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Big Brother is listening

Santa Maria Times | April 12 2006

If a U.S. president declassifying national secrets isn't enough to frighten you, consider this:

U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales spent several hours last week testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, whose members were keen to learn how much warrantless wiretapping is actually being conducted in the administration's war on terror.

The administration admits to wiretapping phone conversations between Americans and overseas callers who are suspected of terrorist links, but when asked directly if he believed the president has the legal authority to order wiretaps on calls within the United States, citizen to citizen, Gonzales said cryptically, “I'm not going to rule it out.”

That set off alarm bells among committee members, many of whom apparently have a better understanding of the checks-and-balances aspect of the three branches of the federal government that, by law, requires judicial oversight of domestic spying.

And there remains the question of why the Bush administration is not using the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as a basis for spying on suspected terrorists, rather than claiming executive privilege to conduct spy operations outside of court jurisdiction. The Justice Department maintains a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-week office that can produce a warrant in a matter of minutes.

Administration officials assure everyone that, if you're not a terrorist, you have nothing to fear from the wiretaps. That assurance is not very comforting, coming as it does from Big Brother.

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