Saturday, January 26, 2008

FISA & Protect America Act: Telecom Amnesty

  From Salon

Glenn Greenwald

Saturday January 26, 2008 08:34 EST

More disruptions to the Cheney/Rockefeller plan

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the FISA and telecom immunity conflict, there is something quite unique about how things have proceeded that I think is worth noting. Telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers are exactly the types of issues that normally generate very little controversy or debate. Identically, the bill advocated by Dick Cheney, Jay Rockefeller and Mitch McConnell is the type of bill that is normally passed, quickly and quietly, by Congress without any trouble. That isn't happening this time, and it's worth looking at why that is.

The establishment media has virtually ignored these matters from the beginning. Most establishment-serving pundits who have paid any attention -- the David Ignatiuses and Joe Kleins and Fred Hiatts -- have done so by advocating, as usual, the Establishment position: retroactive immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers are the right thing to do. Although there is no citizen-constituency whatsoever crying out for telecom immunity or new warrantless eavesdropping powers, the forces behind those provisions are the ones which typically dictate what Congress does: namely, the largest corporations and their lobbyists, who have been working, as always, in the dark to ensure that the law they want is enacted.

That's typically the way Washington works -- the most significant laws are seamlessly enacted with little real debate or attention, driven by corporations and lobbyists working in secret with Senators, cheered on by the Serious media pundits, with bipartisan pools of lawmakers silently and obediently on board. And once those forces line up behind any measure, it is normally almost impossible to stop it -- not just stop it, but even disrupt it at all. That's the insulated Beltway parlor, virtually impervious to outside influences, least of all the opinions of the citizen-rabble.

All of those standard Beltway forces are squarely lined up behind telecom immunity and new eavesdropping powers, and yet, things are not proceeding smoothly for them at all. Back in December, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller and Mitch McConnell scheduled just a couple of days for the FISA debate because they assumed that was all that would be needed to deliver quickly and quietly to the President everything he demanded.

But when Chris Dodd and others impeded that plan by obstructing and filibustering, Reid just cynically assumed that once Dodd was out of the presidential race, he would cease with the "grandstanding" and allow the Senate to function the way it is supposed to: collegially delivering to the Establishment what it wants, without disruption.

But Dodd's commitment to impede these corrupt and lawless measures is clearly authentic and was not grounded in cynical political concerns -- as was obvious to anyone uninfected by the jaded Beltway Virus. Dodd's willingness to join Russ Feingold in single-mindedly pursuing what are considered extreme and alienating steps in the Senate to stop this bill -- holds, filibusters and withholding of unanimous consent agreements -- along with Dodd's increasingly eloquent and relentless advocacy on behalf of the Constitution and the rule of law, has disrupted the Cheney/Reid/Rockefeller plan just enough so that it may now unravel altogether.

Dodd has been in the Senate for 24 years. As he is the first to acknowledge, engaging in filibusters and obstruction and defiance of his party's leadership are things he has almost never done. Dodd isn't Russ Feingold. He has been the picture of the establishment Senator in the party's "liberal" wing, rarely deviating and almost never standing alone to oppose the party leadership. So what has changed? Why has he been so willing so tenaciously to pursue this fight -- even in the face of overt though anonymous threats that he could alienate his party's leadership and lose influence as Banking Committee Chairman if he persists?

Dodd himself provided the answer in his Senate floor speech (h/t Kitt):

I've promised to fight those scare tactics with all the power any one senator can muster. And I'm here today to keep that promise.

For several months now, I've listened to the building frustration over this immunity and this administration's campaign of lawlessness. I've seen it in person, in mail, online -- the passion and eloquence of citizens who are just fed up. They've inspired me more than they know.

That is exactly what happened. When the administration first demanded retroactive immunity in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act, nobody was talking about that issue outside of blogs and grass-roots and civil liberties organizations -- the roster of annoying citizen-groups that are typically ignored. But the pressure built; it became increasingly intense and relentless; it found a political official in Chris Dodd willing to ride it; and it unquestionably has altered the course of how all of this has played out.

As a result, even the three presidential candidates have become increasingly attentive to it -- not enough, to be sure, but more than before. Strictly in response to calls from blog readers, John Edwards issued a series of statements against telecom immunity this week, even sending out a mailing to his email list solely on this topic, despite the fact that he is in the middle of a critical primary fight in South Carolina. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have been making commitments to increase their involvement, with Hillary even vowing to speak out against it today. This week, Barack Obama also made his most emphatic statement to date: "I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. . . . That is why I am proud to stand with Sen. Dodd and a grassroots movement of Americans who are standing up for our civil liberties and the rule of law."

The lead Editorial in The New York Times this morning is devoted to lambasting Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller for their active efforts to ensure passage of the Cheney/Rockefeller FISA bill. After failing to do so the first time around, the House in November passed a decent bill that contains no immunity and has numerous safeguards on eavesdropping powers, and -- at least as of now -- appears unlikely to capitulate. The only reason any of that happened is because enough citizens were sufficiently intense and active to catapult this issue to the fore and prevent the quiet and easy enactment of telecom immunity and new warrantless eavesdropping powers. In the absence of that, this would have all been over with, easily and without trouble, back in December.

There is never any shortage of super-sophisticated cynics to come along and say how none of this matters, how it's so pitifully naive to think that any difference can ever be made, how the System is so Corrupted and the Deck So Stacked Against Us that everything is doomed and defeat is the inevitable option. And there is an element of truth to the premises of that defeatist mindset. The principal reason blogs exist, after all, is precisely because all other institutions intended to provide some adversarial check on what our government does -- the establishment media, the "opposition party," the Congress -- typically do the opposite: they serve as enablers of it rather than checks on it. That's all true enough.

But what incidents such as this one conclusively demonstrate is that it is always possible, if enough citizen intensity is mustered and the right strategy is formulated, for citizens to disrupt and defeat the best-laid plans of our corrupt political establishment. There's a comfort and temptation in denying that truth. Those who insist that defeat is inevitable and All is Lost are relieved of the burdensome task of trying. But defeat occurs because the right strategy isn't found, not because it is inevitable.

As always, the significance of what has occurred here shouldn't be overstated. The only reason Senate Democrats became angry on Thursday is because Republicans actually refused to allow Democrats to capitulate, as they were ready and eager to do. Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from caving in completely to Bush because they didn't want this issue resolved. They want to ensure that Bush, in Monday's State of the Union address, can accuse Senate Democrats of failing to act on FISA, and thus attack and mock them as being weak on national security and causing the Terrorists to be able to Slaughter Us All.

And, rather pitifully, some Democrats are shocked -- so very upset -- that, yet again, their demonstrated willingness to give the Republicans everything they demanded has not prompted a Good, Nice, Courteous Response. "We did everything you told us to do. Why are you being so mean and unfair?" That sad posture is what led even Jay Rockefeller apparently to announce that he will vote against cloture on his own bill.

Worse, even if Democrats prevent the Republicans' cloture vote on Monday, that will mean we'll just be right back to where we were before that happened: with a series of votes that will almost certainly end in the Senate with some form of retroactive immunity and vastly expanded warrantless eavesdropping powers. So it isn't as though there is some victory here yet that is complete or even all that meaningful.

Still, it is very worth doing what's possible to encourage Democrats to sustain a filibuster on Monday and prevent a cloture vote on the Senate Intelligence Committee bill, which will mean that there will be no new law in place before the Protect America Act expires (February 2). Bush will then have to choose -- at least as Reid is boldly promising -- between some short-term extension of the Protect America Act (with no immunity) or have the bill lapse altogether.

Even just a two-week or one-month extension will allow more time to marshall the opposition to telecom immunity and a new FISA bill and to do what's possible to encourage the House to stand firm behind their bill -- in exactly the way that the Dodd Delay in December prevented quick and easy resolution. The longer this drags on without resolution, the more possible it is to push the opposition to a tipping point, and sometimes unexpected developments or even some luck (such as McConnell's overplaying his hand on Thursday) can prevent it all from happening.

As the events of the last two months demonstrate, if citizen opposition is channeled the right way, it can make a genuine difference in affecting the course of events in Washington. Defeating telecom immunity will keep alive the lawsuits that will almost certainly reveal to some extent what the Government did in illegally spying on Americans over the last six years or, at the very least, produce a judicial adjudication as to its illegality. And, in turn, the effects from that could be extremely significant. Because victories are so rare, it's easy to get lulled into believing that none of these campaigns are ever effective and that citizens can never affect any of it, which is precisely why it's so important to remind ourselves periodically of how untrue that proposition is.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Harry Reid's Statement After The Republican Antics Over FISA On Thursday

    This is a rough transcript provided by TalkingPointsMemo

We want, if necessary, within the confines of the law, to do wiretapping of these bad people. But, Mr. President, Having said that we want to do it within the confines of our Law and our constitution. We want to make sure that this wiretapping does not include innocent Americans who just happen to be part of what they're collecting. That's what the American People expect us to do.

So I again say Mr. President, no one can question our patriotism, our willingness to keep our homeland safe. We have tried to move forward on this legislation. We have tried in many different ways. What we have been doing today and yesterday is moving forward on this legislation just as the distinguished Senator from California said. There are amendments that will make this legislation better. Now that's in the eye of the beholder. We all understand that. But shouldn't the Senate have the ability to vote on those amendments?

No matter what we do as a Senate it has to have a conference with the house. They have already passed their legislation. But we have been stalled every step of the way. Every step of the way, the Feingold Amendment, for example, was offered certainly it is germane. But he is being told, we're being told he can't get a vote on this amendment because it concerns the FISA court orders well, his amendment was discussed at length previously half of it was accepted on a bipartisan basis much the other half wasn't. But certainly he is entitled to a vote Senator Whitehouse, Senator Feingold and I don't want to embarrass him – he is really a legal scholar. He went to one of our highest Law Schools in the world, he is a Rhodes Scholar.

Senator Whitehouse has been Attorney General of the State of Rhode Island and is certainly, Mr. President, known all over the country as someone who understands the law. He has been a tremendously good person as a member of the United States Senate. He served on both committees – the intelligence committee on the Judiciary Committee. He is a thoughtful person. The legislation that came out of the intelligence committee should be improved and as a pen of the judiciary committee he worked to have that improved. He offered an amendment a short time ago, sough to offer an amendment, a major main amendment concerning – a germane amendment concerning minimization which means if you pick up by mistake an American you drop that you push that out of the way that isn't going to be made public in any manner we want to vote on that. It seems everyone would vote for it. I would certainly hope it is but there is an objection to even having a vote on that amendment. Senator Cardin, along time member of the congress relatively new member of the senate but a long time experience member of the congress of the United States sought to offer an amendment, a germane amendment shortening the sunset provision. The Bill that is before us that came out of the intelligence committee is for six years.

Now, Mr. President, things are changing rapidly in our country and in the world as it relates to things electronic. We don't know what is going to take place in regard to terrorism, violence or what's going to take place with our ability to do better jobs electronically to uncover some of the stuff we believe can be uncovered. He wants this legislation not to be for six years, for yours. That is – for six years but four years. He has been unable to offer that simple amendment. Senator Feinstein has just given a very fine statement seeking consent to offer a major main amendment on, excuse -- A germane amendment on FISA. There have been editorials virtually in every state of the union in the newspapers saying that it should be the law, but she has not been able to offer that amendment. Senator Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, Mr. President, I wanted it would offer an amendment. That is so rational, so important, he says, let's have the inspector general do an investigation about the whole wiretapping program to find out what has taken place who has been involved in it and report back to congress. He sets a reasonable time. Guess what? We can't even vote on that. He can't even offer the Amendment.

I say to my friends that it doesn't matter what we try to do, we can't do it. It appears that the minority, the president, and the republicans want failure. They don't want a bill. So that's why they're jamming this forward. I am going to vote against cloture on this Mr. President. It is not fair that we have a major piece of legislation like this and were not even allowed to offer whether the bill should be four years or six years? Or an amendment on millions of Americans picked up by mistake are brought out in the public eye. Or senator Feingold's amendment dealing with how court orders are issued. A real good amendment, an important amendment dealing with how court orders are issued. A real good amendment, an important amendment, if there were ever a catch 22, this is it. What were being asked to do is irrational, irresponsible and wrong. Where does this catch 22 come from.


I've said we will take a 30-day extension. We'll take a two-week extension, we'll take a 12-Month extension, we will take an 18-Month extension.

I tell all my friends I have been told and I appreciate very much my distinguished counterpart, Senator McConnell who has told me he has a cloture petition all signed. He will file it as soon as I yield the floor to him. I would say to all my friends that under regular order we will later that 1:00 Monday so the 30 hours runs out at its original time on Tuesday. If cloture is not invoked and I am not going to vote for cloture, unless the president agrees to some extension time, the program will fail.

I don't know any way out of this. But I in good conscience cannot support this legislation and at least unless we have a vote on retroactivity of immunity, I can't vote on it for cloture unless some of the very basic Amendments that people want to offer are allowed they would all agree on very short time lines.

No one is questioning spending a lot of time. We, the Democrats, are not in any way trying to stall this bill. We've been trying to expedite it for a long time now.

Those Shameless Republican and the FISA Bill

  Filibuster, Filibuster,Filibuster! Those morally corrupt Republicans know on limits when it comes to fucking something up!

  They filibustered and objected to all of the amendments which were included in this bill, thereby stopping any chance of this bill going forward.

  As is usual for the Dumbo-crats, most were left clueless as to the tricks of the GOP and to how this happened. I said most, not all.

  Russ Feingold in an email to DailyKos:

"The conduct of Senate Republicans yesterday was shameless.  After weeks of insisting that it is absolutely critical to finish the FISA legislation by February 1, even going so far as to object to a one-month extension of the Protect America Act, they obstructed all efforts to actually work on the bill.  Now they want to simply ram the deeply flawed Intelligence Committee bill through the Senate.  They refused to allow amendments to be offered or voted on, including my straight-forward amendment to require that the government provide copies of FISA Court orders and pleadings for review in a classified setting, so that Members of Congress can understand how FISA has been interpreted and is being applied.  If the Republicans succeed in cutting off debate on Monday, the Senate won't even get to vote on the amendment Senator Dodd and I want to offer to deny retroactive immunity to telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration's illegal wiretapping program.

"Democrats should not allow the Republicans to ram this bill through the Senate without amendments.  Monday's cloture vote will be a test of whether the majority is willing to stand up to the administration and stand up for our rights."


   As I see it right now, our sorry group of Democrats are on the way to bowing down to the Bush administration once again. This should not be since the Democrats have the support of the majority of Americans.

The survey shows nearly two-thirds of poll respondents say the government should be required to get an individual warrant before listening in on conversations between US citizens and people abroad. Close to six in 10 people oppose an administration proposal to allow intelligence agencies to seek "blanket warrants" that would let them eavesdrop of foreigners for up to a year no additional judicial oversight required if the foreign suspect spoke to an American. And a majority are against a plan to give legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

The poll also found 57 percent of likely voters opposed telecom immunity, compared to just a third who supported it.


  I sometimes wonder if the majority of Democrats in the Senate approve of these bills they way that Bush wants them since they always seem to give in to his sorry ass. Are these battles over such things just a show to appease the masses?

FISA Reform And Bush's Internet Monitoring: Telecom Amnesty Through The Back Door

  With the FISA Bill battle going on in the Senate, one of George Bush's Crime Family members has come up with a new idea, total internet monitoring.

  What does this have to go with granting the telecoms amnesty? More fear mongering and another new Bill?

   Cross-posted from CommonDreams

Published on Friday, January 25, 2008 by

The End of Privacy

by Elliot Cohen

Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.

It is no secret that the Bush administration has already been spying on the e-mail, voice-over-IP, and other Internet exchanges between American citizens since as early as and possibly earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. The National Security Agency has set up shop in the hubs of major telecom corporations, notably AT&T, installing equipment that makes copies of the contents of all Internet traffic, routing it to a government database and then using natural language parsing technology to sift through and analyze the data using undisclosed search criteria. It has done this without judicial oversight and obviously without the consent of the millions of Americans under surveillance. Given any rational interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, its mass spying operation is illegal and unconstitutional.

But now the administration wants to make these illegal activities legal. And why is that? According to National Director of Intelligence Mike McConnell, who is now drafting the proposal, an attack on a single U.S. bank by the 9/11 terrorists would have had a far more serious impact on the U.S. economy than the destruction of the Twin Towers. “My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens,” said McConnell. So the way to prevent this from happening, he claims, is to give the government the power to spy at will on the content of all e-mails, file transfers and Web searches.

McConnell’s prediction of something “horrendous” happening unless we grant government this authority has a tone similar to that of the fear-mongering call to arms against terrorism that President Bush sounded before taking us to war in Iraq. Now, Americans are about to be asked to surrender their Fourth Amendment rights because of a vague and unsupported prediction of the dangers and costs of cyber-terrorism.

The analogy with the campaign to frighten us into war with Iraq gets even stronger when it becomes evident that along with the establishing of American forces in Iraq, the cyber-security McConnell is calling for was, all along, part of the strategic plan, devised by Dick Cheney and several other present and former high-level Bush administration officials, to establish America as the world’s supreme superpower. This plan, known as the Project for the New American Century, unequivocally recognized “an imperative” for government to not only secure the Internet against cyber-attacks but also to control and use it offensively against its adversaries. The Project for the New American Century also maintained that “the process of transformation” it envisioned (which included the militarization and control of the Internet) was “likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor.” All that appears to be lacking to make the analogy complete is the “horrendous” cyber-attack-the chilling analog of the 9/11 attacks-that McConnell now predicts.

Apparently, the Bush administration had hoped to continue its mass surveillance program in secret, but as many as 40 civil suits were filed against AT&T and other telecoms, threatening to blow the government’s illegal spying activities wide open. Unable to have these cases dismissed in appellate court by once again playing the national-security card, the administration drafted and tried to push through Congress a version of the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 that gave retroactive immunity to telecom corporations for their assistance in helping the government spy en mass on Americans without a court warrant. The administration’s plan was to use Congress’ passage of this provision of immunity to nullify any cause of civil action against the telecoms, thereby pre-empting the exposure of the administration’s own illegal activities.

Two versions of the FISA bill emerged, one from the Senate Intelligence Committee drafted largely by Cheney himself, which contained the immunity provision, and another from the Senate Judiciary Committee that did not contain the provision. Although Senate Majority leader Harry Reid inauspiciously chose the former to bring to the Senate floor, the bill was surrounded by much controversy. There had been well organized grass-roots pressure to stop it from passing, and the House had already passed a version that did not include the retroactive immunity provision. Thus, in the face of a filibuster threat by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Reid postponed the discussion until the January 2008 session.

Now Reid has tried to put off the FISA Amendments Act once again by asking Republicans to extend, for one more month, the Protect America Act of 2007, an interim FISA reform act that is due to sunset in February. However, Cheney has urged Congress to pass his version of the FISA Amendments Act now. “We can always revisit a law that’s on the books. That’s part of the job of the elected branches of government,” Cheney said. “But there is no sound reason to pass critical legislation … and slap an expiration date on it.”

Cheney’s point about the possibility of later revisiting the FISA Amendments Act after it becomes law may foreshadow replacing it in the coming months with a law based on McConnell’s plan, which is due to emerge in February. This would mark a gradual descent into divesting Americans entirely of their Fourth Amendment right to privacy-first by blocking their ability to sue the telecoms for violating their privacy and then by giving the government the same legal protection. After all, the FISA Amendments Act still requires the government to get warrants for spying on American citizens even if it does not afford adequate judicial oversight in enforcing this mandate. McConnell’s proposal, on the other hand, would make no bones about spying on Americans without warrants, thereby contradicting any meaningful FISA reform.

President Bush has already made clear he would veto any FISA bill that did not give retroactive immunity to the telecoms. However, if McConnell’s soon to be unveiled spy-at-will plan is turned into law, a separate law giving retroactive immunity to the telecoms would be unnecessary. All Bush and Cheney would need to do to protect themselves from criminal liability would be to make the new spy-at-will law retroactive in effect from the inception of the illegal NSA surveillance program. This would also be sufficient to deflate the civil suits filed against the telecoms because the past illegal spying activities that these companies conducted on behalf of the government would then become “legal.” Indeed, the Bush administration has already done this sort of legal retro-dating and nullifying of civil rights and gotten it through Congress. For example, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 conveniently gave Bush the power to decide whether someone-including himself-is guilty of torture, irrespective of the Geneva Conventions, and it made this authority retroactive to Nov. 26, 1997.

Whatever the final disposition of FISA in the coming weeks or months, the administration is now bracing to take a much more aggressive posture that would seek abridgement of civil liberties in its usual fashion: by fear-mongering and warnings that our homeland will be attacked by terrorists (this time of the menacing hacker variety) unless we the people surrender our Fourth Amendment right to privacy and give government the authority to inspect even our most personal and intimate messages.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the resolve of the Bush administration. But it would be a bigger mistake for Americans not to stand united against this familiar pattern of government scare tactics and manipulation. There are grave dangers to the survival of democracy posed by allowing any present or future government unfettered access to all of our private electronic communications. These dangers must be carefully weighed against the dubious and unproven benefits that granting such an awesome power to government might have on fending off cyber-attacks.

Elliot D. Cohen, PhD, is a media ethicist and critic. His most recent book is “The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America Into a Dictatorship.” He is a first-prize winner of the 2007 Project Censored Award.

Copyright © 2007 Truthdig, L.L.C.

FISA Intel Committee Report Has A Flaw But Will Dodd Confront It?

  We all know about the battle going on in the Senate over the FISA Bill and it's telecom immunity provision which Bush wants in the bill so that his sorry ass will be covered once again  for breaking the law.

Packerland progressive, by way of the DailyKos, takes  a look at one way in which Dodd and Feingold could stop this lame excuse for a bill bead in it's tracks. Can you say " Point of Order "? This FISA Bill has some flaws in it which can be exploited in order to make this bill DOA.
Packerland progressive :...I wanted to spend a diary highlighting what appears to be a fatal procedural flaw in the "Committee Report" which represents the Intelligence Committee's version (i.e., the bad bill providing Telco amnesty).  Why does it matter?  Because it creates one more way for Dodd, Feingold, and (whoever else steps up to protect the constitution) to stop this thing dead in its tracks on the Senate floor.

When a Committee reports out a bill to the Senate floor, it prepares a committee report, describing present law, how the proposed legislation would change present law, and the reasons the Committee recommends making such changes to the law.  And what the above rule says is that, as part of that review, the Committee is supposed to evaluate the impact the proposed change would have on individuals and businesses, including "a determination of the impact on the personal privacy of the individuals affected."

And one would almost think that the FISA legislation is the poster child for such a rule, requiring the Committee with jurisdiction to evaluate and report to the full Senate its analysis of how the legislation would impact personal privacy.  One might almost think that such an evaluation would be perhaps the single most important thing the Intelligence Committee should have been doing in the course of its markup of the Bill. So, what does the Regulatory Impact Statement of the Committee Report (Senate Report 110-209) say on this matter?

In accordance with paragraph 11(b)(2) of rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee deems it impractical to evaluate in this report the regulatory impact of provisions of this bill due to the classified nature of the operations conducted pursuant to this legislation.   DailyKos

  This is where both Dodd and Feingold have the upper hand. Since the impact on personal privacy was never done by the committee, Dodd and/or Feingold can call for a point of order, pointing out that things were not done by the Senate rules. This bill then goes nowhere until things are done in the proper manner.

  You can just hear all of the crying and howling and screaming going on if Dodd/Feingold do the right thing on this matter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Will Bush Get Amnesty For The Teleco's In The FISA Bill?

  Let us hope not as this would open a door for you and I that we do not want opened. I do not want to be spied on by my government and I seriously doubt that you do. Our representatives in the Senate shouldn't even be considering granting amnesty to the phone companies ( ATT,Verizon,ect.) for handing over you and I's phone call records or our emails. Amnesty to these jerks not only lets them off of the hook for doing something that is illegal, but, it lets our Dumb-ass In Chief ( Bush ) and his crime family off of the hook also.

   mcjoan at DailyKos has an interesting look at Bush and the phone companies in light of the FISA bill.

The news that the telcos pulled their wiretaps because the weren't getting paid reveals two truths: the telcos aren't great patriots doing their duty for national security--they're greedy and willing to break the law if they can boost the bottom line; the Bush administration doesn't care enough about national security to pay the freaking bill for it and is using this issue as yet another bludgeon to beat up on Democrats.

Too many times we've seen the Dems capitulate at the mere threat of that bludgeon. It doesn't need to happen again, because that fear is baseless. Consider this recently release poll commissioned by the ACLU, (via Greenwald):

Majorities of voters on both sides of the political spectrum oppose key provisions in President Bush's proposal to modify foreign surveillance laws that could ensnare Americans, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The survey shows nearly two-thirds of poll respondents say the government should be required to get an individual warrant before listening in on conversations between US citizens and people abroad. Close to six in 10 people oppose an administration proposal to allow intelligence agencies to seek "blanket warrants" that would let them eavesdrop of foreigners for up to a year no additional judicial oversight required if the foreign suspect spoke to an American. And  a majority are against a plan to give legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

"Across the board, we find opposition to the administration's FISA agenda," pollster Mark Mellman said Tuesday.

Last month, we generated over half a million calls and e-mails to Senate offices in support of Senator Dodd's filibuster of telco amnesty. We need to double that number this week. We need to tell our Senators that we stand with the majority of Americans in opposition to amnesty, and they should be more afraid of us voters than of a lame duck, failing president.

Particularly, those calls need to go to our presidential candidates. Again, Greenwald has details:

The three leading recipients of telecom money for this election cycle are, unsurprisingly, the three sitting Senators running for President (with two Democratic members who are key to amnesty -- Jay Rockefeller and Rahm Emanuel -- close behind). That's how "Washington works" -- the process they are all pledging to battle and change. Needless to say, all of the viable GOP presidential candidates will be blindly supportive of whatever surveillance powers and lawbreaking immunity the President demands, but thus far, Obama and (less emphatically) Clinton have both claimed that they oppose such measures and thus pledged to support a Dodd-led filibuster.

Clinton and Obama have reiterated that opposition this week in response to Markos's inquiries. But the Senators need to do more than issue statements. They need to take a break from their campaigns and spend a few days actually on the job that they currently have--that means physically standing with Chris Dodd in support of his filibuster. You can urge them to do that with this page set up by Working Assets. Matt Browner-Hamlin has more on that campaign.

  Needless to say, you should  call and e-mail your Senators and tell them NO IMMUNITY for the telocom's.