A great week for freedom... almostIt seemed like a great week for freedom, but nowadays, you learn to not count your chickens before they hatch.
First, the Senate was going to require the White House to explain itself on the existence of alleged secret prisons overseas. European allies were angered to read reports of these alleged secret prisons and of claims that the CIA illegally transported abductees across European borders.
Then, the White House was finally shamed and humiliated into ceasing its sickening opposition to a proposed ban on torture by the Republican-controlled Congress. The US is already a signatory to the international Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Today, the Senate refused to make permanent several expiring provisions of the so-called Patriot Act. Opponents claimed that the provisions were an unacceptable infringement on civil liberties.
Observers are shocked to discover the presence of vertebrates on Capitol Hill after an absence of several years. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called the provisions "essential to our efforts in the war on terrorism and their loss will damage our ability to prevent terrorist attacks. Our nation cannot afford to let these important counterterrorism tools lapse." Which makes it all the more curious that the administration rejected efforts by a bipartisan group to extend the provisions by another three months to strengthen civil liberties protections. If the Act is so essential according to the administration, isn't a temporary extension better than none at all?
Supporters of the big government Patriot Act insist that the provisions are necessary for national security. They insist that we must blindly trust that no excesses or abuses of power could possibly occur. And, most importantly, there must be no oversight of this exercise of massive power.
So perhaps the effort to renew these provisions of the Patriot Act were hampered by recent revelations that President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.
And despite sniffing about the 'liberal media' and 'Bush-hating press' of which The New York Times is allegedly a pillar, The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting.
Notably, The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad.
I hope Iraqis don't use our president's conduct as their model for good governance and the responsible exercise of power. Secrecy is the enemy of democracy. And secrecy is the guiding principle of this administration.