I'm no fan of Al Gore. But, like him or lump him, he was one of the first Democratic politicians to put together a cogent critique of George W. Bush's Iraq policy.In a speech yesterday, Gore offered (what seems to me to be) the first big-picture assault by a political heavyweight on the Bush administration's Big Brother-attitude towards civil liberties.Here's an excerpt. But read the whole thing.
Now, if it wants to, the federal government has the right to monitor every website you go to on the internet, keep a list of everyone you send email to or receive email from and everyone who you call on the telephone or who calls you and they dont even have to show probable cause that you've done anything wrong. Nor do they ever have to report to any court on what theyre doing with the information. Moreover, there are precious few safeguards to keep them from reading the content of all your email.Everybody fine with that?...For Americas first 212 years, it used to be that if the police wanted to search your house, they had to be able to convince an independent judge to give them a search warrant and then (with rare exceptions) they had to go bang on your door and yell, Open up! Then, if you didnt quickly open up, they could knock the door down. Also, if they seized anything, they had to leave a list explaining what they had taken. That way, if it was all a terrible mistake (as it sometimes is) you could go and get your stuff back.But thats all changed now. Starting two years ago, federal agents were given broad new statutory authority by the Patriot Act to sneak and peak in non-terrorism cases. They can secretly enter your home with no warning whether you are there or not and they can wait for months before telling you they were there. And it doesnt have to have any relationship to terrorism whatsoever. It applies to any garden-variety crime. And the new law makes it very easy to get around the need for a traditional warrant -- simply by saying that searching your house might have some connection (even a remote one) to the investigation of some agent of a foreign power. Then they can go to another court, a secret court, that more or less has to give them a warrant whenever they ask.