President Says Gov't Spying on Citizens “a Modest Encroachment on 4th Amendment Rights”
Reports this last week that the federal government is compiling records of every phone call made in America and securing copies of every email and Internet posting stunned those who took then 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama's promise to “end spying on citizens who are not suspected of a crime and to stop tracking those who do nothing more than protest a government policy they disagree with” seriously.
A leak from a career intelligence officer to the Washington Post broke the news on the PRISM project—a covert program to collect and mine data from a slew of Internet service providers. The source justified leaking the information “because of its gross invasion of privacy. Without a court order or 'probable cause' federal agents are literally reading people's words as they type.”
President Obama insists that “the consternation over this revelation is overwrought. We're not listening to everyone's phone calls. We're not reading everyone's mail. We're only trying to hone in on those elements that pose a danger to our government. What we're doing is trading off a modest encroachment on Fourth Amendment rights against the goal of keeping us safe.”
“People need to take a deep breath and calm down,” Obama continued. “The notion that their government might use any of the information gathered to intimidate dissidents is too farfetched. Only those designated as potential terrorists need be concerned that we are watching. And that's a good thing.”
Not everyone is likely to agree with the President on this. For one thing, the Department of Homeland Security has included gun owners, ex-military, anti-abortionists, and tax protesters as “potential terrorists” worthy of extra scrutiny. For another, the IRS discriminatory harassment of groups with the words “patriot” and “TEA Party” in their names may be cause for concern.
Aiming to bolster the President's position on this issue, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif) urged that “people shouldn't get bent out of shape over this. The spying has been going on for years and as far as we know no one has been harmed by this invasion of privacy.” Feinstein credited the program with “gathering information that helped fend off an attempt to bring down the Obama Administration last November.”
A measure of bipartisan support came from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who said he is “glad that the government is listening in on my calls and reading my emails. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone cares what I say. It is reassuring that someone in the government cares enough to spy on me. It makes me feel important.”
In related news, the FBI is demanding that all communications software build in a “backdoor” so that it may “surreptitiously intercept transmissions of interest to the Bureau.” FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman called the “backdoor” option “essential, otherwise there could be conversations we'd have no way of obtaining. All kinds of plots and schemes against the government could be hatched without us being any the wiser.”
Miss World Pageant Announces Wardrobe Change
This year for the first time the contestants in the annual Miss World Pageant in Jakarta, Indonesia will face off in burkas rather than the more familiar bikinis. The move was prompted by protests lodged against “the despicable parading of the devil's whores that has characterized previous Pageants.”
Adjie Soeratmadjie, one of the Pageant's local organizers said “it's simply a safety precaution. The new garb deviates from the traditional attire, but it was either that or face the risk of the contest being the target of a suicide bomb attack. We think the participants would prefer bucking tradition to being blown to bits.”
Whether the “compromise” selected by the Pageant's organizers will be sufficient to ward off a violent reaction is uncertain. Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a hardline Islamic group, demands that the Pageant be canceled. “The very idea that women should compete for recognition in any fashion is against Allah's will,” declared Ata Abu Rashta. “Allah has created these creatures to service men. They must be quiet and obedient until called upon to perform this service. Once we have installed a worldwide observance of sharia law blasphemous foolery like this will be strictly forbidden.”
In related news, in order to avoid offending Muslims, Britain's public schools are dropping the history of the holocaust from its curriculum. Education Secretary Michael Gove explained “to many Muslims, Jews are seen as the source of the world's evils. Consequently, Hitler's efforts to exterminate them are seen as heroic. Rather than attempt to balance this alternate perspective with what is considered the mainstream view we thought it best just to drop the subject.”
Weiner Rebuffs Contention that Sexting Scandal Disqualifies Him
Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner rebuffed the contention that his sending of lewd photos of himself to under-aged girls ought to disqualify him from becoming Mayor of New York City. Challenged by the assertion that a public school teacher who behaved similarly would be barred from continuing his profession, Weiner argued that the comparison was inapt.
“The same line of reasoning would've also insisted that President Clinton wasn't fit for office because he dallied with an intern in the Oval Office,” Weiner said in his defense. “Should the country have been deprived of a great leader just because he fell short of the moral standards we would apply to a teacher? Likewise, should the people of New York City be denied the opportunity to elect a great leader because I fell short?”
Weiner pointed out that “unlike a teacher, a mayor isn't charged with tending to children. My opportunity to prey upon youngsters would be severely limited. So, I think electing me would be worth the risk. To shunt me aside because of one lapse in judgment would deny the citizens of the City a chance to benefit from my extraordinary gifts for governing them.”
Disrespect for Police on the Rise
In California a truck driver refused to sign a traffic ticket before reading it. California Highway Patrol cops were forced to severely beat him. The charges cited in the ticket were eventually dropped. A spokesman for CHP said “incidents like this could be avoided if people would simply comply with the orders given to them by police.”
In Federal Way, Washington police beat Megan Graham, a hearing-impaired woman, for disobeying a verbal order to get back in her car. The woman called 911 to report she was being assaulted. Another police officer arrived and punched the woman several times in the face. Eventually, Graham was knocked to the ground, hand-cuffed, and taken to police headquarters where she was charged with “resisting arrest.” No grounds for the initial police stop were stated. Federal Way Chief of Police, Robert Outlaw blamed Graham for “bringing it on herself. Her notion that it is up to the police to explain why they are stopping her rather than her just complying with the orders she was given is the root cause of the confrontation.”
In New York the State Senate passed a bill that would make annoying a policeman a felony. State Senator Joseph Griffo (R-Rome) said “Police cannot do their jobs if everyone is going to dispute their authority. We hope that by making it a felony to annoy an officer those accosted by the police will learn that the easiest path for them is to just do as they are told. If there are any legitimate beefs to be dealt with they can be taken up later by the lawyers.”
IRS Misses Document Deadline
Under investigation for its discriminatory treatment of conservative organizations, the IRS was asked by the Senate Finance Committee to turn over documents related to the case and given a May 31 deadline to meet. The IRS has failed to meet the deadline.
Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel explained that “the IRS doesn't respond to deadlines. We issue them.” Werfel said “the agency is working on a detailed list of questions that the Senators will be asked to answer before we can even consider their request for information from us.”
Werfel hastened to remind the Senators that “their office doesn't make them immune to audit or other enforcement activities should that appear necessary to us.”
Democrat Blames TEA Party for IRS Scandal
Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) blames the TEA Party and similar conservative-oriented groups for the IRS scandal, saying “they wouldn't have been targeted if they weren't opposed to the President's reform agenda. If they were playing or trying to play a constructive role in the transformation of this country they wouldn't have been singled out by the IRS for intimidation. So, in a way, it's their own fault.”
McDermott suggested that “if these people genuinely want to help make America better they'll get on board with the push for social justice. In less than a year the Affordable Care Act goes fully into effect. This complex program will be a major jolt to a lot of people. They could try to help ease the transition.”
“If that's not the right politics for them surely they could help get people engaged with the First Lady's 'let's get America moving' fight against obesity,” he added. “Encouraging more exercise and eating vegetables is something everyone can support. Why don't they do that instead of fighting this Administration?”