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On the Precipice of Disaster


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Sometime today, in a San Francisco federal court room, a single person will decide whether the worlds greatest democracy will cease to exist as it was created by the founding fathers 230 years ago.

The evidence is sealed, and the arguments redacted. On one side is a monolithic telecommunications company once so large and powerful that the federal government split it into pieces decades ago, accused now of helping that very same government spy illegally on the customers they serve, and the citizens they were meant to protect. On the other side are journalists, civil rights groups, and ordinary citizens fed up with the governments invasion of their privacy without care given to due process, or the constitution they have sworn to uphold.

The question is clear: does this case wade so deeply into matters of national security, that no court may ever hear it? Can a President and his administration ascend above the law?

No society may exist without the rule of law, for it is those restrictions that allow us to live our lives as we see fit, within reason, and die a free people. The first block in that foundation is that no person and no thing may ever rise above the law, and without that predication, the rule of law becomes a meaningless tool of those who old the most power, and seek to use it for dishonest purpose.

State secrets is not codified in law, insomuch as Congress has never debated, voted, nor passed a law giving the executive branch the power to remove itself from judicial oversight without ever producing a shred of evidence or a reason why. Yet that right exists, thanks entirely to the Supreme Courts acts of so-called judicial activism. One would hope that this administration has not overlooked such irony.

Unlike administrations past -- who believed that state secrets should only be used to prevent the collection of evidence that would actually expose state secrets directly related to national security -- Bush and his followers have attempted to use the so-called privilege to deny the citizens of the United States a hearing in court at all, no matter how little or how big of a role those state secrets may play. Rather than excise the secretive evidence from this case, virtually every exercise of this right by the current administration has sought to dismiss legal challenges before even they begin.

In times past, state secrets has not been so arrogantly and brazenly abused. Judges have typically acquiesced to the President's demands in virtually every case before Bush, simply because few if any cases ever arose to object to a state-secrets-privileged action directly. The privilege was evoked on the periphery of a case where evidence was sought that was not to be seen. Such a case now sits for preliminary judgment in San Francisco as we speak, and the outcome may only come in one of two ways.

The citizens right to challenge a governments action as illegal, regardless if that action would involve national security, and to hold an out-of-control executive branch to the law of the land as all people are, may be realized and vindicated for the first time ever.

The only other possible outcome is that the executive branch will finally ascend above the legislative and judicial branches once and for all, and the United States government will have officially reverted into a hybrid of a monarchy and an outright dictatorship where the President may brush away any and all challenges to his authority under the guise of national security, no matter what the actual issue at hand may be.

We as a free people must hold our elected government accountable, else we forsake our freedoms and the freedoms of our children and the freedoms so many people died to give to us. As our government in its various incarnations conducts its unjust war, debates laws banning the burning of a flag and gay marriage, it has been left to the people to insure that now and forever, the right of privacy is a right worth fighting -- worth dieing for. It is undeniably one of those rights the founders held as self evident, and one that cannot be given away for a pennies worth of imaginary security.

State secrets places the President above the law, and it cannot be tolerated any further, for once that privilege has been evoked, all notion of justice ends here.

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Jun 23, 2006, 3:39:00 PM
Can I congratulate you on an overall great post and in the very same comment chuckle about the extreme alarmism expressed by "Sometime today, in a San Francisco federal court room, a single person will decide whether the worlds greatest democracy will cease to exist as it was created by the founding fathers 230 years ago"?

Let's hit "Submit" and see!


Jun 24, 2006, 5:46:00 PM
Thanks. It kind of sours my moment when I didn't stop to think that there was about a .0000001% change that the judge would actually make a ruling on the same day as the hearing.

Oh well. I blame Drudge!


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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.