So the Protect America Act is now law. (What evil genius creates these names? Whoever it is, I hope the White House pays him the fortune he deserves.) It's official. The government can now spy on you pretty much at will. Your cell phone company or Internet Service Provider is under orders to aid the process.
You’re not a suspected terrorist? No problem. They can eavesdrop anyway. Email a friend in London, and you might as well copy the National Security Agency. Call your daughter in Paris? Expect to be listened in on -- no warrant necessary. Not even an after-the-fact, double-secret warrant, signed at midnight in a windowless room in the Justice Department basement.
(Even these infamous rubber stamp warrants, from the secret intelligence court were obtained under false pretenses, the Washington Post reported in March. FBI agents routinely lied in their testimony to the court, according to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the rubber-stamper-in-chief.)
To guard against potential abuse, the Protect America Act does have an oversight provision. Attorney General and perjurer Alberto Gonzales will design safeguards and submit them for review to a secret national security court.
You couldn't make this up, as they say.
So what voodoo did the Bush White House use to put this one over on a Democratic-controlled Congress? Guess. Or just hit replay.
Imminent terrorist threat. Grave dangers to national security. Secret evidence divulged in closed-door intelligence briefings.
The press release version: Intelligence officials have detected increasing “chatter” among Al Qaeda suspects, much of which is being missed owing to draconian oversight imposed on surveillance efforts. Quick action needed to repair a dangerous situation.
If you believe this, I have some nice “yellow cake” uranium ore to sell you. Amazingly, 57 Democrats did believe it, and just handed the Bush Administration one more victory against civil liberties.
I call these credulous Congressmen the Charlie Brown Democrats. Remember the running football gag in Peanuts? Time after time Lucy promises to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick, and time after time she snatches it away at the last moment, causing Charlie to fly into the air and land flat on his back. Her plausible-sounding patter and creative excuses for failure always persuade him to overcome his well-founded distrust. He comes back for more. And then more. Or, as Lucy, says, "Again, Charlie Brown ... and again, and again and again.”
Here is Lucy conning Charlie Brown (courtesy of the Peanuts Collectors Club*):
"You have to learn to be trusting.”
"The odds now are really in your favor!!
"Don't you trust anyone any more?"
"I give you my bonded word."
Trade George Bush for Lucy, and you pretty much have the Administration arguments. “Trust us,” they say, and the Charlie Brown Democrats fall for it again and again and again. Charlie himself is never going to wise up, of course; he's a cartoon character. But you'd think we might expect more from (Democratic) Congressmen.