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.
I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now. There’s been a lot of flack aimed at Obama lately, especially from the progressive blogosphere, for positions he’s taken: FISA, death penalty for child rapists, DC gun ban, campaign financing. If I have to explain any of this to you, then this post probably isn’t directed at you and you can save yourself some time and go read something like this piece on the Gitmo interrogation tapes that were just released.
Here’s the deal: Obama never promised to be a one-trick-pony candidate. He never promised to toe the progressive party line. He promised to be a new kind of candidate. He promised to stick to his conscience. He promised to use his intelligence. He promised to strike forth on the path of a new kind of politics. He promised change. Simply bowing to the progressive wing, not following his own convictions, not doing what won him the nomination in the first place, would be betraying who he is: the man behind the politician who created this political phenomenon from the start.
Obama hasn’t “moved” to the center, as many progressives have claimed. Obama has been all over the map, and rightly so. When his conscience and his intelligence tell him that something is right, he follows them and takes the appropriate action, as he did with FISA. I’m as pissed as anyone over FISA, but I understand that Obama felt that it was the best possible solution at this time.
Certainly, I do think that some of Obama’s moves have been calculated as a bit more centrist to appeal to a broader voter base. Progressives love to jump up and down and scream about their candidates moving to the center during the general election “just” to win votes. Well what the hell do they expect? If they want someone like Nader to simply run on a straight progressive line and lose every – single – time, then they can have at it. If, however, they want a serious candidate with a progressive bent, then they have to expect that candidate to take positions that will court the independent vote. It may not make progressives happy, but it is smart politics and the only way to win. Take a look at Bill Clinton’s record to see smart politics, winning elections, in action.
Progressives need to back the hell off of Obama. I’m all for keeping politicians honest. I have certainly given Obama a bit of shit here on this blog. There are things he does that make me a little nuts. But he is our guy, folks. You want the alternative? You want McCain? Keep tearing Obama down and you just might get him.