Where Is America?
By now you’ve probably heard that President Bush authorized the use of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens, despite laws clearly prohibiting that. Not to mention its obvious contravention of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
The President justified it thus:
To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I’m also using constitutional authority vested in me as commander in chief.
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations…
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation’s top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups.
In other words, when Congress voted permission for the President to act against al Qaeda, they were giving him permission to do anything he felt would aid that effort — legal or not.
I won’t waste time explaining how the “reviewed every 45 days” argument is a canard — since the reviewers are the President’s men, its silliness should be obvious — but I did want to share the question that has gnawed at me since I learned of this:
Where is America?
The President’s argument is essentially that for the duration of the conflict, he is Caesar — holder of power unbounded by the laws of men.
In the face of this naked assertion of power, I wonder: where is America? Why do we not hear cries for impeachment? Where is the spirit that animated the greatest days of our national life?
Where is the nation whose fathers pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” in opposition to unlimited executive authority?
Where is the nation that bred Thomas Jefferson, who said “the Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants“?
Where is the nation that endured years of bloody civil war so that all Americans might enjoy the blessings of liberty?
Where is the nation that sent its sons to die at Normandy and Anzio and Iwo Jima so that the world could be free of the jackboot of Fascism?
Are we the same nation as that? Do we have the same spirit as they did? Can we rouse ourselves from our satellite TV and XBox 360 long enough to reaffirm the most basic tenet of the American creed: that unrestrained power is incompatible with the maintenance of a free republic?
Where is America?
In the weeks to come, as we see if the President’s brazen actions bring down any consequences upon him, we will discover the answer to that question.