Saturday, December 17, 2005

Secret, Presidentially Ordered, Spying

The NY Times has this story on secret spying authorised by GWB in 2002.

As I understand, there is a mechanism in the US whereby Presidents can authorise laws without Congressional approval. That sounds funny enough, but at least Presidents usually tell people of the orders they are making.

In 2002, however, President Bush authorised the National Security Agency to authorise secret surveillance of terrorist suspects without court approval. This information was never released to the public, so that people have been under surveillance since that point with no public knowledge of the applicable law.

This is AMAZING. Essentially, the US administration made a huge step towards the implementation of an unaccountable police state, with no respect for law and no consideration of political probity. Usually, a President would be impeached for this kind of thing, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of uproar.

By the way, John Howard snuck a scary law through Parliament last week, which was lost amongst the hooha about VSU, IR, Anti-terror etc etc. The law authorises the PM, where the GG is unavailable, to call out the army to restore 'law and order'. If the PM is unavailable or cannot be contacted in an emergency situation, ANY TWO MINISTERS can authorise and implement what essentially is martial law.

How does this play out in a situation like last week's Cronulla riots? Let's say that John Howard was on his recent trip to Pakistan and was up in the mountains with little ability to be contacted. At the same time, GG Jeffries is (hypothetically) opening a school in Canada and also is out of contact by government Ministers. In this situation, ANY TWO MINISTERS, can authorise the army to be sent to Cronulla to bash some skulls. So, Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott could get together and implement martial law, so that our army roams the streets and 'restores order' with virtually no accountability. At least the police remain accountable to the public. The army are simply not.

Why is nobody getting worked up in Australia? Do we think these powers are a GOOD thing? When I go to NZ on Boxing Day, I may not bother coming back.


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