Thursday, August 17, 2006

NSA wiretap ruling helps U.S. reclaim its soul

By Diane Silver

Former President Jimmy Carter and the Hon. Anna Diggs Taylor have much in common. Among the most important things they share is the belief that core American values have nothing to do with torture, imperial leaders who put themselves above the law and a Big Brother approach to government. All of those so-called "values" are continuously endorsed by George W. Bush and company.

Instead, Carter and Taylor share a belief that the core of our country -- our very soul -- is bound to fairness, freedom and the rule of law.

That became clear today when two things occurred almost simultaneously. Taylor ruled that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it to be halted immediately. At the same time, an interview Carter gave to the German magazine Spiegel tackling similar issues was flashing around the Internet. ( For more on the Carter interview, see here.)

In her ruling, Taylor said the wiretapping program approved by George W. Bush is an attempt to put himself above the Constitution and its prohibition against unreasonable searches. Declaring that this is wrong, she wrote: "There are no hereditary kings in America."

In his interview, Carter was asked if the Bush Administration and the Christian fundamentalists leading the Religious Right are pulling the country in the wrong direction. The interviewer asked if Carter thought the United States was "in danger of losing its core values?"

He answered that "for a while, yes."

Carter added, though, that the United States has a history of correcting its course. Carter said:
As you possibly know, historically, our country has had the capability of self-correcting our own mistakes. This applied to slavery in 1865, it applied to legal racial segregation a hundred years later or so. It applied to the Joe McCarthy era when anti-communism was in a fearsome phase in the country like terrorism now. So we have an ability to correct ourselves and I believe that nowadays there is a self-correction taking place. In my opinion the election results in Connecticut (Eds: The primary loss of war supporter Senator Joseph Lieberman) were an indication that Americans realized very clearly that we made a mistake in going into Iraq and staying there too long.
Taylor's ruling is just one of the many course corrections going on right now in this country.

By the way, the 73-year-old Taylor was appointed to the bench by Carter. (Thank you, Jimmy.)

I can't tell you if Taylor's ruling will stand. The Bush Administration will undoubtedly appeal it. (I have never understood, though, why Bush and company are so keen on on listening in on Americans without first getting warrants. The current FISA law allows the Administration to get warrants RETROACTIVELY if law enforcement officials need to act quickly.)

I can't tell you that all Americans agree with Carter and Taylor. Check out the Technorati listings to see the many blogs where Carter is being bashed. Taylor's ruling has only been out for a few hours and she is already being attacked online.

I can't tell you that Ned Lamont will beat Lieberman in Connecticut as Carter discussed. A recent poll says Lamont is behind because of all the Republican support Lieberman is getting.

I can't even say that the Democratic Party is always the best answer to this nation's problems. Too many Democrats have bowed down to Bush and bought into his policies.

However, I can say that an increasing number of us are waking up. Like Carter and Taylor, we have simply had enough.

Whether we win today or tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, we won't stop fighting. Unlike the lip service Bush pays to creating freedom in Iraq, we really do believe in freedom. We believe in fairness and we believe that no man is above the law.

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