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Tilting at Windmills

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December 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY....Given a choice of two FISA bills, one that provided retroactive immunity to telecoms companies that illegally cooperated with the NSA after 9/11 and one that didn't, Harry Reid decided to bring to the floor the bill that provided immunity. Reid is rightly taking a lot of heat for this in the liberal blogosphere, plus additional heat for overriding Chris Dodd's hold on the bill, but today the Reid-approved legislation passed its first test 76-10. This suggests pretty strongly that Matt Yglesias is right: The Senate as a whole clearly wants the immunity provision to pass, including a majority of Democrats, which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people.

But why is nearly every senator so anxious to provide telecoms companies with immunity? After all, as Russ Feingold points out, under current law "companies already get immunity for cooperating with government requests for information — as long as the requests follow requirements that are clearly laid out in the law." The answer, apparently, is that that's not good enough. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote recently that "in the future we will need the full-hearted help of private companies in our intelligence activities," and evidently we want that cooperation whether the government's requests are legal or not. Thus the immunity. It's a message for the future.

Other people have done a better job than me of explaining why this precedent is so odious, so I won't rehash it here. Go read Glenn Greenwald instead.

But it's still worth noting that it didn't have to be this way. After all, hardly anyone, either liberal or conservative, would have objected if the Bush administration had gotten telecoms cooperation as a genuine emergency measure following 9/11. As Ron Suskind reminds us in The One Percent Doctrine, this was the situation at the time: Al-Qaeda terrorists had just attacked the country; further attacks seemed highly likely; our intelligence network was scrambling and nearly blind; we had good reason to believe that Osama bin Laden might be negotiating with Pakistani radicals to obtain a nuclear weapon; and credible reports suggested that al-Qaeda might also be on the road to manufacturing weaponized anthrax. Under the circumstances, asking telecoms companies to cooperate on an interim basis even in the absence of legal approval would hardly have been inappropriate.

But that's not what happened. As Suskind also reminded us, instead of requesting temporary cooperation and then asking Congress for the implementing legislation within a few months, the Bush administration insisted on going it alone. Dick Cheney had long been obsessed with reasserting the power of the executive branch, and Bush himself was obviously smitten with the idea of being a "wartime president." It was a toxic combination. As a result, instead of calming down after the initial panic and getting Congress fully involved, Bush and Cheney insisted on moving ahead for years in a legal gray zone.

So now we end up where we are today. Instead of an emergency request that was quickly put on a firm legislative foundation, we have a legal quagmire. And because Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — went along with this even after we had gotten our bearings and had no excuse for continuing to operate on an emergency basis, they're just as happy as anyone to put this whole episode behind them and cave in on the retroactive immunity issue.

And what happens the next time a president demands telecoms cooperation for years on end without legal justification? Well, that's the problem, isn't it?

UPDATE: Chris Dodd's filibuster has forced Reid to withdraw the FISA bill until next year. But it's only a temporary victory. In January the fight starts all over again.

Kevin Drum 9:33 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't this start before 911?

Posted by: jharp on December 17, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Jharp beat me to it, but that's the key point: this wasn't simply a reaction on 9/11: it began before 9/11. It had nothing to do with reacting to terrorism, and everything to do with expanding executive power.

Posted by: Stephen Frug on December 17, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

This is a big story, but the real story is the lack of coverage of Dodd's threatened filibuster. I learned about his threat and 8 hours on the floor on line. TPM, Huffington and FDL have been covering developments all day.

I didn't see a word about Dodd's actions in any of the AP stories. PAMELA HESS has been covering the story all day, but she must have been reporting from a Senate in an alternative universe. Reuters wasn't much better.

Here is the Dodd quote from Reuters reporter Thomas Ferraro's wrap: "Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, interrupted his long-shot presidential campaign to return to Washington to lead the charge against immunity. 'For the last six years, our largest telecommunication companies have been spying on their own American customers,' Dodd said.

"'That decision betrayed million of customers' trust,'" Dodd added. 'But was it illegal? I don't know. And if this bill passes in its current form, we will never know.'"

Are the mainstream media burying this story or did I just miss wall to wall coverage or something.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 17, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you beat even Jharp on your previous post. Man, does this show that the vast vast majority of Dems are in the bag.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 17, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot to mention Blue Girl. She's posted a better wrap than either the AP or Reuters.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 17, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, I have to take issue with the excuse that Reid is just "doing the will of the people". He is not. He is doing the will of a bunch of politicians who want campaign contributions from the telecommunications industry.

Second, I think it is offensive that Reid refused to honor Sen. Dodd's hold on this odious bill, but did honor a Republican hold on the "waterboarding is torture" bill.

This was no accident or oversight. Reid is a smart politician. His actions are designed to achieve his goals. It is clear his goals are not the same as mine.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Posted by: jeri on December 17, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

And in case it isn't clear -- I find this more than distasteful. I find it pathetic and loathsome, and I won't support the Dems financially if they are just sucking off big business.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 17, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Immunity has been bought and paid for by the telecommunication companies, who account for four of of Rockefeller's top campaign contributors" target=_blank>.

Remember this isn't about national security in a post-9/11 world, the Bush administration started illegal, warrantless wiretapping BEFORE 9/11.

Without meaningful campaign finance reform, the government is working for the mega-corps that fund their campaigns, not the people (ever wonder why most elections are decided by completely frivolous subjects like 'flag burning' and rarely over legislation that effects big businesses? Coincidence?)

The Senate as a whole clearly wants the immunity provision to pass, including a majority of Democrats, which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people.

The senate is supposed to follow the will of the people, but it hardly follows that the votes of the senate always reflects the will of the people. Some obvious examples: ending the war in Iraq. A clear majority of Americans favor it, but neither the House or Senate is making any meaningful efforts to end it. Similarly, I think you will find the majority of people are opposed to illegal, warrantless wiretapping.

This isn't the will of the people, it's the will of the telecommunication companies that contribute to their campaigns.

(Say, what's the "ism" term that describes the melding of government with corporations?)

Posted by: Augustus on December 17, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, here's your chance to issue a crowd sourcing challenge.

We have about one month to get someone on YouTube publically demanding an answer from Reid about his behavior wrt Dodd's hold.

And about three weeks to get someone to corner Obama and Clinton on this.

YouTube, Kevin.

Make it so.

Posted by: jerry on December 17, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Humdrum fellates Dumb Vichy Dem power elites once more.
When are we going to get a real political animal in here?
Somethings going on *again* and you don't know what it is - do you mr Drum?

Posted by: professor rat on December 17, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Kevin, now the time to challenge all bloggers to raise funds for him.

Make Obama and Clinton hurt.

Posted by: jerry on December 17, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is bad, and it isn't just this. Yes, it's bad in that Reid is doing the will of *his* people-- not *the* people (sorry, Kevin).

It's really in that this is the bushco way. Back when they set up Guantanamo the first thing that came into my mind was the question why in God's name wouldn't they want to put everything they do with these people on a statutory basis? They could have gotten everything they wanted, wrapped in gold foil with a nice big bow.

The answer even then was clearly that they didn't give a fig about law, but only about the power to do what they wanted. They stampeded the congress with their little anthrax caper-- which has mysteriously disappeared as an active case, hasn't it?-- so even those few who would have raised any questions didn't dare.

They did this with telcos, as we're reminded here, 7 months before they had an excuse for it. Power to do whatever the hell they felt like. And it's of a piece with the desire to torture, because we all know the only *real* reason to torture is to inflict pain on someone. They love doing that, the bush/cheney people.

Madison said long ago that if you didn't allow people to have jobs in more than one branch of government, their self-respect and personal ambitions would make them jealous of the privileges of the branch they were in. Madison didn't foresee our brand of politician, I guess.

Posted by: Altoid on December 17, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Thank God Reid doesn't have the stomach to face down a genuine filibuster. For once I am grateful for his craven behavior.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on December 17, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

"He's just doing the will of the people.

You misspelled "lobbyists."

Posted by: Old Hat on December 17, 2007 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

This is just another example of why everyone should ignore bold truthtelling from minor candidates.

I think this makes the perfect counterexample.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 17, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't this start before 911?

To be precise (and not making a comment on the merits either way) from my reading the proposed *immunity* only goes back to Sept 11, 2001. If any of the 40 or suits now pending are based on any actions actions before that, they would still have standing. But someone please correct me if I read this wrong.

Posted by: Kolohe on December 17, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Just a question, and perhaps this has been answered elsewhere, and perhaps there's a legal exception in current law that I'm not aware of. But why, exactly, should telecom companies be in the business of deciding whether or not government wiretap requests are legal? It seems to me that the fault with illegal wiretapping lies with the NSA and the Bush administration, not the phone companies. Do we really want it to be the responsibility of private citizens and companies to be doing an independent legal assessment of what the government is ordering them to do before complying? It seems to me that instead we should be prosecuting and/or impeaching the government for ordering the private sector to do illegal things, not suing the private sector for complying with the demands of those ostensibly supposed to carry out the law.

In general, I think it makes sense for non-government entities to assume that government requests are legal. Admittedly that's not the best assumption about the bushies.. but as a general rule it seems like a pretty good one to have people live by.

Posted by: David on December 17, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

David, the phone companies know from past legal actions that the feds need a warrant for this behavior. In this case no warrant was offered. QWEST refused to cooperate. According to teh Intart00bs that refusal may be why the QWEST President Nacchio was retaliated against by the NSA.

I think DiFi made an argument similar to yours today, but I think it's a bogus argument and she knew it even as she tried to determine which side of her face she should use to pronounce it.

Posted by: jerry on December 17, 2007 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Do we really want it to be the responsibility of private citizens and companies to be doing an independent legal assessment of what the government is ordering them to do before complying?"

Why not? Isn't the duty of every citizen to follow the law? If there is truly such a thing as the rule of law isn't there a difference between the law and some yahoo who claims to be from the government? Don't we expect to see real court orders? What about checks and balances? What about co-equal branches of government? If we were talking about the days or months after 9/11 that might be one thing, but we are talking about 7 months before to last week. The non-existent emergency has long past.

Anyway it isn't like AT&T don't have top flight lawyers.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 17, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

If I am not mistaken, one of the major reasons the White House does not want civil exposure of the telecoms is that things that they do not want us to know, such as the extent of spying that has gone on, would likely be exposed at trial. With that in mind, what if the telecoms are granted immunity, but compelled to submit to litigation with no consequence, testifying to their complicity? If the Telecoms are only interested in immunity, give them immunity from penalty, but not from litigation. The government could still be held accountable since Congress would not be granting immunity to the FBI, CIA or DOJ, or even the White House, just to telecoms. Americans could then judge for themselves if this program is legitimate or unconstitutional.

Posted by: DavidLA on December 17, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Good news! The bill was just pulled (see www.chrisdodd.com) and will not be considered until next January. Thank you Sen. Dodd!

Posted by: jeri on December 17, 2007 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

MSNBC's Countdown broadcast a major segment on this story earlier this evening.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 17, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

There is no next time. It is happening now, has been since soon after Bush's first inauguration, and will continue as long as Congress allows it. Which seems to be in perpetuity.

@ David: No, the Telecoms should not assume all government requests are legal. They know that they're protected when those requests are legal, just as they know they have no protection when the requested action is illegal. That's what that part of the FISA law is for.

Some of the Telecoms apparently demanded, and received, multiple, ongoing written assertions from the Attorney General (and in once case possibly a lower-ranking DOJ official or a White House official) that these requests were immediately necessary and entirely legal. We don't know those details with any certainty. Those assertions could themselves have been deceitful and illegal. The only hope we currently have of discovering the truth about them is the class-action lawsuit currently pending. That's why Telecom Immunity cannot be granted.

Posted by: along on December 17, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

JHarp beat me to it, too.

Kevin, c'mon... it's about campaign contributions.

Let's be blunt.

Telcos gots bunches of money and Dems don't want to lose that.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 17, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

David, you are naive. Perhaps the only reason we are hearing anything about this is because of the numerous lawsuits against the telecoms by people like you & me. They keep a legal team on retainer to keep themselves (barely) within the law. Those lawyers knew the government's requests were illegal, but the companies went ahead & complied anyway. It wasn't just the government who violated our constitutional rights; the telecoms were also guilty & should be made to pay the price. There should eventually be criminal prosecutions coming out of this against both government employees & those of the companies. Who knows whether or not it will ever happen, though.

Obviously, I am also somewhat confused. Shortly before 1 PM today, the senate voted overwhelmingly for cloture. I thought that meant debate was supposed to be limited? Someone help me out with how this procedure today came to be.

Finally, Kevin. Let me make this perfectly clear. Reid is a fucking sellout. As you said, he had the opportunity to present the bill w/o the immunity clause included, yet introduced this crap instead. And this is not the first time he has acted knowingly against the will of the people who elected him & his fellow party members.

I am also pretty pissed at Clinton, Obama, & Biden. While they sent a letter against immunity, they couldn't bring themselves to be present for this very important showdown. If forced to, I will hold my nose when I vote for one of them, but I really, really hope it is Edwards name on the ticket come November. He is the ONLY candidate with a track record of fighting big business.

Posted by: bob in fla on December 17, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

I also want to give HUGE THANKS to Senator Dodd for blocking this bill. . I would also highly recommend to anyone who wants to keep up with this & other similar issues to go over to Blue Girl, Red State's blog to stay informed. she has been on top of this from the beginning.

Posted by: bob in fla on December 17, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

. . . and ex-lax, since you seem to be so keen on living in a fascist country, I suggest you move to one because the rest of us are taking ours back.

Got it?

Now,, STFU!

Posted by: bob in fla on December 17, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

First, let's start calling "retroactive immunity" by its proper name: "amnesty".

Second, let's remind the GOPers that in a "nation of laws", powers are assigned to the OFFICE, not the man. Any powers they demand for "the President", today, will belong to Barak or Hillary, a year from now.

Third, let's offer the telcos this deal: you get immunity from civil suits IN EXCHANGE FOR TESTIMONY, like any other miscreant. That's the real goal of (and the public purpose for) the lawsuits, anyway.

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on December 18, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

...plus additional heat for overriding Chris Dodd's hold on the bill, but today the Reid-approved legislation passed its first test 76-10. This suggests pretty strongly that Matt Yglesias is right: The Senate as a whole clearly wants the immunity provision to pass, including a majority of Democrats, which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people.

What?!? Then whose will is he doing when he honors Tom Coburn's holds? If he had a consistent stance against honoring holds, then he could hide behind that 'will of the people' (really, will of the Senate, you mean) line, but he doesn't. He's being selective, and the opprobrium is warranted. That other Democrats are also in favor of immunity doesn't get him off the hook for manipulating the process.

Posted by: Royko on December 18, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

But why is nearly every senator so anxious to provide telecoms companies with immunity?

As others have noted above, the easy is contributions (bribes) that the senators have received and that they look forward to receiving in the future.

The telecommunications companies are paid for their services. They and the legislators profit from screwing the public.

Posted by: Boolaboola on December 18, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Shades of Richard Nixon's rotting corpse being resurrected.

Let's be clear, the roots of the lawlessness of the current George W. Bush mal-administrations can be found in the lawlessness of the previous Nixon mal-administrations, as well as the lawlessness in Reagan's and the first Bush's White Houses.

Tricky Dick pulled every trick possible to win in 1972, including using our intelligence branches to spy on U.S. citizens. But Tricky Dick was caught, avoided impeachment by hastily resigning, but nonetheless, some Republicans ended up doing richly-deserved jail time. In 1978, FISA was enacted to try to stop any future presidents from misusing our nation's intelligence services for their nefarious, power-grabbing schemes.

Similar Rogue Republicans in Reagan's White House pulled similar stunts, were caught, but because Reagan had packed the federal judiciary with enough Fascist Republicans, most of these Rogue Republicans never saw the inside of a jail cell. Plus, the next president, George H.W. Bush, pardoned these Republican criminals, putting an end to their being held accountable for their treasonous acts.

Bill Clinton's two terms were an unwelcome speed bump (at least, to traitorous Rogue Republicans) because Clinton's terms impeded and slowed down temporarily their mad quest for a permanent Repubican majority.

And then Bush and Cheney stole the November 2000 elections (with the help of their Fascist Republican pals on the Supreme Court). Within weeks of their slithering into the White House in January 2001, Bush and Cheney began implementing some of Tricky Dick's previous criminal policies, with some of Nixon's criminal crony pals still being around to help implement them.

One of these Nixonian criminal activities, of course, is using our intelligence services for purely partisan purposes.

This is what Bush and Cheney, and all the participatory criminal Republicans, are trying to hide: that they started breaking the law by bypassing the FISA court shortly after Bush and Cheney got into the White House. Therefore, any case ending up in a court of law will disclose this criminal activity, which is why Bush and Cheney, and the complicit telecom companies, are so desperate to keep any and all cases involving illegal spying on U.S. citizens out of a court of law...where a judge rules, who may or may not be a friendly Fascist Republican.

It's Richard Nixon all over again. The same criminal mindset. The same nefarious, subversive, neo-Fascist intent.

And we all know Bushie will pardon all the Republican criminals before he leaves a slime trail while departing the White House, especially if a Democrat is chosen to be our next president. But, what about pardoning telecom companies? I doubt that this would pass the smell test. Individuals, Bush will pardon. Entire corporations? Although I wouldn't put anything past the criminals in the Bush admnistration doing.

Posted by: The Oracle on December 18, 2007 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people.

Um... got any polls to back up the notion that the public at large is clamoring for Telecom immunity?

Posted by: Jim on December 18, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

The will of the people? I hope you suggested that to start a 'conversation'. As Jim suggests, show me the people that want telecoms to have immunity. By people you must mean craven, money grubbing politicians.

Posted by: ahoyhoy on December 18, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

While I've liked Dodd, I never thought he had a chance, and unfortunately, I still think he has no chance. Nonetheless, I gave him some money today. The rest of the cowards can rot in hell.

Posted by: Jim on December 18, 2007 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

"The will of the people" means the corrupt corporate executives who engaged in criminal conduct and now want to be forgiven for their crimes.

Maybe it's time for a populist party in this country. Certainly the corporatist ones don't give a damn what happens to America.

Posted by: freelunch on December 18, 2007 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

I imagine someone else has mentioned it, but I don't have time to read through the comments this morning.

It's not true that the Bush Administration asked for telecommunication warrants because of 9/11. They asked for them, without warrants, long before 9/11. 9/11 just gave the requests urgency and then became an excuse for continuing the illegal plan they were engaged in all along.

Posted by: anandine on December 18, 2007 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Now I see everybody made that point. Oh well.

Posted by: anandine on December 18, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Good thread. By the way. Where are all those tough guys who come here every two or three weeks to post about "all wimpy Harry Reid needs to do is make the Republicans filibuster." Here's a hint on what the Washington Monthly Liberal Tough Guys should take away from the Chris Dodd filibuster: One: Filibusters work. Senate rules vastly favor the filibusterer over those who would break it --- particularly at the end of a session. Two: As for message politics, it blows. What message do you think voters have in mind today after the Chris Dodd filibuster? Answer: They are not aware of it at all. Now. Will you guys please STFU about what Harry Reid ought to do regarding the filibuster and leave running the Senate to someone who actually knows how it works?

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Others have properly taken you to task for the "will of the people" comment, so I'll just add this: It should be exceptionally frightening to all that we are dealing with a rogue Senate determined to do the bidding not just of the president but also of its corporate sugar daddies while fucking bulldozing over the rights of the citizenry. They're not even pretending to represent us any more. Of all the outrages against civil rights and liberties we've seen over the past few years, this one may have the most profound implications and strike most at the heart of what it means to be a republic rather than a totalitarian police state. That all this has been unfolding for months without managing to attract the attention of perhaps 90-something percent of the public is profoundly depressing to me. I have said this here before, but watching the behavior of Congress, I keep thinking I'm in one of those dreams where monsters are chasing you and everyone you run to for help turns out to be...another monster.

We have no guys. No elected representatives to get our backs. Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd and a couple others cannot stem the tide on their own. I really don't know what to do anymore. "Elect better Dems" means...what? How? Who is going to help us get honorable people elected to a system that is rotting from the inside out? Who else but us still cares about this stuff?

And thank you for giving credit to Glenn Greenwald, who has been the blogging source on this topic. I am very glad we have him doing what nobody else has the combined passion, know-how and talent to do.

Posted by: shortstop on December 18, 2007 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Of all the outrages against civil rights and liberties we've seen over the past few years, this one may have the most profound implications and strike most at the heart of what it means to be a republic rather than a totalitarian police state.

If only there were a term for authoritarian rule by government and corporate power...

Posted by: Gregory on December 18, 2007 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Has Kevin Drum ever not argued for giving corrupt Democrats a pass? Has he EVER in the history of his blog looked at a DEMOCRATIC politicians actions and said 'They should be held accountable?'. Of course, for the longest time he wouldn't hold Republicans accountable either.

Old men like Kevin Drum are everything thats wrong with this country. Even the best of them, which Drum probably is, are lower than pond scum. As near as I can tell, he's a concern troll that got his own blog.

Posted by: Soullite on December 18, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

"one that provided retroactive immunity to "...telecoms companies that illegally cooperated with the NSA after 9/11"

You know that is b.s., Kevin.

and for that "will of the people" comment...

Jesus, dude. You've lost the compass if you think "the people" are the congress.

I hope you were drunk when you wrote that post, and post a retraction when you sober up.

Posted by: john stephen lewis on December 18, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Good lawd, Pat, you are quite the one-trick pony.

I'll tell you the lesson that I learned from this whole fiasco, and that is that a Dem Senate majority leader is more likely to honor a hold on a bill placed by a GOPer than a hold placed by a fellow Dem.

And as to your filibuster argument, it is full of shit. For your second pt, yeah, no one is aware of Dodd's filibuster precisely because there wasn't one, not the kind that the pro-"make them filibuster" people are advocating -- Reid caved and moved considering the bill til the new year. What people who are begging Reid to force GOPers to actually filibuster are advocating is that, well, he actually force them to filibuster, long and hard, which *would* get some serious news coverage. And as to your first point, we don't know whether the filibuster has worked yet, if you define "work" as killing the bill as opposed to merely delaying it.

Posted by: Disputo on December 18, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

One more than you. Really. Do tell us all about holds. I know you know a lot. Tell us about the new holds rule, for example.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Or just when the Senate majority leader began "honoring holds" placed by the minority. I'm sure he (and anyone who knows anything about Senate rules, i.e., not you) will be interested to hear your answer.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

LMAO @ Pat for carefully ignoring my take down of his filibuster argument.

Why don't you come back when you have something substantive to add.

Posted by: Disputo on December 18, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

And you are going to dazzle us with your knowledge about Senate rules ... when?

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Go ahead. Show us you know what you are talking about. I'm interested to learn about the majority leader honoring minority holds. Or what a filibuster is. I post on things I know about. (Hint: try it.) You say that makes me a "one trick pony." Prove you have one trick. Really. Explain what you meant.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

For those interested in what this "hold" business is all about, see Greenwald for a start.

As for Pat (who I am increasingly beginning to wonder may be Harry himself*), his special brand of vituperate arrogant ignorance has garnered him some well deserved pie.

*For the humor impaired: That's a joke.

Posted by: Disputo on December 18, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I though YOU were going to explain it to us.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Unsolicited advice, meant well. Maybe don't namecall when you don't really have a handle on what you are posting about. Feel free to post. Just don't try to verbally slap other people when your knowlege base is limited to posting a link to something one magazine columnist has (incorrectly, by the way) written about Senate holds and the clearance process in that chamber. I'm not trying to be arrogant. On some subjects, I'm sure you know more than me. Maybe on most subjects you know more than me. But this is not one of those subjects. And your posts above reinforce that.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Pat, shut up.

Posted by: Pretty Much Everybody on December 18, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

That's a hilarious name! Reminds me of who banged your Mom!

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

That's right, Disputo was wrong, you're a two trick pony. 1: Everyone here is reeeely dumb about parliamentary procedure except me, I'm reeeeely smart and you can tell by my obsessive psychotic repetition that adds nothing to any discussion and 2: hey, I fucked your mama.

Oh...and 3: Boo hooo hoo, why does Kevin keep banning my IP?

Why indeed?

Posted by: Pretty Much Everybody on December 18, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

That's right, Disputo was wrong, you're a two trick pony. 1: DUSPUTO is REALLY REALLY reeeely dumb about parliamentary procedure AND DOESN'T LET IT STOP HIM FROM MOUTHING OFF.

Fixed it for you.

Posted by: Pat on December 18, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Quoting Ted Kennedy's floor statement:

"Think about what we've been hearing from the White House in this debate. The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no new FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies. . . ."

Of course only fools now take Bush "at his word."

Posted by: Mike on December 18, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

According to documents entered into evidence by , I believe, the EEF in their suit, the implementation of this program began within two weeks after George W. Bush took his oath of office.

Moreover, the evidence shows that the cooperating telecoms are allowing the government to tap the fiber-optic backbones of the communications systems, so the goverment is collecting copies of and information about nearly every phone call made (fom inside America, to Americans inside America) and every bit of data transmitted over the intenet.

The data mining being performed on the immense database this amassed is what has led to an avalache of false leads which the FBI has been forced tocheck out.

Total Information Awareness is a reality.

Posted by: JaDe on December 18, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK


I'd like to see the 'within two weeks' link. The best I could do, via EFF (not EEF!) and Wired was the following link to Nacchio's appeal of his conviction:


But the bigger point for us all is that Bush's pressuring Telcos into illegal wiretapping was not just 'pre-9/11' but virtually from the time he took office.

(Noting that 'he' really means Cheney, and that his pressuring is in no way an attempt to excuse the non-Qwest telcos -- laws is laws.)

Posted by: MaryCh on December 18, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

He's just doing the will of the people.

Reid might be doing the will of Kevin Drum and telecom companies but doing the "will" of giant corporations is hardly the "will of the people".

The GOP and the Bush adminisration as well as, as we now can clearly see, EVEN the Dems have never cared what the "will of the people" are and simply spin doctor their policy to pretend it is the will of conservative voters, liberal voters, as with the passing of the class action bill, the bankruptcy bill, the with the coming passage of the immunity bill, as we all know that with a 76-10 line up, nobody in congress gives a F**** Damn what AMERICAN VOTERS THINK.

The immunity bill is not the will of people, it is the will of a completely corrupt congress and telecom giants. I guess it's been a really sad show watching Greenwald pretend that poor, ignorate Joe Klein just didn't understand his truely dishonest TIME magazine article on the FISA Bill, and now Greenwald is into pretending something other than a soap opera drama wasn't being acted out on C-Span yesterday. That the whole laughable episode of Dodd vs Reid was somehow real.

I mean really, you think Reid would just ignore Dodd's hold if Dodd had been serious about anything other then drumming up presidental campaign money? It's a Joe Klein, Murdock FOX news kind-of world we live in today, and it shows how Greenwald is a sucker for soap operas, and prehaps he is so close to screen he can't see the fiction written on the wall.

When do Americans turn off the idiot tube whereby we don't buy into this whole Reid passationately hates Dodd C-Span TV sit-com show thing? I don't know who is more stupid, Greenwald or Insty Pundit but they are a both a very close match for each other intellectually. I wonder if there are any real lawyers out there that just want to scream right now over how stupid these mainsteam bloggers happen to be. If only those two had to worked in the real world and had to make a living like the rest of us. It only we could all be that stupid in the real world and still expect to take home a paycheck.

Posted by: me-again on December 18, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

These waters are very muddy to me, very muddy indeed. I don't take what happened in the Senate today at face value, not at all.

Why would Reid override the hold and then back down? Why not hold a cloture vote? Did they vote on Dodd's amendment?

Maybe the wire services saw this as a campaign stunt by Dodd.

And Reid, did agree to bring this bill to the floor in exchange for something from the other side? What might that be?

And finally, the retroactive immunity might be useful in investigating administration wrongdoing. After all, why would they talk about it if that would expose them to prosecution?


Posted by: Doctor Jay on December 18, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate as a whole clearly wants the immunity provision to pass, including a majority of Democrats, which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people. ...

Oh, absolutely, provided you mean the Corporatista people! But he's certainly NOT doing the will of "We, the People"! That leap of pseudo-logic doesn't cut it in the least.

Objections to Kevin's astoundingly vacillating "timeframe" ALSO heavily seconded. Bush was covertly nurturing this "Big Brother" role for the NSA within WEEKS of his vile regime's White House occupation.

Don't you read your OWN posts, Kevin??

Finally, WAY TO GO, Chris Dodd and supporters! At least there are still a few bona fide Americans in Congress amongst the many conspicuous Fascist shills.

Posted by: Poilu on December 18, 2007 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK
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