Mike Arcuri Defends the Bill of Rights
I’ve been taking some time away from Finding Ulysses recently, for a lot of reasons, including a heavy workload, the end of my son’s school year, and… oh, I’ve just been tired.
Over the weekend, however, an important event took place that needs to be written about. It has to do with national politics, but it’s a local issue because our member of the U.S. House of Representatives was part of the story.
Late Saturday evening, the House of Representatives approved a bill that gives Alberto Gonzales unprecedented power to launch spy programs without any real accountability to the courts or to Congress. The bill, which was also approved by the Senate and has already been signed into law by President Bush, allows for the government to set up spy operations to listen to our telephone calls and read our emails – without anything at all like a search warrant.
On a superficial level, the spy program is restricted to phone calls and emails that are to or from someone outside the United States. However, the program is set up in such a way that such restriction cannot be guaranteed.
Only two Bush political appointees, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (correction – John Michael McConnell), will have the ability to control the spy operations. Gonzales and McConnell now have the power to start spy operations on nothing more than their “oral instructions”. Certification of the spy operations is voluntary under the new law, and guess who the law says would certify the spy operations: Alberto Gonzales and John Michael McConnell.
There is a provision for the spy operations to be checked for compliance with the law… by Alberto Gonzales and John Michael McConnell. Also, a report on the spy activities under the new law will be made to Congress… by Alberto Gonzales and John Michael McConnell. They will only tell Congress what they want to tell Congress, and the rest of the information about the spy activities will be sealed and held secret… by Alberto Gonzales and John Michael McConnell.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The new law, ironically entitled the Protect America Act, clearly violates two provisions of this constitutional amendment. First, the law gives Gonzales and McConnell the ability to conduct searches without “particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized” in the course of that search. Second, by giving Alberto Gonzales and John Michael McConnell the power to start spy operations with nothing more than a verbal order, the constitutional requirement for an “oath or affirmation” based upon probable cause to support a warrant is completely ignored.
Under the new law, Alberto Gonzales has the power to order any person – you, me, or an employee at the Ontario and Trumansburg Telephone Company – to take part in a spy operation against American citizens, providing whatever support is requested. If the person given that order by Alberto Gonzales refuses to take part in the spying, or tells anyone about the spy operation, that person can be thrown into prison.
This law was passed into law over this weekend in spite of the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed the President this summer that there is no specific, credible threat of terrorist attack against a target within the United States.
Here’s where Trumansburg and Ulysses comes in: We are represented in Congress by Representative Michael Arcuri. I am pleased to report that when the rotten Protect America Act came up for a vote on Saturday night, Congressman Arcuri voted against it. 41 other Democrats in the House of Representatives were not so brave, and Mike Arcuri could have easily joined them, but he chose instead to do the right thing.
Those who read this blog know that, last year, I was very skeptical of Michael Arcuri. I didn’t like his secretive way of campaigning, and his support for the Military Commissions Act was a profound disappointment to me. I did not believe that Arcuri would be a trustworthy member of the House of Representatives.
I’m happy to say that I was wrong.
Congressman Arcuri has rescinded his support for the Military Commissions Act, signing on as a co-sponsor to legislation that would effectively overturn that infamous law. Now, with Arcuri’s opposition to the Protect America Act, I am seeing that Mike Arcuri has shown quite a bit more backbone than I thought he possessed.
Keep up the good work, Mr. Arcuri, and thank you.