To paraphrase Malcolm X, Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, are like a wolf and a fox. At least you know the wolf is out to get you. You think the fox is your friend until he turns on you.
Which bring us, once again, back to Senator Arlen Specter, who thinks he is as great a defender of the Constitution as Senator Russ Feingold, which is downright comical. If Specter was half the defender of the Constitution that Feingold is, we’d be in much better shape than we are.
Sadly, Senator Specter has turned yet again away from his own tough talk and offered a program on NSA warrantless surveillance that the Washington Post wrongly headlined as “a compromise.”
Here are some nuggets from the WaPo:
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed legislation that would give President Bush the option (my bold) of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency.
Sen. Arlen Specter’s approach modifies his earlier position that the NSA eavesdropping program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
But, wait! There’s more!
Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law.
Haven’t had enough yet? Enjoy this one!
A third provision would consolidate the 29 cases that have been filed in various federal district courts challenging the legality of the NSA program and give jurisdiction over them to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which was established by FISA. Any decision of that court would be subject to Supreme Court review and otherwise would be binding on all other courts.
Don’t you get all warm inside knowing this man represents you and, my favorite part, took an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution? It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so infuriating.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is dead. Or at least on life support. George W. Bush strangled it, Congress looked the other way, and Arlen Specter drove the get-away car. That ought to go nicely into Specter’s legacy, along with the magic bullet theory.
The initial reviews have been scathing. Glenn Greenwald had this to say:
The principal reason that the Bush administration has been able to impose its radical theories of lawbreaking on the country is because Congress, with an unseemly eagerness, has permitted itself to be humiliated over and over by an administration which does not hide its contempt for the notion that Congress has any role to play in limiting and checking the executive branch. And few people have more vividly illustrated that institutional debasement than Arlen Specter, who, along with Pat Roberts, has done more than anyone else to ensure that Congress completely relinquishes its constitutional powers to the President.
I only post this next quote grudgingly, but Greenwald points out that Specter should not be the only subject of our ire:
As easy — and as justifiable — as it is to express contempt for Specter’s inevitable, craven submission to the dictates of the Bush administration, it is also indisputably true that no Senator other than Russ Feingold has done more than Specter to keep the issues of the president’s lawbreaking in the news and to prevent a quick sweeping under the rug by the administration of this scandal. Specter’s constant complaints have at least kept reporters talking about these issues. If one wants to really attack Specter, one should first answer this question — where are all the great, heroic Senate Democrats who are standing up to the administration on these issues in a way that Specter isn’t? They don’t exist. While Specter does nothing more than make some noise, at least he has been doing that.
It seems fitting to close with a Malcolm X quote:
“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire…or preserve his freedom.”
Andy in Harrisburg