It is not "breaking news," of course, but from the dime a dozen 'Obama = Orwellian NSA surveillance of American citizens and the heinous betrayal of our innocent foreign allies (gasp!) diaries showing up on the rec list here since the day a baby faced ex-spy (if we are to buy his word) named Snow something heroically whistled into our collective amygdalas, one would wonder...
Well, may be I am wrong and you all knew it all along so if that is the case please do enlighten me, otherwise I am going to do my best 'breaking' these news while knowing that it may earn me a dozen plus troll attacks in addition to well-meaning "progressive" finger wags for extra measure...but so be it:
Ezra Klein in his recent article Link published in Wonkblog informs us about the actual nuts and the bolts of the Federal (and other) surveillance mechanism, explaining that,
To use its surveillance powers — tapping phones or reading e-mails — the federal government must ask permission of the court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A FISA judge can deny the request or force the government to limit the scope of its investigation. It’s the only plausible check in the system. Whether it actually checks government surveillance power or acts as a rubber stamp is up to whichever FISA judge presides that day.What? Wait...this means the Federal government (the evil, devil mammoth powered govmint, you know...) not only does not have God-like powers over FISA but actually 'must ask permission of' the presiding FISA judge before doing the nasty?
But that's not yet the best part. The best part comes next:
The 11 FISA judges, chosen from throughout the federal bench for seven-year terms, are all appointed by the chief justice. In fact, every FISA judge currently serving was appointed by Roberts, who will continue making such appointments until he retires or dies. FISA judges don’t need confirmation — by Congress or anyone else.Owww!!! "...does not need confirmation by Congress or anyone else [hint: the president. Correct me if I am wrong, folks]"
Now that's "breaking news." At least for some of us on Dailykos, that is. Not done yet. Read below the orange croissant for more 'disturbing' enlightenment from Mr. Klein
No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands, and, as a result, so is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.That's what happened, right? We thought since the president and the congress could be held accountable for the rulings involving health law, etc.etc, surveillance would also be... nope, not seems like. When it comes to surveillance, who exactly the FISA judges (the ones Federal government must ask permission of) are to be is decided by yours only, the honorable Chief Justice of our Supreme Court, Joooohhhnnnnn Rrrroooobeeeertttsssss!!! Ding! In other words, John Roberts selects/appoints the 11 FISA judges single-handedly and the Federal guvmint must ask their permission in everything involving NSA and FBI surveillance.
I must confess, my own bubble too has burst by these 'breaking news,' having had subconscious hopes that the Obama guvmint actually had some powers over this FISA thingy...sigh!
And the grand finale:
Roberts’s nominations to the FISA court are almost exclusively Republican. One of his first appointees, for instance, was Federal District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida, who not only struck down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate but the rest of the law, too. (The Supreme Court disagreed.) Vinson’s term expired in May, but the partisan tilt on the court continues: Only one of the 11 members is a Democrat.
No surprises there? I didn't think so, either.
Here is the real kicker in this picture: The FISA 11, handpicked by Roberts who, from what we are told, allows full autonomy to his appointees in their decisions, had a good thing going, all geared up for a Republican administration, say, Mitt Romney for example, to accomplish the true mission of the odious Patriot Act: not necessarily to go after the terrorists as it claims to be but to use terrorism as an excuse to expand the government's (Republican) powers over people by surveillance, intimidation, etc. It is not too far fetched to assume that we do not even begin to grasp what the government's powers would be like in this country if we did not have elected and re-elected Barack Obama. The election of Barack Obama, especially the second time in 2012, however, must have effectively put the kibosh in those plans, handing over the overly empowered surveillance apparatus to a Democratic president instead, creating a fate that is even too twisted for the insufferable Cheshire Cat of the lore, it seems.
Up to this point, the events speak for themselves but the question of what Barack Obama has decided to do (and doing) with this twist of fate handing him the powers meant to be for a Republican administration is what we are confused about, to my observance. Our reaction here on Dailykos to what we assume he is doing with those powers is a common one: we yell "Betrayal!" "Imperial presidency!" "Obama is like Bush!" I said common because we heard these yells starting only a 100 days after Obama's first term had begun. So, no surprises there.
But I see something else and I believe my observations about what the prez possibly is doing with those powers handed to him (grudgingly, I recon) are valuable enough to share it with my reader. Here is what I think: From what I gather, the president must have decided to make those powers (meant for a Republican administration under the guise of fighting against terrorism) honest ones. Meaning, what we were told, that the FISA powers were to be used for fighting against terrorism has became exactly that, being used against terrorism, under the Obama administration. Is there an oversight regulating the administration's powers involving this issue? Yes. Republican FISA 11 judges and Roberts. They have the power to put limitations on what Obama is doing and that also is some fate I think (lol!), having to be honest, having to empower Obama, instead of Romney, in his goal to kick ass where asses should be kicked. The relentless fight against terrorism (including Bin Laden's death which would never ever happen under a Republican administration), going on since Obama's first term, proves this peculiar situation. He is also working to bring an end to the wars which is not an easy task, given the half century long damage done to the world by the powers of greed and corruption. And no he did not have enough support from the congress to close down Gitmo but that is for another diary. NSA, in short, is a machine made out of people who are professionals selected from among us. It is not a scary evil unknown alien body snatcher lurking under our bed. It can be used many ways, however, depending on the intention of the user in charge. The president was indeed handed a vast power by the FISA court's Republican judges assigned by the Republican Chief Justice Roberts. My strong guess is that he has decided to use that machine for what it was supposedly be in place for: To protect American interests and to fight against terrorism. And that is a good thing, so far. Here is a fact: America does have enemies. Its democracy and wealth have enemies. Some out in the open, others operating behind facades. To deny these facts is to be grossly ignorant.
What needs to be done with these powers of surveillance created by the Republican machine that intended to use it to grab power over people and maybe even usurp our democratic system of government is indeed an issue here, for the long run. Barack Obama cannot be the president forever and what we need to do is to gear up for 2014, to elect 'better' Democrats to the congress while hoping and praying that we will have the chance to increase our numbers on the Supreme Court. Calling Obama a "new Bush" however is not going to make that happen.
These are the times we not only need to be knowledgeable but also wise. We got a wise president in the office (I am pretty sure of that :) and we too must join him in wisdom. We must understand how our government works and the fact that skilled demagogues are being able to manipulate us by using our own Achilles' heels (yeah, we have them): Our demand for perfection, lack of patience, and distrust in lengthy process, in addition to strong emotional reaction to everything we see as negative. We want everything now, in this instant. We could... but our gains would not be lasting ones. Our wise president knows that, it seems to me.
To hold his feet to fire also, as we must, is necessary; I agree with all of you that Mr. Obama is human (I must admit that I wonder sometimes...lol!) and that he is susceptible to corruption as any but we do not need to go to the extremes in our zeal so far that we become the stumbling block preventing ourselves from reaching to the goals we have been working for.
The president needs a strong congress and a public support behind him to break the chains of the Republican establishment that has been working at least over a half of century to usurp our democracy and civil rights. We cannot fight against this multilayer-ed monstrosity by joining the Koch manufactured tea party in their 'sole' purpose to discredit/destroy Obama presidency. The powers of the surveillance state in the meantime can be dealt only with congressional support in addition to the increasing of the Democratic judges in the Supreme Court. Period.
As a starter, we should discuss the Supreme Court and their dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, for example. We are no longer a racist country, explained (!) Judge Roberts. Where does he reside? On Mars?
Thanks for reading.
Wow! Rec list! Thank y'all...:) (Bows down)