Thursday, March 06, 2008

Abuse of Your Privacy Rights: New and Improved!

It's not only your phone calls and emails that are subject to warrantless abuse. They're reading and tracking your snail mail too.

H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which reiterated a prohibition on opening first class mail without a warrant, was hardly controversial. There's just one problem with it; the accompanying signing statement, liberally dosed with the commonplace-but-should-be-horrifying Unitary Executive language.

The ACLU said in a press release at the time "Instead of referencing the narrow exception in the postal regulations, the president’s signing statement suggests that he is assuming broader authority to open mail without a warrant."

So this little doozy is in the signing statement:

The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail
otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum
extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances,
such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the
need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign
intelligence collection.

As well as this one:
The executive branch shall construe sections 3662 and 3663 of title 39, United States Code, as enacted by section 205 of the Act, not to authorize an officer or agency within the executive branch to institute proceedings in Federal court against the Postal Regulatory Commission, which is another part of the executive branch, as is consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and the constitutional limitation of Federal courts to deciding cases or controversies.
He's the Decider all right. No stinking Court is going to tell him what he can and can't do. By George, with that signing statement he just neutered Congress. Before I continue into more of why this matters the complete list of the 157 signing statements challenging over 1,100 provisions of law can be found here. (And kudos beyond mere thanks to Joyce Green for documenting these.)

So let's sum it up to where we are today. This administration wants:

  1. To read your snail mail

  2. To tap your phone

  3. To read your email

  4. For you to "trust them" since they're fighting the war on terra

  5. To immunize telcos for illegal activity, which wouldn't be illegal if they got warrants like they're supposed to

Well, that's only partly right. As far as bullet #2 is concerned Marcy, and others, uncovered that they're not as interested in your phone calls as much as your emails. As far as #5 goes, dday at Digby's place steps back and basically says "Wait, let's have another look at FISA immunity. The administration really just wants to cover their own tracks."

This is all about Abuse Of Power, which Glenzilla sums up nicely here. Read it. It brings me to the point.

I call on the Democratic Party candidates to "reject and renounce" signing statements. I call on them to reject the concept of Unitary Executive. I call on them to repeal the previously made signing statements by the Bush administration. In short, I call on the Democratic Party itself, to make it part of the planks and party platform, that the dismantling of the checks and balances in our system of government be restored, that the damage to the Constitution be repaired, particularly in regards to the gutting of the 4th Amendmenet vis-a-vis the "Patriot Act" and the "Protect America Act." I call on them to close Guantanemo and restore Habeus Corpus. It's basically the ultimate Divorce Pact: "Let all men put asunder what King George hath wrought."

Do I think they'll do all that? No. I'm not some bright eyed Pollyanna. Plus, those things aren't sexy, don't lend themselves well to soundbites, not easy to campaign on. After all there is the "Idgit Factor."

In The Know: Candidates Compete For Vital Idgit Vote

Nonetheless, considering that there is such a mess about Florida and Michigan primary voters being potentially disenfranchised, and a "Brokered Convention" possibility here in Denver in August, there is a likelihood that it is possible to turn many an "Idgit" into a informed scold.

Maybe not as eloquent, knowledgable and well spoken as this guy.

But at least as outraged.

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