Monday, July 28, 2008

Civil Liberties and The One: Personal Action on Personal Principles

It is bootless to depend on Senator Obama or the Democratic Party to protect our civil liberties as embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. His Hopiness's recent vote and that of the majority of Democratic Senators in favor of the FISA amendment shows that clearly. The Senior Quisling from California, Dianne Feinstein, one of my Senators, also voted for the misguided law. The telecoms companies, including AT&T, are major contributors to her campaign coffers. Of course, there was no quid pro quo; Quisling Feinstein is an equal-opportunity-quisling and has betrayed the Constitution on any number of other occasions to favor any number of other contributors.

Much has been made of the retroactive grant of immunity to telecoms companies such as AT&T in the FISA amendment. That is the least of it. The FISA secret courts were already suspect as protectors of our civil liberties even before Dubya & Darth Cheney got to Washington. Of many thousands of surveillance authorization requests presented to it, the FISA courts have rejected a vanishingly small number. Anyone who thinks our government apparatus is that good ought to tell us what they are smoking.

The Fourth Amendment contemplates individualized and specific warrants based on probable cause. The FISA amendment purports to allow the government the right to seek approval for a surveillance program. No individual warrants anymore! And The One supposedly taught Constitutional Law. His Hopiness assures us that should he become President he would work to ensure that our rights were not violated. I heard the same from Dubya and he brought us warrant-less, illegal wiretapping of American citizens. Why couldn't His Hopiness wait till he was President to get a less egregious law passed?

What is to be done? There is no reason at all for us unwashed to wring our hands in despair! On the contrary. The technology exists today and in usable form for us to resist an overweening executive, a supine Congress, and an accommodating judiciary to protect our freedoms. Strong encryption is available to all who wish to avail themselves of it. Use VoIP (Voice Over IP) for your telephone calls together with encryption software such as Zfone (http://zfoneproject.com/) from Phil Zimmerman (of PGP fame). Disclaimer: I have no involvement with Zimmermann or Zfone etc. Use secure email so only your intended recipients can read your messages. Encrypt your computer's hard-drive (use open-source software rather than commercial software that may have back-doors for government agencies!). I don't suggest that we do this because we have something to hide, but as a matter of principle.

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