What we all feared, knew somewhere in some part of our brains, about the near-blanket authorization we gave the Bush Administration to eavesdrop on our telephone calls has come to pass. NSA whistleblowers have reported that they routinely listened to phone calls between generic Americans overseas (military personnel, American aid workers, journalists, etc.) and their offices and loved ones back home. They listened in on the most private, separated lovers creating intimate spaces over long distance telephone lines. And they made light,
… telling each other things like “hey, check this out, there’s some good phone sex … pull up this call, it’s really funny.
Our military members serving overseas and their spouses at home looking for comfort from each other. Yeah, that’s hysterical.
In his piece this morning, Shayana Kadidial, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, raises an issue beyond simple impropriety with these revelations: if they’re listening to the mundane, what else could they be listening to? Writing from Gitmo, he asks:
… if the NSA was willing (to) illegally eavesdrop on private conversations of journalists and the Red Cross, would they do the same with lawyers? In 2006, William Haynes, the defense department’s general counsel, was asked by John Conyers’ House committee whether attorney-client conversations were swept up in the NSA’s dragnet, and Haynes specifically said that attorney-client calls “would not be categorically excluded from interception.” One wonders: how long before we hear that the real reason this administration – led by a pathetic combination of Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover, now cementing his legacy as the worst President in American history – decided to get around the spying-friendly FISA court was in order to listen to calls that even the most conservative of federal judges would never countenance them listening to? And thereby make it harder for lawyers like us to sue them over all their other illegal activities for the last 8 years?
It’s an interesting question and one to consider as we look at this election. We need to ensure that the next President, whoever he may be, restores our Constitutional rights and reigns in these sorts of programs which have clearly crossed the boundaries.