WASHINGTON, August 2, 2014 — CIA director John Brennan is in the business of keeping secrets. And so, it was in secret that Brennan apologized to Senate worthies last Thursday for his agency’s hacking into computers employed by congressional watchers to watch, well, Brennan’s watchers.
Last March, Brennan denied that his agency spied on the world’s most exclusive club. “As far as allegations of hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Brennan in remarks made before the Council on Foreign Relations. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”
It seems no one is secure from the “scope” of government snooping. Not even the government.
Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of a massive domestic surveillance program (PRISM), a majority of Americans now feel their freedoms are endangered. A Gallup survey released last December found 72% of respondents believe “big government” is “the biggest threat to the country in the future.” And the Pew Research Center found that those polled among “22 of 36 countries surveyed… are significantly less likely to believe the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens.”
This is quite an accomplishment for our current president who condemned his predecessor at a 2007 campaign fundraiser, saying, “I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution.”
President Obama, like most American politicians, pays lip service to the document he swore to “preserve, protect and defend.”
In his book “On Constitutional Disobedience,” Louis Michael Seidman says Americans should question the authority of constitutional constraints on government.
“As free citizens, we have a right to be provided with a reason before such power is exercised. But people exercising the power of constitutionalism are usually excused from obligation to provide reasons for why we should be bound by constitutional commitments… We could all embrace the Constitution if we read it as a work of art, designed to evoke a mood or emotion, rather than as a legal document commanding specific outcomes.”
That, unfortunately, is the prevailing view among the leaders of America’s two major political parties.
Tea Party candidates have distinguished themselves from the herd by proclaiming the merits of the Constitution’s limited, enumerated powers.
Ben Sasse, a Tea Party favorite, who won Nebraska’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate last May, accused President Obama of igniting a “constitutional crisis” by amending his signature health care law through executive action.
“He can’t fix part of a law that he doesn’t like by fiat,” Sasse insisted. “Our president is not a king. He doesn’t get to make decrees. He doesn’t even have a line item veto under our current system of government. The only branch of government, under our Constitution, that has any power to change this law is the Congress. This debate is no longer only about health care, but has become much larger. It has morphed into a battle over transforming our constitutional system of separate, co-equal branches of government. This is about whether or not the Congress will cede its constitutional power to a runaway executive branch in a way that our Founders never intended and would not understand.”
Seven days before defeating GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican primary challenger Dave Brat told a gathering of supporters, “The rule of law is broken. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of men. I’m running on constitutional principles, and specifically, the Tenth Amendment, [which] has been overrun. There are certain enumerated powers in the Constitution allowed for the federal government. We need to bring everything else back down to the states.”
Brat, who attended Princeton Seminary, credited alumnus James Madison with crafting a Constitution that recognized the Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature. “He knew how to design a constitution and separate powers,” said Brat.
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” wrote Madison in Federalist #51, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Humanity’s evil nature obliged the Founders to defuse power among the various branches of the federal government while reserving the lion’s share “to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Defusing power should not be misconstrued as a defense of democracy, however. The Constitution’s original ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) are vehemently anti-democratic. The First Amendment protection of free speech and the unfettered exercise of religion, which sets the tone for the original nine amendments that follow, begins with the five most beautiful words in the English language: “Congress shall make no law.”
In other words, there is a higher principle than the democratic will as expressed through the nations’ elected representatives – individual liberty.
The erosion of our Constitution is due in great measure to the demands of American voters for bigger government. In short, democracy is undermining our republican form of government and the safeguards to our rights.
In his criticism of Tea Party constitutionalists, Salon’s John D’Amico wrote: “The pursuit of happiness is dependent on, and calls for, governmental protection of our life and health. Viewed through the prism of the Declaration, then, universal background checks for gun purchases, health care reform legislation to cover the uninsured, child care, workplace safety, laws and regulations protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink, and measures to slow or reverse global warming that science tells us is threatening the health of our planet and its human inhabitants, are essential to protect our right to life and abet our pursuit of happiness.”
If this is true, why does the CIA’s John Brennan feel compelled to apologize for trampling the Constitution’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures” designed, we are told, to protect “our life and health”?