House Passes Extension of NSA’s Electronic Surveillance of Americans

originally published at The New American Magazine

In a move that should surprise no one aware of the increasing size, scope, and sophistication of the U.S. surveillance state, the House of Representatives voted on September 12 to approve a five-year extension of the snooping scheme created by George W. Bush in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The FISA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on July 10, 2008 after being overwhelmingly passed 293 to 129 in the House and 69-28 in the Senate. Just a couple of days prior to FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) being enacted, Representative Ron Paul and a coalition of Internet activists united to create a political action committee, Accountability Now, to conduct a money bomb in order to raise money to purchase ad buys to alert voters to the names of those congressmen (Republican and Democratic) who voted in favor of the act.

George W. Bush’s signature was but the public pronouncement of the ersatz legality of the wiretapping that was otherwise revealed to the public in a New York Times article published on December 16, 2005. That article, entitled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” described the brief history of the “anti-terrorist” program:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, 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, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said.

The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

It’s not the eavesdropping that’s the most egregious violation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (such activities are conducted by law enforcement all the time for legitimate purposes), but it’s the indefensible fact that the federally empowered snoops conduct this surveillance without a probable cause warrant so long as one of the parties being monitored is located outside the territory of the United States. The justification being that if an American is talking, texting, or emailing a foreigner, then something might be said that would aid in the acquisition of “foreign intelligence information.”


Nullify the Flawed Individual Mandate Decision

After once again ignoring and violating the separation of power between the States and the federal government, the United States Supreme Court added insult to injury by perverting the taxing clause of the Constitution to sustain the federal government’s unconstitutional intrusions into private healthcare. Republicans responded by stating they will repeal the individual mandate if they win the November elections. If republicans win and decide to follow through with their so-called promise, I have a simple way for them to negate the individual mandate and nullify the Court’s decision.

When Congress wrote and passed the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate provision in section 5000A(b) (1) was clearly written as a penalty, not a tax. Justice Robert’s acknowledged this fact several times in the Court’s opinion:

“The Affordable Care Act describes the ‘[s]hared responsibility payment’ as a ‘penalty,’ not a ‘tax.’”

“It is of course true that the Act describes the payment as a ‘penalty,’ not a ‘tax.’”

The majority on the Court took it upon themselves to assume the role of Congress and unconstitutionally re-write the statute and transform a penalty into a tax. Apparently, the Court thought Congress was too stupid to know the difference between a tax and a penalty when it wrote the statute. A review of the Act shows Congress knows the difference.