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Some will argue there is a big difference between the totalitarian government of the Chinese and the current Bush Administration.

The current Bush administration is decidedly authoritarian and acts very much like the Chinese government in many ways.

The Chinese torture political prisoners; the Bush Administration tortures political prisoners.The Chinese are not bound by Constitutional principles; the Bush Administration does not see itself bound by Constitutional principles.

The Chinese run an oppressive political machine that squelches free speech; the Bush-Rove operation has attempted to do likewise.

The Chinese spy on their citizens; the Bush Administration spies on its citizens and supports the wholesale investigation of telephone records, without a warrant or respecting existing statutory safeguards.

Both governments use the ruse of national security to justify their actions.  If you have been thinking about boycotting the Chinese Olympics advertisers, which is a very good idea, we need equivalent action in the U.S. against the U.S. government.

To allow communications companies to give up confidential telephone records to the government on request is an outrageous erosion of civil liberties. It is the same as Yahoo executives declaring they must follow the law in China. The despicable acts our government have asked of the telecom companies are headed towards becoming sanctified by law.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

This administration, using 9/11 as a bloody shirt, have continually worked to erode the Constitution and basic liberties. What Bush and a previous Republican majority in Congress have done is so outrageous that even a fundamentally conservative court struck down the statute they enacted to suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus.

In Boumediene v. Bush, decided June 2008 the Supreme Court held that individuals on American soil at Guantanamo Bay could not be denied access to the courts protected by via a writ of habeas corpus. The 5-4 decision has been heavily criticized by John McCain. Mr. McCain believes that people held in American prisons at Guantanamo should not have the right to have our courts decide if their imprisonment for years is legal.

Since when is it OK for a free nation to arrest any person, for any conduct, and then pass a law to prohibit them from asking a court to decide if their imprisonment is legal? This is the United States of America, not the 20th century Soviet Union.

Professor Richard Epstein, University of Chicago Law School, wrote an amicus brief for the prisoners. He got it right in an op-ed to the New York Times: “Boumediene v. Bush is not a license to allow hardened terrorists to go free. It is a rejection of the alarmist view that our fragile geopolitical position requires abandoning our commitment to preventing Star Chamber proceedings that result in arbitrary incarceration.”

Our four arch-conserative justices were just one vote away from holding that allowing the writ of habeas corpus would constitute reckless judicial intervention in military matters.  I call them the TSARs [Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts] because thats what we would have for a Supreme Court if McCain gets elected and gives them one more vote.

But for the intercession of a Democratic Congress in 2006, the foundations of a totalitarian state were underway, which is why this most recent vote to endorse surveillance of the telecoms is a total outrage. Spying on citizens, locking up people and denying them the writ of habeas corpus and condoning torture are not the hallmarks of a free society or a public morality worth emulating. I have written about the Bush Administrations wholesale abuse of the Constitution before.

The bill approved on June 20, 2008 allows for mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming in to and out of the United States.  The courts’ role is that of a rubber stamp and it is useless;  the government can continue spying on our communications even after the FISA court has objected.  293 “representatives” [a classic oxymoron] approved a wholesale giveaway of our Fourth Amendment rights.
Tom Lantos must be rolling over in his grave. His own beloved country is advocating a national policy to legalize the very immoral acts that he condemned Yahoo for committing in communist China.

Those who forget history are condemned to relive it.

Tom Lantos was all too aware of the slippery slope that leads to totalitarianism, having survived the Nazi regime. To say that it cannot happen in this country is to ignore history. It can happen anywhere. To say that it is not happening in this country is to ignore reality.

If we are to preserve “liberty and justice for all” we must be resoundingly say “no” to giving up rights here, and then there, and then everywhere. Freedom is nonnegotiable.  That must apply to the Bush administration, to telecom companies, and to corporate executives. If freedom is to flourish good men and women cannot be idle.  This 293-129 vote is a bad idea.

As Dante said, “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”

My views of the Surveillance Bill were best expressed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a leading voice of reason on the House Judiciary Committee. On the floor of the House she said: ” Mr. Speaker, this bill goes far beyond what is necessary and what was agreed to by the Director of National Intelligence. All of us agree that foreign-to-foreign communications need to be available for surveillance. However, this bill would grant the Attorney General the ability to wiretap anybody, anyplace, anytime, without court review, without any checks and balances. This unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the fourth amendment that protects the privacy not of terrorists, but of Americans. I strongly oppose this warrantless surveillance measure.”

Well said Representative Lofgren. Thank you.

The Senate must kill this bill.

Filibuster if they must, but they must kill it for the sake of “liberty and justice for all.”

It is a lesson Congressman Tom Lantos knew well.

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Richard Alexander