Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr drew an interesting comparison today between the domestic spying of the Chinese government during the upcoming Olympics, and the domestic spying of the Bush administration on U.S. citizens.
“The Olympics is about to begin in China, but visitors will find themselves living under the same restrictions on their liberties as Chinese citizens. The government is forcing foreign-owned hotels to install software to spy on guests’ internet use. The U.S. State Department says both phone calls and emails are subject to surveillance and warns that tourists ‘have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public or private locations.’ It sounds an awful lot like America today,” Barr said.
He then discussed our government’s power to spy, “Obviously our government is not the same as the communist government in Beijing. But our government has acquired from Congress—and sometimes simply seized on its own—the power to electronically surveil citizens’ phone calls and e-mails. Under the Patriot Act and the just-expanded Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, the federal government can search our homes and computers and monitor our phone conversations and internet use with minimal – if any– outside oversight. .. Indeed, the president of the United States claims that he can designate an American living in America as an “enemy combatant” and thereby deny him any rights under the Constitution,” Barr said.
Barr also pointed out the hypocrisy, of those who criticize China, but support domestic spying in the United States, “American legislators have been expressing outrage at China’s behavior, but many of them voted to authorize the U.S. government to spy on American citizens. America’s reputation, and its credibility to challenge other governments for human rights abuses, has been badly damaged by the U.S. government’s assault on the civil liberties and privacy of Americans in our country.”
I was more than a little skeptical about Barr’s intentions when he ran for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, but he is turning out to be an excellent candidate. Barr is correct on so many levels here. The Bush administration has trashed our right to privacy, and both the Democrats and Republicans who voted for the Patriot Act and FISA have no room to talk about China’s domestic spying.
Neither Obama nor McCain want to talk about this issue, which is why I think we need to have Ralph Nader and Bob Barr in the debates. Maybe we don’t have both of them at every debate together. I propose that they both would be allowed to participate in one debate, and they would each alternate in the other two debates. I know that both parties are loathe to give American voters real choices, so the odds of this happening is zero, but doing so would restore a little bit of democracy back to our political process.