This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Sept 12,2012
The Obama administration is lobbying for renewal of a controversial 2008 surveillance law, warning that the U.S. would lose a critical intelligence-collection tool if Congress allows the measure to expire at year's end.
The Republican-dominated House is expected as soon as Wednesday to pass the bill, which would extend the law for five years. But its fate is less clear in the Senate, where Sen. Ron Wyden (D, Ore.) is blocking Senate consideration, ...
Mr. Wyden said in an interview Tuesday he plans to continue his legislative "hold," which he initiated in June. The case for blocking consideration of the law, he said, is "even stronger" now, since the government recently acknowledged that National Security Agency surveillance under the law has violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The 2008 law revamped then-President George W. Bush's post-Sept. 11 program, which bypassed the court-warrant process. After years of fighting over the program on Capitol Hill, Congress in 2008 passed a bill to overhaul the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The 1978 law had created a secret national security court to approve individual wiretaps on all U.S. communications, including those into and out of the country.
The 2008 law allowed the secret court to approve a surveillance program—rather than an individual wiretap—to intercept communications into and out of the U.S. by groups of people of interest to intelligence agencies.
---------------- ----------------------- ---------------------------
According to the Washington Post, Sept 12, 2012
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to renew a contested surveillance law, moving it a step closer to full reauthorization — a goal strongly shared by the White House and the intelligence community as a way to protect the nation against terrorism and other foreign threats.
Renewal of the FISA Amendments Act, enacted in 2008 after heated debate, faces hurdles in the Senate, where more than a dozen lawmakers are concerned that the law does not adequately protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.
The House voted 300 to 118 to extend the law for five years. The Senate likely will not take up its version of the bill until after the Nov. 6 election.
The Obama administration is pressing the case that renewal is crucial to preserving the government’s capabilities to collect intelligence on adversaries overseas. At the same time it is seeking to refute assertions made by civil libertarians and some lawmakers — most notably Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — that the law enables the intelligence community to spy on Americans without probable cause.
“The Congress never intended to authorize warrantless searches for the communications of specific Americans,” said Wyden, who in June announced his intention to block the bill unless it includes stronger privacy protections.
His case, he said in an interview Wednesday, is strengthened by the government’s disclosure in July that the constitutional privacy rights of Americans were violated on “at least one occasion” by intelligence gathering under the statute.
The President and Congress vs. The Constitution
US Constitution, Amendment 4
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.
To Quote the French philosopher Montesquieu:
“Again, there is no liberty if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary controul; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.”
We the People:
A widespread surveillance program with no court intervention for individuals does violate the principle of checks and balances. It’s been four years since that law was enacted. Ours is a constitutional government. We should either eliminate the unconstitutional provisions in the law or amend the constitution.