Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Unbelievably, the Democratic leadership in Congress seems about to cave in to Bush and grant him, of all things, more power to spy on Americans.
This, even as Alberto Gonzales continues to dissemble about the spying that has already been going on.
But whenever Bush lights the scare fluid, the Democrats jump back in fear.
In his Saturday radio address, Bush said, “Congress needs to act immediately to pass this bill, so that our national security professionals can close intelligence gaps and provide critical warning time for our country.”
Bush also said that “FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments.”
He conveniently failed to note that FISA has been updated 50 times over those last 30 years, and 20 times since 9/11, as the ACLU notes.
Bush’s rhetoric is designed to obscure the fact that he wants the NSA now to have the right to scoop up all our international phone and e-mail communications, without a warrant or court oversight.
That was the essence of Bush’s illegal wiretapping scandal in the first place.
“After being caught trying to steal an inch, the administration now has the gall to ask for the whole mile,” says Anthony Romero, head of the ACLU.
Yet now the Democratic leaders appear ready to give such spying their retroactive blessing.
“Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers,” reports James Risen in the August 1 edition of The New York Times. (Risen was one of two Times reporters who broke the original story of the NSA spying.)
Not all Democrats are going along, however. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin calls the bill “an egregious power grab.”
But that’s what Bush is best at—and Democratic leaders so complicit in.