Wiretaps preserving democracy or destroying it?

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

In typical “Both Sides Now” fashion, there are contrasting ways that citizens might feel about government authorizing wiretaps on Americans communicating with those outside the country. President Bush felt that he had been granted the power to spy on us when Congress gave him unchecked authority to fight terrorism. That was a mistake made in the first week after the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.

It is now known that, in the spirit of patriotism, most representatives didn’t even bother to read the Patriot Act. Strangely, at least one telecom company, AT&T, was already preparing to eavesdrop on Americans months before that convenient day when Congress handed over unusual authority to a weak and fledgling president. Putting all that power in the hands of a unitary executive is a strategy in opposition to traditional checks and balances. Furthermore, violating the Constitution and U.S. law has brought nothing useful.

The Fourth Estate did its job by revealing that the National Security Agency had broken the law. There was already a legal procedure in place to obtain wiretaps under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, hiding incompetence and illegal shenanigans has become the main work of this lame (duck) administration. According to our Constitution, Congress has the responsibility to investigate misconduct through impeachment proceedings. Telecom companies should not be granted protection from lawsuits until all the details of unlawful surveillance have been exposed. And, George W. Bush is not qualified to grant immunities that ultimately serve to protect him.

The Supreme Court in its infinite and political wisdom has chosen not to hear a FISA case. Administration claims of secrecy within secrecy seem all too convenient a strategy to prohibit in-depth investigation. The former attorney general and the vice president have operated with an arrogance and impunity that is not consistent with the principles of our country. When the incoming leader of the free world said in December 2000, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator,” we might have known the very foundation of our democracy would be eroded.

It’s a puzzle how this administration captured the opposition party and turned them into disappointing weaklings. “Instead of capitulating to the administration, senators should listen to their constituents who overwhelmingly oppose warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office.

It is the Democrats who must push for an investigation. They at least have the obligation to view under seal the full story about how wiretap authorization was even granted in the first place. If laws have been broken and our representatives don’t care, then the fight for democracy must begin right here at home. If President Bush vetoes a new FISA bill because it doesn’t contain immunity, he further unites his administration with corporations and against us.


Fear is an unpleasant emotion that can often rage unchecked by rational thought. The right fears terrorists more than the frightful slide our country has suffered over the last seven years. A president, especially one with an approval rating between 18 and 30 percent, should not wield unchecked power. He’s not above the very laws that he signs, and when President Bush signed the Patriot Act he agreed to FISA amendments.

The founders of our country feared executive power and so created checks and balances. Most of the world fears President Bush. One poll finds that Britons fear him more than Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Liberals fear a president that chooses to terrorize the world. It’s unclear what the Democrats fear.

It must be easy to dance around constitutional amendments when it suits you and hold fast to wordings that prove your point. Sorry, Kelly, but now you’ve been wrong another time. The president is breaking the law and he must be stopped. An impeachment investigation of the Bush/Cheney administration is what will best protect our nation.

A former educator, Hannah Hayes is a wife, mother and third-generation immigrant. She runs a national business in the natural products industry and is a co-founder of Evergreen Peace.

Kelly Weist

Here’s the difference between conspiracy leftist crazies and thoughtful, classical liberals. When an opportunity comes up for the U.S. to listen in to terrorist phone calls, in order to prevent the horrific murders of thousands of our citizens, thoughtful, classical liberals will understand that the protection of this nation and its citizens must be the highest priority of the president. Crazy lefties start screaming about the civil rights of librarians and plumbers.

It’s very easy to break this down if you utilize logic. Phone calls initiated by “persons of interest” (terrorists) overseas, that come into or through the United States by way of our telecommunications infrastructure, are identified by good intelligence gained by our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, at serious risk of their lives. The NSA requests that the telecommunication company that owns the infrastructure place a wiretap on the call. The NSA receives valuable information that is proven to prevent terrorist attacks on our citizens in the United States and elsewhere.

Three things make this practice legal. Firstly, the president of the United States, under his war powers, has the constitutional duty to intercept threats to this country. Intelligence agencies working under this mandate have not just the right, but the absolute duty to request secret, warrantless wiretaps of these calls. The Fourth Amendment is not implicated at all. In fact, it is not implicated in another way, as well. None of the information gathered is used in a U.S. court of law, in a criminal proceeding. Remember, the Fourth Amendment only restricts law enforcement from using evidence obtained without a search warrant to convict a suspect. It does not restrict intelligence or military activities utilizing that same information. So the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply for two reasons here.

And the third reason it doesn’t apply is that the people we are listening in to are foreign enemies of the United States. KSM is not a U.S. citizen and is not up on purely domestic charges. He is an enemy, pure and simple, and seeks our absolute destruction with any tools at his disposal.

Leftists assert that a FISA court, as established under previous congressional action, must issue a search warrant for a wiretap to happen. Wrong. Congress had no authority to act on this, and the courts have absolutely no authority to rule on military questions.

Since the leftists in Congress don’t have enough votes to defeat the wiretapping authorization, they’ve held it up with procedural motions, allowing the authorization to lapse. They seem more concerned that trial lawyers be able to sue large telecoms than in what threats might be moving against America. Telecom companies have already stated they wouldn’t comply with requests from the NSA for warrantless wiretapping, because of these lawsuits, brought due to their patriotic assistance following Sept. 11.

This isn’t just a policy disagreement; it’s our very survival as a nation. Quit screwing around and pass the authorization.


Hannah seems to think that the only conflict going on in the modern world is that between “us and corporations” or “Americans and President Bush.” Does Sept. 11 ring any bells? The bombing of the Cole? All the other terrorist attacks on American troops and citizens overseas? None of that really matters in the leftist worldview. Only the evil corporations fill the villain role in their narrative.

AT&T was already planning to eavesdrop on Americans prior to Congress’ passing of wiretap authorization? For what? To find out whether they would like to change their long-distance service? If AT&T or any other telecom was complying with the administration’s request for a warrantless wiretap, they should be able to rely on the constitutionality of the president’s war powers, and deserve protection from specious lawsuits by terrorists.

Fundamental rights are guaranteed by the government of a free republic. A free republic cannot survive if its principles are stretched beyond recognition. When your objective in life is to take down that free republic, by definition, you have relinquished those rights, if you ever had them in the first place.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.