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‘Trust Us’ Government and Other Lies

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If you review Bush’s State of the Union Address from Monday night, you will note that his fear-mongering served one consistent aim: to attack the privacy rights and expectations of American citizens. Be afraid. Be very afraid, he tells us. Be prepared to surrender your privacy. Trust us. Big Government will only use all your private secrets to protect you.

Will he get his way? All eyes are turned on the White-flag Democrats. Will they do what they usually do, namely buckle and run? Or will they stand their ground and show that their office as members of Congress, their pledge to the Constitution actually mean something?

In the last twenty-four hours, both the House and the Senate have approved a fifteen day extension of the Orwellian Protect America Act, a law which gives Bush plenary discretion to tap the phone conversations of Americans conducted with anyone beyond our borders. In both cases, the Congressional chambers acted by voice vote, so that the positions of the members are unknown. According to Majority Leader Harry Reid, a “deal is in the works” now that would produce some consensus legislation.

But Glenn Greenwald offers us some solid analysis and speculation about what’s in the works:

there are really only two possible ways for all of this to be derailed:

(1) the Senate passes one or more pending amendments which is unacceptable to the White House and thus provokes a veto of the bill Congress passes (the most likely candidates: Sen. Feinstein’s amendment declaring (again) that FISA is the “exclusive means” for eavesdropping and/or Sen. Feingold’s amendment compelling the disclosure to Congress of the secret FISA court rulings which the White House claimed prompted the need for changes to FISA in the first place); or,

(2) the House stands firm with the bill it already passed and refuses to provide telecom amnesty and new warrantless eavesdropping powers, even once the Senate does so. At this point, option (1) seems far more likely, as the Blue Dogs can single-handedly fulfill all the President’s demands by voting (along with the Republicans) in favor of the Senate bill.

The White House–understandably–is extremely confident that they will win, as they always do, telling “conservative journalists” with whom they met today: “once the Senate votes to make FISA permanent–including immunity for the telecoms–the House will acquiesce.”

Here’s Senator Russ Feingold to remind us of what this struggle is all about.

Should we trust this administration—or any administration—with fundamental rights of privacy? Greenwald reminds us of the words that the Great Communicator used to deal with such appeals. Especially since his party is intent on falsifying his legacy, the words that Reagan delivered in accepting the nomination at the 1980 Republican Convention are worth recalling:

“Trust me” government is government that asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs–in the people.

The Bush Administration is putting the nation on the road to serfdom. Those who understand that fact keep quiet at their own peril. This is the time to check in with your representatives in Congress if you have not already done so. No to telecom immunity. No to extension of the PAA. No to warrantless surveillance of private communications.

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