By now all of you have already heard about the National Security Agency’s spying on American citizens and listening in on their calls from overseas. Regardless of what political spin the President and his men put on it, anyone who has attended just a few weeks of law school knows that what the President did through the NSA violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. And even if you are not a lawyer, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that what the government has been doing is just plain wrong.
At first we were outraged by this revelation. Then we were outraged by the lack of outrage from not just the Democrats but from everyone in this country. After all, what the President and NSA have been doing strikes at the very core of the liberties that supposedly we are fighting around the world to protect. However, upon closer look, the lack of outrage is very understandable.
Since George W. Bush took office, there has been that slow but constant eroding of the principles that make America the greatest country on Earth. We now stand for torture, we now stand for invading countries without justification, we now stand for detaining foreigners and citizens alike for indefinite periods of time without any due process of law. Things just a decade ago that we would have shuddered if they became associated with this country. With this slow eroding of what we stand for and who we are, obviously it came to no one’s surprise that our own government now spies on its own citizens.
Maybe the lack of outrage also comes from the fact that down deep most of us already assumed that was going on. We have heard for years about the technology that we have, that we can read the vibrations off of panes of glass on windows to tell about the conversations occurring therein. We have heard about our spy satellites with the capability of spotting a single driven car from outer space. We see all of these crime shows revealing different techniques that the government has to unferret information. And maybe, just maybe because of all we know about our technology, we as a people just assumed that somewhere along the line our government was listening in on our conversations.
In fact, we must be candid with you and tell you that’s how we have always felt. Countless times we have told clients of ours while talking to us over the phone, to not speak about specific facts of their case because you never know who is listening. We said these things half jokingly, but more importantly, we said these things half seriously.
So, although the NSA and the President have done an act that under normal circumstance would cry out for impeachment, investigation or a minimum the President getting on national television and apologizing and pleading his case from the heart “that although he made mistakes, he was doing it for the betterment of the country”. Instead, we have a President who stands up there telling us that there will be a thorough investigation as to who leaked his criminal activities. Instead of having a Congress that is bipartisantly jumping up and down for more explanations, we have a Congress that whimpers that maybe what the President did was wrong. And maybe in twenty, thirty years from now, on the television show Jeopardy when the answer is “George W. Bush”, that contestant will ring in and state his answer in the form of a question “Who is responsible for democracy dying in the United States”. That will be the correct answer.
On another note, we found it sickening watching Judge Alito’s wife cry when he was asked poignant, fair questions about his membership in an organization at Princeton whose purpose was to roll back the clock and exclude minorities, blacks and women from Princeton University. The President’s wife came to her aid and called her because of the travesty that she had to endure of watching her husband answer questions. The right-wing news media played it up as savage liberals attack poor lowly Samuel Alito. Yet, how and why can we feel sorry for Samuel Alito and his wife, when Samuel Alito’s rulings have made people who are less well off, people less fortunate, not cry because of the questions that they were asked, but cry because of the rulings that he has rendered. Where was the compassion of Mrs. Alito during the years that her husband virtually never ruled on behalf of the small guy, but always on behalf of government or companies.
Somehow, it is a travesty to ask a graduate of Princeton University and a member of one of the Court of Appeals tough questions. Apparently, it is a travesty to search for the truth in a Senate confirmation process that by and large does everything it can to shield the truth. Maybe it is a travesty to not take Samuel Alito at his word, whatever that word may be. Yet, maybe it’s a travesty to have Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court of the United States thereby tipping the balance of power out of control to the conservatives and for years to come making the Court balanced against the ordinary man, civil liberties and yes justice for all.