Unlimited surveillance, which the Congress has just licensed with this law, is one half of the police power of a totalitarian state. The other is unlimited detention and execution. A this point, the Bush administration claims that power for anyone they declare to be an "enemy combatant"; the courts have so far limited that interpretation. If the Congress passes a law granting that authority to the Executive, we will know that a majority of Congress has completely abdicated in favor of the Presidency.
Like just about everyone outside of the Congress I can only wonder why a majority supported this. I don't believe the congressmen who voted for this are deluded or deceived, especially not the Senators. They're pols, they know what power is--many are lawyers as well. And they know that that power can be used against them and theirs. As well, any reasonable construction makes it clear that they've broken their congressional oath to defend the constitution--the former military officers have broken their military oaths as well. Where is their honor? Are these not, exactly, the conservative virtues: honor and integrity? How can they have forgotten, after preaching them, over and over? I do not believe they all started as pious hypocrites, so I suppose they have been corrupted.
One of the most frightening things about truly corrupt rulers is their ability to corrupt those around them. Bush and Cheney, it seems, possess this ability in full measure. How is honor to be restored, once lost? I suppose renunciation of the dishonorable acts--repentance--, followed, as much as possible, by setting matters right. I do not expect such a change in heart on the part of a Congressional majority; if matters are to be made right it will have to be by the public and it will take a long time. And all the while, the global problems get worse and worse--it will go ill for the USA if we spend a generation getting our own house in order, while the rest of the world moves on. Congress acts like this is a private game, but it is not, not since 1945. Neither the planetary environment nor geopolitics are going to wait for us to set our house in order.
Save us, Al!