Perspectives

Congress authorizes domestic spying

By Askia Muhammad
Senior Correspondent | Last updated: Aug 19, 2007 - 10:14:00 PM

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Graphic: Harold Muhammad/MGN online
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Call it “1984.” Call it “Big Brother” snooping in the lives of All Americans. Call it what you will, it’s the law of the land now and it was enacted with the open complicity of the Democratically-controlled Congress.

“It” is the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a bill which allows the administration of Pres. George W. Bush to continue the warrantless eavesdropping on phone calls and internet use inside the United States, without any court supervision at all.

Even The Washington Post decried the measure, calling it a “Warrantless surrender.”

On a vote of 60-28, the Senate sent approved the measure Aug. 3, as lawmakers pushed to begin a month-long recess. In its push for passage, the Bush administration exaggerated the so-called “terrorist threat,” the truth is that the White House demanded immediate action, because the previous law was ruled un-Constitutional by one of the secret FISA judges.

The next day, in a rare Saturday session, 41 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill in the House. The new legislation moves the power to approve international surveillance from a special intelligence court to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.

One day later, Sunday Aug. 5, Mr. Bush signed the measure into law.

“It seeks to restore FISA to its original focus on protecting the privacy interests of people inside the United States, so we don’t have to obtain court orders to effectively collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets located in foreign locations… it allows the government to work more efficiently with private-sector entities like communications providers, whose help is essential,” the President said of the proposal.

Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence, said he needed the legislation “in order to protect the nation from attacks that are being planned today to inflict mass casualties on the U.S.” Critics disagree sharply.

The Bill was needed because the secret court limited the ability of U.S. spy agencies to intercept telephone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists under the previous law.

“We are deeply disappointed that the president’s tactics of fear-mongering have once again forced Congress into submission,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU in a statement. “That a Democratically-controlled Senate would be strong-armed by the Bush administration is astonishing. This Congress may prove to be as spineless in standing up to the Bush Administration as the one that enacted the Patriot Act or the Military Commissions Act.”

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) accused Mr. Bush of trying to exploit the threat from al-Qaeda to push the bill. The measure was an “egregious power grab that includes broad new powers that have nothing to do with bringing FISA up to date,” he said.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978, requiring the government to obtain orders from the secret FISA court to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists in the United States. After Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush authorized the interception without warrants of communications between people in the United States and others overseas if one had suspected ties to terrorists. Critics charge that program in fact violated the FISA law, but Mr. Bush argued he had wartime powers to do so.

In January, Mr. Bush put the program under the supervision of the FISA court, and a FISA judge overturned the law. The Bush administration response has been to argue that the threat of an imminent attack in the U.S. has increased recently, therefore, requiring greater surveillance powers in order for them to prevent another attack.

But the administration did not stop there.

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a warning about a little noticed Executive Order recently signed by Mr. Bush. The executive order authorizes the Treasury Department to freeze and confiscate the assets of anyone connected to the Iraq insurgency, including humanitarian assistance. The ACLU warns the order contains sweeping provisions that pose risks for residents of this country and for humanitarian workers in Iraq.

The order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the funds of anyone who indirectly threatens the peace or stability of Iraq, or who undermines efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform. “This Executive Order reaches far beyond criminal activity to activity that may be entirely innocent. A person may find herself inadvertently in violation of this order and there is no provision for judicial review,” said Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU according to published reports.

All the while, the FBI is seeking to build a spy network of 15,000 informants, according to ABC News. The FBI is recruiting thousands of undercover informants to help that agency spy inside the United States. According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI wants to build a network of more than 15,000 informants.

The aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to increase the intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts of the agency. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on people inside the U.S., and increasing so-called “black bag” secret entry operations.

It’s all a part of a broader administration spying operation. In a letter to Senator Arlen Specter, National Intelligence Director McConnell says President Bush’s 2001 executive order authorizing the spying included a number of intelligence activities separate from the administration’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.

“This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged,” Mr. McConnell wrote, never once referring to a “police state.”

Activists and concerned citizens who are acquainted with contemporary U.S. history are well acquainted with U.S. Gestapo-like tactics. The hearings into CIA and other spying abuses led by former U.S. Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) in the 1970s revealed the infamous COINTELPRO program which had as its goal, not simply information gathering, but disruption and even “neutralization” of Black leaders and movements “in order to prevent the rise of a Black messiah” in this country.

Members of the Nation of Islam have been prepared for such government spying for even longer, from the prophetic teaching of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

“America loves meddling into other people’s affairs. She just cannot stay out of other people’s business, whether they be a two-cents worth soap-box teacher or presidents and kings of countries,” Mr. Muhammad wrote in “The Fall of America” published in 1973.

“America’s actions fit the description of the prophecy (Bible), ‘The beast has eyes around about.’ This refers to the mechanical listening devices with which America listens in on other people’s private affairs, as well as her listening in on foreign governmental affairs. This also refers to her powerful telescope.”

Sadly, this may not be the limit of such repression, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan warns us. There is a danger of fascist rule in this country, likely disguised as a resurgence of “patriotism,” or in the guise of legal maneuvers by the Bush administration, which could lead all the way to martial law and a suspension of the Constitution, and possible postponement of upcoming Congressional and Presidential elections.

Related news:

The Bush administration’s surveillance game (FCN, 10-04-2006)

Cheney-Rumsfeld surveillance plans date back to 1980s (FCN, 02-07-2006)

Just how extensive is NSA's spy program? (CNet News, 12-22-2005)

Bush presses for stepped-up Internet surveillance (FCN, 02-04-2004)

The Government vs. The People? (FCN, 03-13-2003)

Anti terror laws produce new crisis for Black leadership (FCN, 12-25-2001)

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