From The Writer’s Almanac (last item):
On this day in 1215, King John of England put his seal to the Magna Carta, one of the first historical documents to state that subjects have rights beyond the power of their rulers.
The right to a trial by jury and the right of habeas corpus, which prevents one from being unlawfully imprisoned, have been extrapolated from the Magna Carta.
King John was more or less coerced into agreeing to the document by a group of barons who were upset at his disastrous and costly foreign policy.
Although actually a reactionary move by the barons to insure their feudal rights, the Magna Carta took on symbolic significance as one of the earliest instances of the law possessing greater authority than the king. “Magna Carta” means “great charter” in Latin.
In the waning months of his tenure, [the Bullshitter-in-Chief] and his allies are once again trying to scare Congress into expanding the president’s powers to spy on Americans without a court order.
This week, the White House and Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill hope to announce a “compromise” on a domestic spying bill. If they do, it will be presented as an indispensable tool for protecting the nation’s security that still safeguards our civil liberties. The White House will paint opponents as weak-kneed liberals who do not understand and cannot stand up to the threat of terrorism.
The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping [the Bullshitter-in-Chief] carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.