In yet another serious episode in the current national outbreak of bedbugs, Congress today approved renewal of TUBA (the Terrorists Under the Bed Act), legally mandating warrantless electronic monitors, or “bugs,” in “every bed, cot, bunk, mattress, futon or foldaway” throughout the nation.
Civil liberties and privacy concerns expressed by moderate Republican senators were swept away when Senate Majority Leader Trogman Bloodaxe warned dissidents that any opposition to the bill was a failure to support the troops, and that billions in crucial pork-barrel spending in the dissident senators’ states could be slashed with a stroke of his pen. Democrats’ loud objections to renewing the act were, of course, ruled irrelevant and dismissed with a wave of the gavel.
TUBA, which was hastily enacted in the days after 9/11, gives the federal government sweeping new powers which wishy-washy critics have called “excessive.” When asked about the renewal of the act, President Bush whipped out the bloody shirt of 9/11, flapped it in front of reporters’ faces like he has done so many times before, and proclaimed, “If Americans are in bed with Al-Qaeda, we need to know about it!”
Political analysts have pointed out that bugs in every bed are not one bit more intrusive than warrantless tapping of Americans’ phone calls, indiscriminate scans of e-mail traffic, opening of personal mail or surveillance of library and credit records.
And the vice president, whose full name and whereabouts must remain classified, recently explained to reporters via encrypted telephone hookup that bedbugs are “[bleep]ing essential” to protecting Americans’ freedom and carrying forward the nation’s thousand-year War on Terror.
Strict “gag-order” provisions of TUBA prohibit individuals from disclosing or discussing how, when, where or even if bugs are discovered in their beds. Legal safeguards set in place with the renewal of the act now allow private citizens for the first time to challenge the bugging in federal court. However, such cases cannot be filed until at least 12 months after discovery of the bugs, and cases may proceed only if government attorneys certify that the government is itself at fault.
Provisions of TUBA scheduled to come into effect in 2007 will impose the additional requirement that Americans prominently display in all bedrooms or sleeping quarters a two-by-three-foot glow-in-the-dark black velvet poster of the Chief Executive, as a gentle reminder to speak clearly and distinctly whenever in or near the bed.
When local business leaders were asked for their reactions to the renewal of the act, most shrugged and went on their way without comment. Chamber of Commerce president Richard Riche, speaking for the vast majority of Chamber members, affirmed that he was not at all worried about government spying: “When they come for the terrorists, terrorists deserve whatever they get. When they come for the Muslims, I’m definitely not a Muslim. When they come for the Democrats, they deserve it, too. And, when they come for me, I’ll cross that bridge whenever I come to it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a business to run.”
Owen Williamson is a contributing staff member at the People’s Weekly World.