The Mix

The people have had enough

Just because we have an Executive Branch that acts as if it's invincible doesn't mean we should respond as if it is.
There are times, like now, when it really hits home that we live in a republic and not a democracy. The President is accountable when he breaks the law (by, say, spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant) but he's not accountable to we, the people, he's only accountable to Congress. There's no provision in the U.S. Constitution for a petition-driven recall, such as the one that sent California Governor Gray Davis packing. But that doesn't mean we're out of options.

We can, and should of course, demand our Senators and Congresspeople do something principled, such as begin impeachment hearings, vote for a censure, or pass laws that clarify the limits of presidential powers.

We also shouldn't forget that grand old American tradition, the lawsuit, in this case brought by two of the biggest civil liberties watchdogs in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Between them, they represent ten groups and individuals who believe their private conversations were recorded through the NSA's warantless wiretapping. And, no, the people represented don't have links to Al Qaeda, despite the Bush administration's claims that only people linked to this or other explicitly terrorist groups would be monitered. But of course, they're likely using Bush's murky definition of "terrorist," where anyone who opposes him is accused of treason.

A Newsweek report is only the latest to investigate the extensive spying on U.S. citizens by the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). It finds that CIFA is monitering all kinds of protests, from environmental sit-ins to vigils of a dozen people opposing the Iraq war. In one case, a protest about peanut butter was regarded as a potential threat to national security.

But while the wiretapping and spying may be ineffective or clueless, that doesn't make it alright. It's the illegality that's the issue here. The criminality and the presumption that, as the Imperial President's subjects, we can't object to unlimited acess to our conversations, actions, and even late night Internet searches. Oh, King George, we beg to differ.
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.