary to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you'll cheer for him no matter what he does, that you'll vest in him Blind Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.

Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme. No political leader merits uncritical devotion -- neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it -- and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don't understand it or think that it's wrong. That's precisely the warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no more attractive or healthy when it's shifted to a new Leader.

What Barack Obama did here was wrong and destructive. He's supporting a bill that is a full-scale assault on our Constitution and an endorsement of the premise that our laws can be broken by the political and corporate elite whenever the scary specter of The Terrorists can be invoked to justify it. What's more, as a Constitutional Law Professor, he knows full well what a radical perversion of our Constitution this bill is, and yet he's supporting it anyway. Anyone who sugarcoats or justifies that is doing a real disservice to their claimed political values and to the truth.

The excuse that we must sit by quietly and allow him to do these things with no opposition so that he can win is itself a corrupted and self-destructive mentality. That mindset has no end. Once he's elected, it will transform into: "It's vital that Obama keeps his majority in Congress so you have to keep quiet until after the 2010 midterms," after which it will be: "It's vital that Obama is re-elected so you have to keep quiet until after 2012," at which point the process will repeat itself from the first step. Quite plainly, those are excuses to justify mindless devotion, not genuine political strategies.

Having said all of that, the other extreme -- declaring that Obama is now Evil Incarnate, no better than John McCain, etc. etc. -- is no better. Obama is a politician running for political office, driven by all the standard, pedestrian impulses of most other people who seek and crave political power. It's nothing more or less than that, and it is just as imperative today as it was yesterday that the sickly right-wing faction be permanently removed from power and that there is never any such thing as the John McCain Administration (as one commenter ironically noted yesterday, at the very least, Obama is far more likely to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will rule that the bill Obama supports is patently unconstitutional). The commenter sysprog described perfectly the irrational excesses of both extremes the other day:

Argh

Why are so many four-year-olds and fourteen-year-olds making comments on blogs?

Four-year-olds see their preferred politicians as god-like fathers (or mothers) whose virtuous character will guarantee good judgment. If a judgment looks questionable to you, then it's because you don't know all the facts that mommy and daddy know, or it's because you aren't as wise as them.

Fourteen-year-olds have had their illusions shattered about those devilish politicians so now they perceive the TRUTH - - that mommy and daddy make bad judgments because mommy and daddy are utterly corrupt.

Personally, I can empathize with the impulses behind the latter far more than the former, even while recognizing that they both must be diligently avoided. It's understandable that there is a substantial sense of anger and betrayal towards Obama as a result of what he did yesterday, particularly among those who previously viewed him as something transcendent and "different." Quoting Shakespeare is always slightly pompous (at least) but -- with apologies in advance -- his observation in Sonnet 94 is too apropos here to refrain:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

If there is one good thing that can come from this week's horrific embrace by Obama and our bipartisan political establishment of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, perhaps it will be that the illusions of "lily-ness" about Barack Obama can finally fade away and be replaced by a more realistic perception of what he is, what his limits are, and the reasons why he merits real scrutiny, criticism and checks -- like everyone else pursuing political power does. Recall that the very first thing that he did upon securing the nomination was run to AIPAC to prostrate himself before them and swear undying fealty to their militant pieties. There will be plenty more of these sorts of ugly rituals to come. Whether you think he is engaging in them out of justifiable political calculation or some barren quest for power doesn't much matter.

Either way, no good comes from lending uncritical support to a political leader, or cheering them on when they do bad and destructive things, or using twisted rationalizations to justify their full-scale assault on your core political values. The overriding lesson of the last seven years is that political figures, more than they need anything else, need checks and limits. That is just as important to keep in mind -- probably more so -- when you love or revere a political leader as it is when you detest one.

* * * * *

The campaign against politicians who are enabling this assault on our Constitutional framework, core civil liberties and the rule of law has now raised close to $300,000. My explanation about the current plans for these funds, in response to a commenter's inquiries, can be read here. Contributions to that campaign can be made here.

UPDATE: In comments, Hume's Ghost wrote:

What really rubbed me the wrong way was how Obama in his statement says essentially trust me with these powers, I'll use them responsibly.

Nope.

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." - John Adams [1772].

In 1799, Thomas Jefferson echoed that: "Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence . . . . Let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitutions." Between (a) relying on the limitations imposed by the Constitution or (b) placing faith in the promises of a political leader not to abuse his unchecked power, it isn't really a difficult choice -- at least it ought not to be, no matter who the political leader in question happens to be.
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