Friday, July 4, 2008

FISA, ACLU, and Sam Ervin

Before we begin, let us be aware that the initial legislation to create the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed (50 U.S.C. ch.36) in 1978 during the administration of Jimmy Carter. The purpose was to establish the legality of electronic surveillance of “foreign” entities, be they national or individual, to deter aggressive acts against the United States. Advanced communications in the last 29 years have brought some necessary changes to the initial act to accommodate progress in that field.

Gathering intelligence from threatening foreign sources is nothing new in government—ours, or others. In 1953, I was, after basic training, sent to a nine month school by the US Army to train for that exact purpose. Once graduated, I was assigned to a unit whose sole aim was gathering information on adversarial activity in plan and action. Without knowledge of an enemy’s intent, armies are blind. This is not equivalent to being a “double naught spy” but rather a matter of listening to five symbol endless code groups on a scratchy ANGRC-9 perched on the back of a truck in some wilderness location. Since we all realized that the intelligence we gathered was of vital importance to our mission in the theater we pursued it with vigor in spite of the drudgery involved. I mention 1953 as my first experience but the organization had a much longer distinguished history.

In the twenty-first century the sophistication of communication is in exponential advancement. My personal computer set up, although seriously outdated, is seven years old and serves my purposes adequately. I have added, updated, and used everything but duct tape to keep it current. The point being that this is not the milieu of Jimmy Carter in 1978. The systems have changed but not the intent of our adversaries. Although we see ourselves as warm, fuzzy and lovable, many others see us as the great Satan. They have demonstrated—see 9/11/01—that they are willing to inflict death and destruction on our country and its citizens. To maintain any vestige of an edge over those who would destroy us requires superior intelligence gathering.

Many companies, mainly telecoms, have been of great assistance in the process of sorting through and isolating malevolent intent on the part of foreigners wishing to disturb our tranquility. Current legislation before the congress would offer them no protection from the possibility of liability for their noble actions. What is proposed should be renamed “The Trial Lawyers Financial Security Act.” It would in fact place an unwarranted onus on those who supply vital information to keep abreast of the activities of entities abroad. The days of broad phalanxes of armies spread across a battlefield facing each other are over. Today’s enemy dresses like a civilian and has no allegiance to a national structure. He has the cover of being an individual tiny force with powerful resources to advance his agenda. One is reminded of the secretive brown recluse spider which hides in concealed places and bites any inquiring hand. The bite, although rarely fatal, is always debilitating and causes long lasting damage.

Here enters the unfortunately misnamed ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union.) We are in receipt of a recent email which encourages us to contact our representative in Washington to amend the Patriot Act with legislation which would punish the telecoms for their cooperation with the intelligence agencies. One often wonders which side they are on. In the body of the message they quote the late Senator from North Carolina, Sam Ervin; “Each time we give up a bit of information about ourselves to the government, we give up some of our freedom.” The quote originated in hearings before the Senate in 1975! Even though one might find a measure of agreement, it was offered three years before the original FISA legislation.

Given some of Sam Ervin’s attitudes on issues near and dear to the hearts of all in the ACLU, I find it interesting they should choose him as a spokesman. In 1964, Sam Ervin joined several other Democrat Senators to conduct an epic filibuster of the fledgling Civil Rights Act. His brother in the chamber, Robert (former Klansman) Byrd set a record by orating for 14 consecutive hours speaking against the bill. Ervin armed himself for the event by bringing several law books, a copy of the Constitution and the King James Bible. In spite of their “heroic” efforts, it passed into law to benefit millions of Americans of African descent.

His position on faith—an unknown quantity at the ACLU—could not be stated more clearly than it was in discussion of prayer in schools, "On the basis of these things," Ervin concluded, "I affirm with complete conviction that the universe and man are not the haphazard products of blind atoms wandering aimlessly about in chaos, but, on the contrary, are the creations of God, the Maker of the universe and man." With the ACLU’s constant agitation on issues of faith in direct opposition to the above quote we must agree that, “politics does make strange bedfellows.”

In using Ervin as a champion of their agenda, the ACLU simply confirms their constant inconsistency and hypocrisy. The sad fact is that in their constant attack on values that average Americans hold dear, their side of the legal costs is borne by the American taxpayer. They are indeed subsidized in the courts no matter how ridiculous the proposition which they espouse. Those who are the accused must then bear their own financial responsibilities to fight off every scurrilous attack. Speaking of courts, do you find it interesting that when a president appoints a liberal judge, “the court becomes balanced?” When a president appoints a conservative jurist he is accused of “packing the court.” Words do have meaning.

In conclusion, I am grateful to be reminded that I need to contact my senators. I shall express my heartfelt wish that they do everything in their power to see to it that this legislation is not passed. If you share my opinion I suggest you do the same.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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