Friday 18 August 2006

The end to presidential voyeurism

War against the presidential juggernaut

Somehow the presidential mandate in the United States cannot be accused for not putting up a robust fight in protecting the American People – whatever that means; it is an emotive appellation that deludes the group it refers to into a fall sense of security as their rights get trampled on.

Many bloggers including myself have derided vehemently the assumed untrammelled powers of the Presidency post 9-11 to abrogate legislative and judicial oversight under the premise of being the Commander-in-Chief in a time of war.

The one that has received the biggest brick-bats is the exercise of presidential privilege in the unwarranted surveillance of American citizens, the revelation of which caused stirs and the government in no mean terms condemned as unpatriotic and the most top secret activity in the war against terror.

The new un-American

The concern here is that the War on Terror has become a blanket term to separate acquiescing citizens whose complacency regarding their liberties and freedoms have been encroached upon with impunity and are assuaged with occasional coincidentally well placed security alerts from those who question the rationale behind many of those alerts and the intentions of the government.

The apologists are on the verge of calling the thinking ones un-American, time will tell if the ghost of Joe McCarthy does not return to haunt Americans, this time not on Communist activities but on trying to retain liberties, freedom and privacy over the behemoth of the State.

A timely judgement

Now, judgement has been returned in a suit filed in January 2006 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the National Security Agency (NSA).

After weighing the government’s well-rehearsed mantra on state secrets, presidential war time claims of prerogative and powers as well as supposed value of the exercise against the issues of the first and fourth amendment, the separation of powers and existing laws regarding surveillance, the judge found in favour of the plaintiff.

On a broader scale, this is in favour of the sleeping majority who have allowed the machinery of government, especially this on to run roughshod over their rights which as a matter of course is enshrined in their constitution but never tested except in times of adversity.

Beyond that, it shows that the government should not take advantage of one situation (9-11) to exercise power in over other circumstances (constitutional rights) with the premise that all issues are related to some all-consuming desire to ensure national security – this is the whole aberration of the War on Terror.

For the world at large, hopefully, it would really help buttress the case of civil liberties where other governments appropriate the War on Terror and the American unconstitutional practices to clamp down on their people aspirations for the American freedoms of old.

Illegal, unconstitutional – STOP NOW!

In a 44-page judgement, the judge has declared surveillance without warrants unconstitutional and asked for them to be stopped forthwith. It is a definitely a setback for the Bush administration, but as expected, the government would appeal the ruling – this in the light of the fact that the Supreme Court has already told the President he does not have a blank cheque.

That cheque is written in the ink of the US Constitution, though pre-signed by the American People is only to the amount approved by the legislature, only then can the executive cash that cheque with the oversight in processing of the judiciary – that is the working of democracy – something we always get preached at us from the White House every time we try to catch breath.

What is strange is this landmark ruling does not to be hitting the headlines as much as other news stories like the tobacco industry getting away scot-free for deceiving customers with their advertising. How we get our priorities in a twist, at times.

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