Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 19, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

TELECOM IMMUNITY UPDATE....The ACLU just sent me an email with a link to a draft of the "compromise" FISA bill, and it looks even worse than anyone expected. I'm no expert in parsing legislative language, but basically the bill lays out several ways that telecoms can claim retroactive immunity for assisting the intelligence community, and one of them is that the assistance was:

the subject of a written request or directive, or a series of written requests or directives, from the Attorney General or the head of an element of the intelligence community (or the deputy of such person) to the electronic communication service provider indicating that the activity was — (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful;

Judicial review is limited to a secret review that the request was made.

So that's that. Not even a fig leaf. If the president requested it and the AG certified it was legal, then telecom immunity is absolute. Some compromise. Neville Chamberlain would be proud.

Kevin Drum 1:21 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Comments

The Democratic leadership in Congress is doing everything within its power to ensure that Bush and Cheney will not be held accountable for their crimes.

"The framers, I think, would have been astonished by the absolute passivity, if not the collusion, of the Democrats in protecting President Bush from impeachment ... there are plenty of crimes there. What's really disturbing for many of us, is that it takes a real effort for Democrats to walk from the floor to their offices and not trip over crimes. They are all over the record. What's amazing is that the president is hiding in plain view. He hasn't really denied the elements of these offenses. So, all that is lacking is political will."

-- Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, commenting June 10th on the articles of impeachment introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 19, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Monarchy, baby! That's where it's at!!

I'm sure everyone will let King Obama have all these powers, too.

"I'm voting Republican, 'cause I want to be ruled by one big corporation!"

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on June 19, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on June 19, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Compromises" like this are why I am done with the Democratic Party. I've been a reliable donor in the past, but as I told a caller from the DNC the other day, "I can't continue to support the Democrats when they continue to vote against my interests".

Posted by: Dave Brown on June 19, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I made the mistake of getting my hopes up when Dems let the original FISA 'compromise' legislation expire.

There is no need for a compromise. There is no need to change anything about FISA. The correction action for the Dems to be taking is the same as what they did on Social Security --- it ain't broke, so don't fix it.

I don't understand why so many Democrats appear not to get that.

Posted by: David Bailey on June 19, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

If the Senators who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination vote in favor of this, they should change their names to Lieberman.

Posted by: Brojo on June 19, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Gah, it would have been far better to have done nothing than engage in such a charade. I wouldn't trust Steny Hoyer with a burnt-out match in the middle of a flood at this point.

Posted by: David W. on June 19, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic leadership in Congress is doing everything within its power to ensure that Bush and Cheney will not be held accountable for their crimes.

It's worse, SecAn. They're rewriting the laws specifically so that there are no crimes to prosecute. You want to deny habeas & put ex post facto laws on the books? Fine, we'll authorize your Military Commissions Act. You want to blanket the country with wiretaps, unfettered by any kind of judicial review? Here's your telecom bill.

If this is any indication of where Dean's 50 state strategy is gonna take us, then just spare us & pull the plug on it.

Posted by: junebug on June 19, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Disgusting!

Posted by: Eric on June 19, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

So how are we any different than the old Soviet Union? Just that we pretend better at democracy?

Posted by: Everyman on June 19, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

So much for electing Democrats, as a way to bring accountability to this administration.

Posted by: JC on June 19, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm feeling quite nauseous. Tell me again the difference between a Dem-controlled and Repub-controlled Congress?

Posted by: ckelly on June 19, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

How can the AG certify that it's legal, he's not in the judicial branch. This would be like asking the AG's office rather than a judge for a warrant.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on June 19, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

If the goal of the corporations was to use both parties to beat Americans into complacent submissive docility, high five. They win. We have no one to turn to and apparently there's no point in voting.

Posted by: B. N. Down on June 19, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the dismay, but I'm curious.

Just what sort of comprimise would have been met with approval?

Posted by: majarosh on June 19, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

So, AT&T can now, in addition to adding "late fees" to customer bills, actually kill the customer after 90 days -- as long as it has a letter from the Director of Central Intelligence saying the president authorized the killing of customers because he/she thought it was lawful.

Well, that's fair enough. Customers who haven't paid their phone bills *could* be enemies of the State, so killing them would assist the intelligence community. In our post-9/11 world, we can't afford to nitpick. Let God sort 'em out.

Posted by: alibubba on June 19, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I have no compromise where the Constitution is concerned. That would violate an oath I took, meant and still mean. Every fucking word.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on June 19, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Just what sort of comprimise would have been met with approval?

None. None was needed. FISA WAS NOT BROKEN. There should never be compromise when it comes to civil liberties and the Constitution. This isn't compromise, it is appeasement - and surrender.

Posted by: ckelly on June 19, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

They should change the names of the parties along with the symbols.

I am thinking Slugs and Jellyfish.

Posted by: Jet on June 19, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that's it. I'm changing my voter registration status. (I guess my warning to do so didn't deter them :) .)

Posted by: MattD on June 19, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Some compromise. Neville Chamberlain would be proud.

This is way, way, too hard on Chamberlain. Chamberlain at least thought he was getting peace to a weary nation with his appeasement. Here, there isn't even a mention that the telecom companies or George Bush will alter their behavior one bit (and behavior that just happens to be illegal, at that!)

This isn't even "appeasement". This is complete traitorous, craven capitulation. It's akin to Chamberlain surrendering England, and paying for the German troops transport across the Channel!

Posted by: a1 on June 19, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote to some relatives the other day and said that I felt that for the last 7 years I had been living in a moral swamp.

I'm beginning to feel the water rising even higher . . . .

And this is the country that pretends to export freedom and democracy? Don't make me choke.

Posted by: PowerOfX on June 19, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote to some relatives the other day and said that I felt that for the last 7 years I had been living in a moral swamp.

I'm beginning to feel the water rising even higher . . . .

And this is the country that pretends to export freedom and democracy? Don't make me choke.

Posted by: PowerOfX on June 19, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Vote Green instead. Write your own name in on the ballot. Don't vote.

But stop enabling.

I got booted from Kos in 2005 for saying that. I wonder if Mr. "liberals in the CIA" is laughing now.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on June 19, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK


There is no good here. And with peak oil and global climate change driving economic collapse, the state of the world is going to get much worse.

But unless you're an eyes-rolled-back-in-your-head, end-of-days religious nut, you want to minimize the bad. So you pick Obama because between bad and "kill 'em all, let god sort it out" you pick bad.

Posted by: Nietzsche's Dog on June 19, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm feeling quite nauseous. Tell me again the difference between a Dem-controlled and Repub-controlled Congress?

Share your airsick bag with me?

Posted by: shortstop on June 19, 2008 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

>>Tell me again the difference between a Dem-controlled and Repub-controlled Congress?

From Glenn Greenwald:

I'd like to underscore the fact that in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

I honestly don't understand why the people characterize this result as a capitulation. It's not. The Democrats have actively pushed this legislation through. And though they may place blame on their "Blue Dog" brethren, remember that Pelosi and Obama have helped Blue Dogs stay in office in the face of viable anti-Bush alternatives.

This is a Democratic Party choice. Not a capitulation.

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I actually feel like I am grieving today. I feel betrayed by the Dem Congress regarding the FISA capitulation and this morning I read the article about western oil companies getting no-bid contracts for Iraqi oil. I really feel the need to take a shower to wash away the scum of corruption.

Share your airsick bag with me?

Certainly, but we're gonna need a bigger bag.

Posted by: ckelly on June 19, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I've criticized Obama above, but it also - where is Clinton on this?

She has been touting her leadership skills - where are they? In service of the telecoms?

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's even worse than Kevin is saying. The line is "or the head of an element of the intelligence community (or the deputy of such person)". So you don't need the AG's involvement at all. You just need somebody in the intelligence community. And that wording is so weaselly that I bet Doug Feith or one of his assistants at the Office of Special Plans would qualify just fine.

Posted by: paul on June 19, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Please answer this. Suppose a CIA operative is sitting in some basement in Paris. He puts an alligator clip on a phone line and starts listening to phone calls made from and to a phone located in the building. Does either FISA or the US Constitution require a warrant for the CIA operative to listen in if a call is received from or placed to a phone located in the United States? That is precisely the position of the ACLU and the Democratic Party, but I wonder if you're fully on board with it.

Posted by: DBL on June 19, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Right now there are a lot of disillusioned Republicans and conservatives out there, sick of what Bush and his gang in DC have done to the government and country this decade. So they turn around and see the other party not just protecting the crooks they are tired of, but actively colluding with them, not just protecting them, but actively working to pass their pet democracy-destroying projects. Does Congress ever seriously wonder why they have such a low approval rating?

I mean, so many of the Republicans in Congress are crooks, hypocrites, perverts, liars, corporate whores, and thieves, but they do put their money where their mouth is and vote against and block legislation they and their constituents (read: giant corporations, polluters, ultra-rich) don't like. And there is something to be said for that. It's amazing that Pelosi just doesn't get it, even today.

Posted by: Joshua on June 19, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Vote Green instead. Write your own name in on the ballot. Don't vote. But stop enabling. I got booted from Kos in 2005 for saying that."

Join the club. I'm running for Secretary/Treasurer.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on June 19, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

DBL -

That warrant does not have to come prior to the wire tap. The need for a warrant would not impede the immediate access under FISA.

So the CIA would not be hindered. The warrant would be needed shortly after wire tapping began.

( forgot the exact detail - some one else I'm sure can fill in that blank ).

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Shame on the s-called Democratic leadership for taking its marchign orders from telecoms and the Bush Administration.

Posted by: Gregory on June 19, 2008 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Under FISA, the executive branch has three days after the beginning of the wiretap in which to present justification to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to receive an after-the-fact authorizing warrant. It's my impression that the FISC has rarely if ever turned down any request, which leads me to believe that the Bushies were abusing their wiretaps to such an extent that they knew that FISC would balk.

Just as Comey, as acting head of the DOJ, balked when he figured out what had really been going on; this crisis of authorization was the motivation for Rove's strong-arm visit to Ashcroft's sickbed.
Ashcroft refused to be complicit, and backed Comey.

Who would have believed that Ashcroft had a stronger, more principled comittment to the rule of law than Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer?

But that appears to be the case.

Posted by: joel hanes on June 19, 2008 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Joel

I take it you think FISA was intended to apply to, and constitutionally could be applied to, the factual circumstances I've outlined above. Is that right?

Posted by: DBL on June 19, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

I barely recognize our country. I am uncertain if Pelosi or Reid's lack of spine and patriotism is derived from blackmail or amorality. Neither condition is admirable. Neither really wants to show leadership, because they lack the basic courage requisite to hold high office. We are undone not by partisanship, but by sameness: a blanched and worthless conspiracy dedicated to material gain. Perhaps we have the leaders we deserve. If so, we need to repent collectively as hard days are ahead. I am numbed beyond shame. I cannot support this kind of government. Passive tyranny is betrayal.

Posted by: Sparko on June 19, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

The requirement is that the assistance was "the subject of a written request or directive" - not that a written request or directive specifically asked for the specific assistance at the time it was rendered.

What I'm getting at: We know the telecoms got okays from Ashcroft for quite a while. Then Ashcroft balked, and they had no authorization (as required by even the amended law) for a period of time, until Bush finally backed down to Comey's demands.

This language seems to allow for the expired letters from Ashcroft to let the telecoms off the hook for the doughnut hole of time during which Comey was not giving them permission to spy on Americans.

Posted by: pt bridgeport on June 19, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

DBL: the factual circumstances I've outlined above. Is that right?

"Factual circumstances"? WTF? It's called a hypothetical and yes, FISA covers it as Joel answered you. And HR3773 The House FISA bill "Restore Act" would have amended it so a warrant would not even be needed...

As clearly as it can, the bill says that no warrant is required for communications involving non-U.S. persons outside of the U.S. In fact, individual warrants are not even required when a foreign target communicates with someone inside the U.S.; only general approval by the FISA court of the procedures used to eavesdrop is required (see Sec. 105)

Of course, this bill seems to be dying a horrible death because it didn't give immunity to the telecoms.

Posted by: ckelly on June 19, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

A part of me really want a Hugo Chavez of the US to arise and use these same powers to prosecute these bastards.

Actually, I think I might just prefer Hugo Chavez to what we have in America, period.

Posted by: anon on June 19, 2008 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

DBL:

Yes, I think that when the US government wiretaps an American citizen, a warrant is always required, regardless of the physical location of the tap. We have this thing called a Constitution ...

However, your what-if scenario distracts from the situation at hand, which I understand thusly:

- shortly after inauguration in 2000, the new Bush administration started an effort under Poindexter, the "Total Information Awareness" program, to exploit the digital form of modern communications and institute comprehensive wiretap and datamining of all digital communications within the US. Congress didn't like it, and the initiative went underground.

- some time later, but long before 9/11, equipment was installed in a wiring closet in an ATT building in San Francisco that gives the government access to all the traffic through that node. The equipment is still in place.

- in the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration siezed the initiative and pushed hard for revisions to the FISA law that would allow them to wiretap Americans without a warrant and without oversight. These provisions were enlarged and strengthened in the Protect America Act, which expired on 17 Feb of this year.

- While PAA was in effect, the DOJ quietly "certified" various domestic wiretap programs as being in compliance with the eviscerated FISA, until Acting Director Comey was confronted with evidence that the Executive Branch had gone far beyond even the mild limitations imposed by these laws, and had been acting unlawfully. Comey refused to re-certify the programs in question, and he and many of the DOJ's senior staff threatened to resign if they were ordered to re-certify. Rove visited Ashcroft on his sickbed to strong-arm him into re-certifying; Ashcroft demurred, saying that Comey was in charge.

- The executive branch continued to operate the programs without certification for the space of at least a week, after having been advised by DOJ that these actions were felonies. Bush openly admitted that the program had been continued without certification in a nationally-televised speech, and stated his intention to continue (this marks the first time, to my knowledge, that a President has openly admitted to multiple impeachable offenses, and his intention to persist in comitting them, in a such a speech. Quite a precedent.)

- EFF and the ACLU have begun a series of well-grounded lawsuits against the telecom companies that acceded to the Bush Administration's illegal requests, with the aim of disclosing the extent and targets of the program. Suspicion is strong that among the targets will be found those who are not enemies of our nation, but simply political opponents of Bush and Cheney.

- If the lawsuits against the telecoms are allowed to go forward, the telecoms will be subpoena'ed during discovery, asked to show evidence that the government did demand the wiretaps and did offer assurances that the taps were legal.

That's why all this is important. Not because of your gedanken-experiment situation, but because Bush and Cheney seem to have pulled a Watergate-times-one-million domestic wiretap in violation of applicable US law, and because if they have done so, it is vital that these crimes be exposed.

So contra your example, the crimes I am working to see exposed have these characteristics:
- the wiretap was placed within the US
- the telecom companies who placed the tap knew that their actions were in violation of the law, and demanded assurances that they would not be prosecuted for complying
- the targets of the wiretap were not terrorists or enemies of the nation, but were instead political enemies of the Administration
- no after-the-fact warrant was ever sought from FISC

Posted by: joel hanes on June 19, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Today we reached a bipartisan solution that will put the intelligence community back in business, protect American families from attack and protect our civil liberties," said Sen. Kit Lieberman of Missouri.

Bipartisan solutions suck.

Posted by: Brojo on June 19, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

Thanks for your response. It's very helpful.

I guess we have to disagree about my hypo. Until very recently (i.e., since Bush became president), I don't think very many people thought (and certainly not the authors of FISA) that the Constitution or FISA applied to intelligence gathering outside of the United States, and tapping a phone in a Paris apartment via a physical tap in the basement of that building qualifies as that, regardless of who calls or is called by that phone. But if you start from the premise that any communication involving a US citizen is protected by FISA and the 4th amendment, no matter where it takes place, as you do, then it's very easy to conclude that what the Government did after 9/11 violated FISA. If you don't accept that premise, then the question is much more difficult.

Posted by: DBL on June 19, 2008 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

DBL:

I can't understand your fixation on taps placed outside the US. That's not what I'm so exercised about.

The massive wiretapping for which I have seen credible evidence was placed on equipment located within the US. So even if I thought that your Paris scenario was outside FISA, it's not germane.

And I think Comey's refusal to certify stems from his realization that the targets were illegitemate under the law: either both parties to the conversation were located in the US (never covered by FISA or PAA, requires a before-the-fact warrant from a regular court), or the target of the surveillance was a Democratic politician or other anti-Republican activist. Or both. I'd bet on both.

Posted by: joel hanes on June 19, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

How can the AG certify that it's legal, he's not in the judicial branch. This would be like asking the AG's office rather than a judge for a warrant.

The only branch of government that seems to be at all interested in protecting its privileges is the judicial branch, and I can't see how the hell this law is found constitutional since, as you pointed out, the executive branch doesn't get to decide whether or not what they're doing is legal.

Of course, if we get one more Bush judge on the Supreme Court, they start rolling over and it's the end of the constitution.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on June 19, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

>>Bipartisan solutions suck.

No, in this case .. Democratic Party solutions suck.

This isn't a compromise - because both the GOP and the Democrats are pushing for the same thing. It's a joint-effort.

This sort of behavior is why I left the Democratic Party.

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sparko @ 5:13 PM - "...We are undone, not by partisanship...".
Unfortunately, that is exactly what we are undone by. Pelosi and Reid are so afraid of failing to win the 2008 elections that they are willing to sacrifice the Constitution rather than "risk" losing. All they can hear in their heads are Republicans chanting "Democrats are weak on national security!" and they are scared sh*tless of that.
Cowardly traitors decribes them perfectly!

Posted by: Doug on June 19, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Wow...If this passes both houses no reason to defend America anymore. Americans will be like the citizens of the old Soviet Union. They hated the country they lived in and had to wait decades before they could over throw the communist system;
looks like Americans are in the same boat now.

But this episode does prove that the Dem leadership are Dino's, (Democrats In Name Only).
Republicans are very proud of them today.

Can't we send them the Stalin Metal of some sort?

Posted by: James on June 19, 2008 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

A few thoughts, whose ordering may not be ideal:

1) Immunity is contagious. Grant it once and the ripples expand rapidly in all directions to encompass widening circles of candidates and offences. This effect has already been "discounted", to use the language of the markets.

2) The draft language specifies a start date of 11 Sep. 2001. The important surveillance began in February 2001 -- unconditionally THE first priority of the incoming regime -- and its purpose was exclusively political.

3) What the Democrats are "afraid" of is acknowledging the total illegitimacy of the American Constitutional system, which cannot be incrementally repaired but must be swept away and replaced with something new after a complete break of institutional continuity. This is something that any of us could well be "afraid" of, inasmuch as the act of diagnosing it carries the philosophical obligation -- which I explicitly shirk -- to propose an alternative, at least in outline. This defeats my imagination.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on June 19, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

The notion of a "DINO" ( Democrat In Name Only ) implies that there are principles behind the party. If the Party pushes through this legislation, it will demonstrate that there are no such thing as distinct from the GOP statist principles.

So, a DINO - would be some one who actually has principles and is a member of the party.

Feingold ... maybe he's the only one?

Posted by: jackifus on June 19, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

Forgive me, I'm a lawyer, so I argue from hypotheticals. I try to find an analysis that works for all of them. That's why the CIA-in-the-foreign basement hypo is useful. If the Constitution doesn't apply there, even when the Parisian target picks up the phone and calls his friend in the US, why wouldn't the same analysis work the other way? Would a tap on your phone that only picked up calls from overseas phones be Constitutional without a warrant? I don't think the answer is so obvious. Where the calls don't really exist anywhere - e.g., between two cells phones, which could be anywhere in the world - the answer is even less clear. And when you get to internet phone calls and email, it gets even murkier. So that was my point.

Thanks for your thoughts, they were well considered, even though I'm not persuaded. I don't know any of the details of the NSA program, but from what I've read I don't think there were any taps of calls from domestic landline phones to other domestic landline phones, but I could be wrong. Such taps would of course require warrants.

Posted by: JDBl on June 19, 2008 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Bullshit! Mother fuckers! Its time for revolution!

Posted by: spyder on June 19, 2008 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

How about a modern day Boston Tea Party? How about we all dress up in Muslim garb and throw all our roll over minutes into the ocean?

Ok, I jest. But I always do that just before I go the fuck off.

Posted by: elmo on June 19, 2008 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

some time later, but long before 9/11, equipment was installed in a wiring closet in an ATT building in San Francisco that gives the government access to all the traffic through that node. The equipment is still in place.

In a building that was owned by the Carlyle Group at that time...
There is so much shit going on here that we don't know about it should keep us all awake at night.

Why the big rush to make all of this invisible by law?

What are they afraid of the country finding out?

Quest sat this one out. So, why couldn't AT&T or Verizon?

I think the wiretaps are small potatoes, it's something much bigger, as in TIA on steroids.
The ulimate data warehouse. Or in the case of these assholes, the ultimate data whore house.

Posted by: ChiTech on June 19, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

JDBl :

a pleasure from my end too. Civil disagreement is its own reward, I've always thought -- which I suppose is why I've spent so many hours first on Usenet and then on the Web over the years, trying to change the world one mind at a time by typing.

If we ever find out the details of this Administration's surveillance programs (and I think we will; Comey and others will eventually be driven to come clean by their own integrity, and we know about the ATT wiring closet from one of the IT people at ATT) -- as I say, if and when the details come out, it will be a pleasure to compare notes to see who was surprised, and whose judgement was closer to the mark.

But I hope you will consider this: for over seven years, this Administration has consistently confounded every expectation I might once have had about the restraining force of law and the traditions of US governance. Every time I have thought "Not even W would stoop to X" I have been wrong. Torture, openly advocated. Illegal wiretaps, openly admitted and defiantly continued. A war of agression ... the list is long, and at every turn, they have flouted the law and every other restraint on their untrammeled exercise of power for its own sake.

So I expect to learn that the pattern holds in areas where I do not yet have good information.

Good luck to you, and to us all, and to the Republic. It appears to me that we're going to need it.

Posted by: joel hanes on June 19, 2008 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

Everything joel hanes said.
Ditto

Posted by: MLuther on June 19, 2008 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

i hope that people have taken the time not only to vent but to take action. i was a little frustrated that several of my favorite sites mentioned this important issues, but few, if any, gave any links to contact my reps about it.

please take the time to visit the electronic frontier foundation (www.eff.org) and either call or write your representative. pass the message along to your friends. our reps need to hear from us...quite frankly, here we're just in the echo chamber.

all the best to everyone fighting the good fight.

Posted by: City Elf on June 20, 2008 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Greenwald here is dead-on as usual -

Despite all of this, The Atlanta Constitution-Journal reported yesterday that Barack Obama -- who has been claiming to be so emphatically opposed to warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, to say nothing of the Iraq War -- taped a radio endorsement this week for Rep. Barrow, with the specific intent to help him defeat Regina Thomas in the Democratic primary (h/t sysprog....

...This is everything Obama claims so vehemently to oppose, claims he wants to end. And yet the Congress under the control of his party is about to enact a radical bill to legalize vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and immunize telecoms who broke our country's laws for years. And not only is Obama doing nothing about any of that, but far more, he's actively intervening in a Democratic primary to help one of the worst enablers of all of this stay in power, while helping to defeat an insurgent, community-based challenger.

None of that is enjoyable to write or accept, but those are just facts. There is a disturbing tendency on all sides to view Obama through a reductive Manichean lens -- either he's the embodiment of pure transformative Good who is going magically to cleanse our polity the minute he takes office, or he's nothing other than a mindless, passive tool of the establishment whose pretty rhetoric masks a barren ambition for power and who is no better than McCain. Neither of those caricatures is remotely accurate, and a John McCain presidency would be an unmitigated disaster on every level.

But it's critical to keep in mind that Obama is a politician and, like all people, is plagued by significant imperfections. He has largely entrenched himself in, and is dependent upon, the power structure he says he wants to undermine. Uncritical devotion to political leaders, including him, is destructive. Obama needs pressure, criticism, checks, and real scrutiny just like anyone else in power in order to keep him accountable, responsive, and faithful to the principles he claims are the ones driving him.

Pressure of that sort should include demanding that he take meaningful action against this Draconian and lawlessness-enabling bill. This is, after all, a bill which his own party is seeking to pass and justifying their behavior, in part, by claiming that they're doing it to protect Obama politically from being attacked as Weak on Terrorism. If this bill passes and Obama does nothing to stop it, he'll bear significant responsibility for its enactment. Here's his campaign's phone number: (866) 675-2008 [Dial 6, then 0, on the menu]. I'll post other contact information as people leave it in comments.

Posted by: smott on June 20, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK
If the president requested it and the AG certified it was legal, then telecom immunity is absolute

As I understand it, that's pretty much what the current law says. The so-called compromise lets the telecom companies off the hook if someone made a determination that the wiretapping was legal, even if the Attorney General disagreed with the determination and said that the wiretapping was illegal.

Posted by: on June 20, 2008 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

I like the compromise: it gives the Telecoms immunity, but only at the price of implicating the Attorney General and the President. That's a good trade.

Posted by: Keith Smith on June 21, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK
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