CONSTITUTION, SCHMONSTITUTION. Some days it's difficult to remain part of the good fight -- not just because it too often feels like it's on the verge of being lost, but more so because it's on the verge of being lost and so few seem to care.
Take the Constitution, which Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is looking to throw down the sewer of a secret court (I don't find anything about secret courts in Article III), while the rest of the world is caught up in making wagers on whether or not we're living the End of Days, or whether one boring Connecticut Democrat or the other will play against the other team in November's Senate race.
Specter's so-called compromise with the White House on the matter of President Bush's domestic spying program is a piece of legislation which, if enacted, would move all lawsuits that involve the program into the double-super-secret-background court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and out of the normal federal court system. Consequently, not only would the suits and their outcomes be shielded from pubic view, but the opposing counsel would not be permitted to appear before the FISA judge, and the right to appeal would be revoked. Furthermore, the bill would not require the president to put the parameters of the current spy plan, or any future such plans, to any legal test.
So, why are people not marching in the streets over this? For that matter, why am I not marching in the street over this? Am I resigned to the death of the U.S. Constitution, a document I was taught, in my jingoistic schooldays, to revere every bit as much as the Baltimore catechism? I don't dare answer.
This weekend, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, interviewed (mp3) by Brooke Gladstone of NPR's On the Media, raised his voice in protest, saying, "You don't create secret courts where there is no opposing counsel and no meaningful appeal; that's not the rule of law."
The rule of law? Who needs the rule of law when we have the rule of Bush?
Turley then speculated on the real purpose of Specter's bizarre legislative fix: If allowed to proceed through the above-ground federal court system, the lawsuits challenging various aspects of the NSA spying-on-everybody program may arrive at the conclusion that "the president committed a crime more than 30 times." Then, Turley said, people would to want to know why Specter and his colleagues never investigated the program's legality.
I would go out marching against this, really I would -- but you're a big boy, Constitution. You can take care of yourself, right?
--Adele M. Stan
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