Aw, Jeez, Edith — here we go with the ACLU again

Consider that headline my tribute to Jean Stapleton.

There are some things that bring out the Archie Bunker in me, and the ACLU suing the government for doing its job is one of them:

 WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its “dragnet” collection of logs of domestic phone calls, contending that the once-secret program — whose existence was exposed by a former National Security Agency contractor last week — is illegal and asking a judge to both stop it and order the records purged…

Oh, and for those who don’t think the government is “doing its job” in this case — well, yes it is, by definition.

On a previous thread, Mark Stewart wrote:

The issue is not whether bureaurocrats’ believe that data mining Americans’ communications is the most appropriate way to “protect” our country; rather it is whether Americans have decided that such “protection” is in the best interests of our society.

And we have not…

On the contrary, Mark — we have.

We’ve decided it through our elected representatives, which is how it works in a representative democracy. This is not a direct democracy; nor should it be.

We’ve had years and years to decide whether we want to elect people other than the ones who decided to follow this course, and we’ll have more such opportunities in the future.

Again, I stress that the fact that the government was doing these things is not new information. We’ve had this discussion before. It’s just that some new details have brought it back into headlines, and a lot of people who weren’t paying attention before are startled.

12 thoughts on “Aw, Jeez, Edith — here we go with the ACLU again

  1. Doug Ross

    Then why do you complain about Nikki Haley? She’s a product of representative democracy. The people of South Carolina had a choice and they chose her. Go with the flow.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Did you not read what I said? We constantly are deciding whether to elect and/or RE-elect people, so we’re constantly evaluating their performance.

      And I find Ms. Haley’s performance, alas, to be lacking.

      1. Doug Ross

        Keep at it, Don Quixote. The Impossible Dream is thinking that we can change Congress. The system is rigged for incumbents.

        Change will come when term limits are implemented. Then we can truly get some needed turnover. But that won’t happen.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Brad has touched on something here that is correct. The fundamental problem is with the PATRIOT act and FISA. Did you know that the FISA courts grant the government’s request for a warrant about 99% of the time? Our laws (passed by Congress) are the root source of these issues.

    It’s time we re-examined FISA and the PATRIOT Act.

  3. Doug Ross

    In order for citizens to make informed decisions about the government security programs, wouldn’t we need full and complete access to all the information related to those programs?

    Nobody voted for a current Congressman based on his/her stance on secret programs.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      It’s a Catch-22, which the NYT captured perfectly in this headline: “Debate on Secret Data Looks Unlikely, Partly Because of Secrecy”

      Joseph Heller is laughing somewhere.

  4. T.J.

    Is it possible that we have found an issue on which the Left and Right groups of contributors can agree upon? Stunned.

  5. Mark Stewart

    Life is like riding a möbius strip – for us all. There is no right and left here. Or even centrists and fringers. We all know what are our core American values.

    Doug’s point is correct, but he is focused on the wrong thing and so Brad can’t see it. The solution to what has, in fact, become a huge, national problem is not term limits. The one thing we need to insure a sound America is a competitive system of political districting – in Congress but also in the state legislatures. Brad’s argument that we have a representative democracy of office holders accountable for their actions fails when gerrymandering becomes not just hard fought political sport, but instead the hard and fast law of the land.

    This NSA disclosure isn’t a Democrat or a Republican thing; it is simply a sign for all that we are loosing touch with the foundation of our country – our Constitutional system of checks and balances. The calcification of politics is the slippery slope to tyranny our forefathers feared.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Absolutely, Mark. There is no left or right here. Nor is there anywhere, really — the sharp differences and commonalities that adherents of those groupings believe in are largely illusions, or the result of political pragmatism overriding internal logic — but issues such as this bring the illusory nature of the political spectrum into sharp relief.

      “Left” and “right” often meet on national security, as (since Vietnam, anyway) there are significant isolationist elements in both groups. Also, both groups have their strains of libertarianism, which sometimes flow together.

      I often think of a leftist sociology professor my wife had in college, who in the 1972 election told everyone he was voting for George Wallace. Why? Because Wallace would never get us involved in foreign entanglements, and the Democratic Congress would never let him enact any part of his domestic agenda.

      Anyway, this confluence is of long standing. Nothing new or surprising about it.

  6. Phillip

    Glad to see ACLU filing this suit. I had let my membership lapse at end of GWB administration, but I just rejoined 2 weeks ago. Brad’s point about “we did decide” would be true if real issues like this were part of our national debate, but unfortunately they often are shunted aside in favor of sideshow carnival issues. In any case, Brad, constitutionality is by its very definition not something subject to the weekly or monthly or even yearly whims (or fears) of the populace. It’s constructed so as to be somewhat immune to that, save for an intense and successful effort to change things by constitutional amendment. If the US government is acting lawfully, then let this be upheld by courts. If not, then our system is hopefully set up to make a course correction.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “constitutionality is by its very definition not something subject to the weekly or monthly or even yearly whims (or fears) of the populace”

      Absolutely! Good thing there’s nothing unconstitutional going on here.

      But if there were — or if the American people become convinced that there were (which is an entirely different thing, their “whims” being such as they are) — you will, over the period of that long term to which you allude, see a shift in policy.

      Personally, I’m proud of President Obama and the members of Congress who have the guts to stand up to this firestorm of hysteria and say “This is a well-considered, legal, constitutional process with proper oversight, and it actually plays a constructive role in national security.”


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