B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘FISA’ tag

Reading Around on August 31st through September 1st

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A few interesting links collected August 31st through September 1st:

Written by swanksalot

September 1st, 2009 at 4:02 pm

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What Is Sarah Palin Hiding in her Yahoo e-mails

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Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account was apparently hacked by the Anonymous gang of internet pranksters. Glenn Greenwald is amused that the Rethuglicans suddenly care about privacy.

crime plus 8 mailbox

Still, it’s really a wondrous, and repugnant, sight to behold the Bush-following lynch mobs on the Right melodramatically defend the Virtues of Privacy and the Rule of Law. These, of course, are the same authoritarians who have cheered on every last expansion of the Lawless Surveillance State of the last eight years — put their fists in the air with glee as the Federal Government seized the power to listen to innocent Americans’ telephone calls; read our emails; obtain our banking, credit card, and library records; and create vast data bases of every call we make and receive and every prescription we fill and every instance of travel andother vast categories of information that remain largely unknown — all without warrants or oversight of any kind and often in clear violation of the law.

The same political faction which today is prancing around in full-throated fits of melodramatic hysteria and Victim mode (their absolute favorite state of being) over the sanctity of Sarah Palin’s privacy are the same ones who scoffed with indifference as it was revealed during the Bush era that the FBI systematically abused its Patriot Act powers togather and store private information on thousands of innocent Americans; that Homeland Security officials illegally infiltrated and monitored peaceful, law-abiding left-wing groups devoted to peace activism, civil liberties and other political agendas disliked by the state; and that the telephone calls of journalists and lawyers have been illegally and repeatedly monitored.

And the same Surveillance State Worshipper leading today’s screeching –Michelle Malkin — spent the last several years deriding those who objected to the President’s illegal spying program as “privacy crusaders” and “constitutional absolutists” and “civil liberties absolutists”

Shouldn’t these same people be standing up today and insisting that if Sarah Palin has done nothing wrong, then she should have nothing to hide? If Sarah Palin isn’t committing crimes or consorting with The Terrorists, then why would she care if we can monitor her emails? And if private companies such as Yahoo can access her emails — as they can — then she doesn’t really have any “privacy” anyway, so what’s the big deal if others read through her communications, too? Isn’t that the authoritarian idiocy that has been spewed since The Day That 9/11 Changed Everything — beginning with the Constitution — to justify vesting secret and unchecked surveillance powers in our Great and Good Leaders?

[Click to read more of this great rant: What does Sarah Palin have to hide in her Yahoo e-mails? – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

Written by swanksalot

September 18th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Posted in politics

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Blue Dog Democrats and Their Master

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AT&T was thankful to the Blue Dog Democrats, and others, who gave the telecom corporations retroactive immunity for breaking the law, and spying on Americans without warrants, before 9-11 even happened, so AT&T threw a lavish, private gala. A group of blogger activists tried to find out exactly who was invited to this special FISA party, but even though the party was held on public land, they were thrown out by Denver Police.

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station — next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night — AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program. Matt Stoller has one of the listings for the party here.

Armed with full-scale Convention press credentials issued by the DNC, I went — along with Firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher, John Amato, Stoller and others — in order to cover the event, interview the attendees, and videotape the festivities. There was a wall of private security deployed around the building, and after asking where the press entrance was, we were told by the security officials, after they consulted with event organizers, that the press was barred from the event, and that only those with invitations could enter — notwithstanding the fact that what was taking place in side was a meeting between one of the nation’s largest corporations and the numerous members of the most influential elected faction in Congress. As a result, we stood in front of the entrance and began videotaping and trying to interview the parade of Blue Dog Representatives, AT&T executives, assorted lobbyists and delegates who pulled up in rented limousines, chauffeured cars, and SUVs in order to find out who was attending and why AT&T would be throwing such a lavish party for the Blue Dog members of Congress.

Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

[From AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

Shriveled

Video of the event is now available, and a transcript of Democracy Now!’s video of the same event here

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, it’s amazing. And essentially, we probably tried to interview twenty-five, thiry people going in, and every last person refused to even give their name, identify themselves, say what they’re here for, what the event is for. It’s more secretive than like a Dick Cheney energy council meeting. I mean, it’s amazing.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you here for? Why do you want to interview people?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, because, I mean, it’s extraordinary that the same Blue Dogs that just gave this extremely corrupt gift to AT&T are now attending a party underwritten by AT&T, the purpose of which is to thank the Blue Dogs for the corrupt legislative gift that they got. So AT&T gives money to Blue Dogs, the Blue Dogs turn around and immunize AT&T from lawbreaking, and then AT&T throws a party at the Democratic convention thanking them, and then they all go in and into this exclusive club.

and:

GLENN GREENWALD: Absolutely. I mean, I found the symbolism of the event very revealing. First of all, as you say, there was a very intended-to-be-intimidating wall of private security surrounding the event, and they were actually infinitely more aggressive and angrier than the Denver police were. And in fact, I was there with Jane Hamsher, the blogger from FireDogLake, who at one point was trying to speak with one of the individuals entering the party, and she was physically pushed by one of the private security members, notwithstanding the fact that the Denver police had been there the entire time, navigating and negotiating where it was that we could stand. The other aspect of it was, was that what the police had been clearly trained to do is create this façade of being accommodating and cooperative and pleasant, but what it really does is it masks the fact that their strategy is to ensure that any sort of dissident voices, or people off script, are relegated to places where they can’t really be heard.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very hard to figure out in these situations. You know, you have a sidewalk, which is owned by the private venue, and where the public can use the public sidewalk, they’re showing you the cracks, the crevices in the sidewalk, and they’re saying that’s theirs, this is yours.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right, well, I mean, I found that very odd, too. At first, we were told that we could stand in a certain place that was on one side of one of the cracks that appeared in the sidewalk, and I was kind of amazed that the Denver police knew with such precision, based on the cracks in the sidewalk, where private and public property were demarcated. But when it turned out that where we were told to stand originally still enabled us to accost the people who were exiting the cars and try to interview them, suddenly the cracks in the sidewalk shifted to a place further away, and then suddenly that became the public-private line, and then we were told to stand there.

Who needs civil liberties when there are pageants to present!

Written by Seth Anderson

August 26th, 2008 at 10:56 am

Barack Obama’s super marketing machine

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No wonder Obama decided to ultimately support FISA and illegal surveillance of US citizens. You never know where database marketing will lead.

You know, of course, that Obama has your e-mail address. You may not have realized that he probably also has your phone number and knows where you’re registered to vote — including whether that’s a house or an apartment building, and whether you rent or own. He’s got a decent estimate of your household income and whether you opened a credit card recently. He knows how many kids you’re likely to have and what you do for a living. He knows what magazines and catalogs you get and whether you’re more apt to get your news from cable TV, the local newspaper or online. And he knows what time of day you tend to get around to plowing through your in box and responding to messages.

The 5 million people on Obama’s e-mail list are just the start of what political strategists say is one of the most sophisticated voter databases ever built. Using a combination of the information that supporters are volunteering, data the campaign is digging up on its own and powerful market research tools first developed for corporations, Obama’s staff has combined new online organizing with old-school methods of voter outreach to assemble a central database for hitting people with messages tailored as closely as possible to what they’re likely to want to hear. It’s an ambitious melding of corporate marketing and grassroots organizing that the Obama campaign sees as a key to winning this fall.

[From Salon.com News | Barack Obama’s super marketing machine]

It isn’t groundbreaking to compile such a database, but it is new in the political arena. Credit card companies, automobile manufacturers, and other corporations have been doing this sort of data mining for several years now, with the statistical models becoming increasingly sophisticated.1

Neither the campaign or its consultants would offer up many details about the operation; what they have is most likely a mix of hard data and predictions based on statistical models. Some very specific tidbits are available from consumer marketing firms; if you’ve ever registered a product — a TV, a computer or a microwave, for example — chances are the campaign knows you own it. Likewise, they know if you’ve signed up for the frequent customer club at your local Whole Foods, or if you’ve joined the American Civil Liberties Union. (Yes, those last two probably make you an Obama supporter). Or whether you own a gun and have a current hunting license. (An indicator you’re less likely to pull the lever for him in November.)

They can add that to what they know about the neighborhood in which you live — even about your specific block — then run all the information through a computer, and voilà: Obama aides can pull up a list of, say, married white men over 30 from an area where people buy a lot of gourmet potato chips and Miller High Life sells well.

For the most part, no one particular piece of information has an overwhelming Democratic or Republican tilt, though there are a few exceptions. For instance, people who live in “multi-unit dwellings” — apartment buildings — tend to be overwhelmingly Democrats, possibly because that one indicator tends to bring others along, like income, neighborhood density and living in a city

Footnotes:
  1. which is why I always give a few false answers to corporate seekers of data []

Written by swanksalot

July 16th, 2008 at 8:25 am

ACLU Sues over FISA

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Moments like this are why I’m happy to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I may not like lattes, don’t drive a Volvo, but the ACLU makes me proud to be a liberal.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Thursday over a controversial wiretapping law, challenging the constitutionality of the expanded spy powers Congress granted to the president on Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit was filed with the court just hours after Bush signed the bill into law.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of journalist and human rights groups, asking the court put a halt to Congress’s legalization of Bush’s formerly secret warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU contends (PDF) the expanded spying power violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

[From Bush Signs Spy Bill, ACLU Sues | Threat Level from Wired.com]

[snip]

The ACLU contends those blanket powers to grab international communications of Americans without specific court orders violate the Fourth Amendment and would stymie journalists who often speak to confidential sources outside the country. Plaintiff Naomi Klein, the liberal columnist and author, said the surveillance would compromise her writing about international issues.

“If the U.S. government is given unchecked surveillance power to monitor reporters’ confidential sources, my ability to do this work will be seriously compromised,” Klein said.

Throw some coins towards the ACLU, or read more details of this suit

“Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power – and that’s exactly what this law allows. The ACLU will not sit by and let this evisceration of the Fourth Amendment go unchallenged,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Electronic surveillance must be conducted in a constitutional manner that affords the greatest possible protection for individual privacy and free speech rights. The new wiretapping law fails to provide fundamental safeguards that the Constitution unambiguously requires.”

In today’s legal challenge, the ACLU argues that the new spying law violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The new law permits the government to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.

Plaintiffs in today’s case are:

  • The Nation and its contributing journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges
  • Amnesty International USA, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, Washington Office on Latin America, and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association
  • Defense attorneys Dan Arshack, David Nevin, Scott McKay and Sylvia Royce

Written by Seth Anderson

July 13th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Posted in politics

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Durbin Opposes Telecom Immunity

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Reposted from my old blog: I haven’t heard back from Senator Durbin regarding my most recent anti-telecom immunity email. If I do, I’ll be sure to note any interesting language. I wonder if Obama has asked Durbin to dial down his opposition?

Strapped On

Senator Richard Durbin (or more precisely, his staff’s email-bot) just emailed me an interesting response to my inquiry re: the criminal Telecom Immunity bill which I’ve been yammering about for a while.
Here it is, in its entirety (with a few paragraph breaks added for readability. Senator Durbin’s staff took the text-only email dictum a bit too far)


Subject: Message From Senator Durbin
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2007 14:26:50 -0400

November 1, 2007
Mr. Seth Anderson
[redacted]
Dear Mr. Anderson:

Thank you for your message regarding the surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue and share your concerns. Protecting both the security and the freedom of the American people is among my highest priorities. I share an obligation with my fellow senators to ensure that the federal government protects and defends the people of the United States while preserving the civil liberties that have helped make the United States the greatest and most enduring democracy in the world. President Bush has stated that he authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of communications made by American citizens living within the United States.

At the time of the President’s authorization, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) required the government to seek a warrant from a special court in order to conduct electronic surveillance of communications between American citizens and anyone outside the country. The NSA did not obtain approval from the FISA court or from any other court before initiating its domestic surveillance program. For most of its existence, the NSA’s program has operated without meaningful oversight. Few members of Congress were briefed about the program until its existence was revealed by the media, and those members were sworn to secrecy. The majority of the members of Congress still have not been fully briefed about the program’s operational details.

The Administration has also shut down its own Department of Justice internal investigation into the NSA’s program. In essence, the Administration has attempted to operate this program without any supervision or oversight. The lack of a mechanism for correcting potential abuses in the program undermines our Constitutional system of checks and balances and raises serious concerns about the possibility of excessive intrusion. In addition to the disclosure of the NSA’s domestic wiretapping program, it has been alleged that the NSA has undertaken a massive effort to gather the telephone records of tens of millions of innocent Americans into a searchable database. Again, this program has been conducted without court approval or Congressional oversight.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas to the Justice Department, the White House, the Office of the Vice President, and the National Security Council for documents relating to the legal justification for the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Although Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the committee, has extended the deadline for subpoena compliance on two separate occasions, the Administration has failed to comply. Congress has tried to work with Administration officials to update FISA in light of technological advances in communications. Too often, however, the Administration has taken advantage of the program’s secrecy in its negotiations with Congress. In Augst 2007, the Administration proposed a bill to amend FISA. I believe the bill provided too much opportunity for excessive intrusion and potential abuse by the NSA and other intelligence officials. I voted against the measure, as did Chairman Leahy and the Intelligence Committee Chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Nonetheless, Congress passed the bill and the President signed it into law. Fortunately, the law will expire six months after the date it was signed. When the President and his Administration order actions such as the surveillance of American citizens, these actions must be conducted in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution’s commitment to civil liberties. I am deeply concerned about the manner in which the Executive Branch has initiated and conducted the NSA surveillance programs. I will continue to work to ensure that government surveillance of American citizens is conducted in a manner consistent with the Constitution, the rule of law, and our security needs.

Thank you again for sharing your views on this issue with me.

Sincerely,
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator RJD/tf

P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 2nd, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Posted in politics

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Obama and FISA flip

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I was going to refrain from criticizing Obama for being a centrist, venal politician until after he was elected1, but the FISA travesty is just too disgusting. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for crying out loud, you’d think that would be enough of an education about nuance, but apparently not.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to fight such legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But he has switched positions, and now supports a compromise hammered out between the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership. The bill is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor next Tuesday. That decision, one of a number made by Mr. Obama in recent weeks intended to position him toward the political center as the general election campaign heats up, has brought him into serious conflict for the first time with liberal bloggers and commentators and his young supporters.

Many of them have seen the issue of granting immunity to the telecommunications companies as a test of principle in their opposition to Mr. Bush’s surveillance program.

“I don’t think there has been another instance where, in meaningful numbers, his supporters have opposed him like this,” said Glenn Greenwald, a Salon.com writer who opposes Mr. Obama’s new position. “For him to suddenly turn around and endorse this proposal is really a betrayal of what so many of his supporters believed he believed in.”

Jane Hamsher, a liberal blogger who also opposes immunity for the phone companies, said she had been flooded with messages from Obama supporters frustrated with his new stance.

“The opposition to Obama’s position among his supporters is very widespread,” said Ms. Hamsher, founder of the Web site firedoglake.com. “His promise to filibuster earlier in the year, and the decision to switch on that is seen as a real character problem. I know people who are really very big Obama supporters are very disillusioned.”

[From Obama Voters Protest His Switch on Telecom Immunity – NYTimes.com]

Its About Judge Ment
[It’s About Judge Ment – Obama graffiti, West Loop ]

Does Obama’s caving in to the Bush administration mean I won’t vote for him in November? No, probably not, but I’m with Markos Moulitsas, aka Kos, on this2 – I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for Obama at the moment.

Markos Moulitsas, a liberal blogger and founder of the Daily Kos Web site, said he had decided to cut back on the amount of money he would contribute to the Obama campaign because of the FISA reversal.

“I will continue to support him,” Mr. Moulitsas said in an interview. “But I was going to write him a check, and I decided I would rather put that money with Democrats who will uphold the Constitution.”

Footnotes:
  1. all liberals probably realize that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama are very liberal, but we hoped that a Democrat could be elected, and our country would move ever so slightly to the left. []
  2. for the first time in what seems like forever, but probably isn’t []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 2nd, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Legal Shields for Bush Donors

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KWD-808-II Multi-Purpose Health Device
[not a Medtronic device, but some Chinese electric acupuncture stimulation machine, Kent Young, Chinatown]

Another way the Bush Administration and its Republican cronies has screwed the nation: this time by gutting consumers rights to legal redress. Bridget Robb used a faulty Medtronic device and nearly died. Robb wanted to sue for the months of medical fees, but:

her lawyer told her that is probably not an option because of a clause the Food and Drug Administration has written into its policy on what kinds of standards medical devices like hers must meet. Because the defibrillator passed the FDA’s tests and was deemed safe, the company that made it may be immune from legal action.

Since 2005, lawsuit limits like the one protecting Medtronic and other manufacturers have been included in dozens of agency rules covering everything from drugs to car parts, shielding them from consumer suits if their products are approved by federal agencies. And it has often been done at the behest of the White House, critics say, with little input from Congress.

That has prompted a debate over whether the unprecedented increase in benefits granted to product makers is fair to consumers or even constitutional.

[From Critics blast feds’ legal shields for manufacturers — chicagotribune.com]

The same impulse that shields telecom companies from having to explain why they were allowed to break the law of the land without repercussion1 created this clause. If your widget causes harm, you should have to pay the consequence. The FDA is so corrupted that having one’s widget deemed safe might be as simple as taking an FDA official out to a strip club, or promising a salaried position when the FDA official resigns. Despicable.

Consumer advocates and some law professors argue that the anti-lawsuit clauses undermine consumers’ rights and make it difficult to hold businesses accountable for faulty products. And they say the federal government should not be blocking lawsuits that are permitted by individual states.

“I’ve been here since the second Reagan administration, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Michael Bird, federal affairs counsel for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “This is not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.”

An example of this arose in 2006, when a Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation on flame-retardant mattresses limited the ability of consumers to win cases under state laws if their mattresses caught on fire.

Around that time, the FDA approved a rule on drug labeling that included a similar clause. That year, parents whose son killed himself while taking the antidepressant Paxil sued maker GlaxoSmithKline for failing to disclose that Paxil increases suicide risk. They lost their case because, the judge wrote, “federal law pre-empts plaintiffs’ instant action.”

Some complain that the Bush administration pushed these regulations through the federal agencies it controls instead of trying to move them through Congress. Passing a bill requires hearings and public debate, while an agency often can change its rules with little fanfare.

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began including lawsuit-protection language in its rules on door locks, safety restraints and crash protection for cars. Now NHTSA may insert such a clause in proposed standards on how strong a car’s roof must be to prevent injuries from rollovers.

Footnotes:
  1. FISA, if you’ve forgotten. We’ve discussed that travesty a number of times. []

Written by swanksalot

June 28th, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , , ,

Feingold, Dodd planning filibuster of wiretap bill

with one comment

Cops on Bikes

Feingold and Dodd are doing the nations work here, the FISA bill is a travesty. Durbin will probably come on board, he’s reliably rational, and liberal, but Obama might vote “present” only, not willing to stand up for the constitution.

In a last-ditch attempt to fix a surveillance bill critics say would essentially legalize President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) have promised to filibuster the bill as long as it offers telecommunications companies retroactive immunity.

“This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans,” the senators said in a joint statement Tuesday.

“If the Senate does proceed to this legislation, our immediate response will be to offer an amendment that strips the retroactive immunity provision out of the bill. We hope our colleagues will join us in supporting Americans’ civil liberties by opposing retroactive immu

[From The Raw Story » Feingold, Dodd planning filibuster of wiretap bill]

You can read (or watch video) of Dodd’s impassioned remarks at his Senate web site

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post online adds:

A senior Democratic statesman took to the Senate floor yesterday and delivered a jeremiad against President Bush and his lawlessness the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve ever heard there before.

What set off Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) was the warrantless surveillance bill sent over from the House this week and seemingly assured of passage in the Senate. The bill significantly broadens Bush’s spying powers and essentially guarantees civil-lawsuit immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated in earlier surveillance efforts.

But to Dodd, it’s just the latest indignity from a president who has come to expect a corrupted political system to jettison the rule of law on his say-so.

“Retroactive immunity is on the table today; but also at issue is the entire ideology that justifies it, the same ideology that defends torture and executive lawlessness,” Dodd said.

[From Dan Froomkin – One Senator Says ‘Enough’ – washingtonpost.com]

I can’t believe this stupid bill has gotten as far as it has. Whatever happened to rule of law?

Written by Seth Anderson

June 25th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

FISA and the House

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From the Department of I’ll Believe It When the Ink Is Dry

In continued defiance of the White House, House Democratic leaders are readying a proposal that would reject giving legal protection to the phone companies that helped in the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congressional officials said Monday.

Instead of blanket immunity, the tentative proposal would give the federal courts special authorization to hear classified evidence and decide whether the phone companies should be held liable. House Democrats have been working out the details of their proposal in the last few days, officials said, and expect to take it to the House floor for a vote on Thursday.

The Democrats’ proposal would fall far short of what the White House has been seeking.

President Bush has been insisting for months that Congress give retroactive immunity to the phone companies, calling it a vital matter of national security. The Senate gave him what he wanted in a vote last month that also broadened the government’s eavesdropping powers.

[Click to read more House Steers Its Own Path on Wiretaps – New York Times]

Poor lil Bushy, Congress is actually questioning his orders.

Really, though, isn’t this how a Democracy is supposed to work? The Senate is somewhat distant from the will of the people, and thus able to wrangle compromises with the interest groups that fund their lavish junkets. The Congress occasionally listens to the opinion of the electorate who vote for them every two years. Bush isn’t supposed to always get his way either, no matter how many times he petulantly stamps his feet and screams, “Nine Eleven! Nine Eleven! Nine Eleven! Nine Eleven! Nine Eleven!”

Written by Seth Anderson

March 11th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills

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I'm With Stupid

What a joke. Is this why the Telecoms want immunity?

Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation ”was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

”We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report show

[Click to read more of FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills – New York Times]

The ACLU is calling for the full release of the report, as something doesn’t quite add up.

Americans should be extremely concerned when the FBI’s failure to pay its bills on time puts our national security at risk. We’re down the constitutional rabbit hole when lack of payment, and not the lack of a warrant, prevents the FBI from wiretapping. It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being “good patriots” when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills. To put it bluntly it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when FBI says warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail.

The information released by the OIG is yet another example of the complete disarray at the FBI. The FBI has failed to address its serious management issues – continuing to turn a blind eye to its internal problems. Yet against all odds, instead of being chided for not addressing these problems, the agency has asked for and received even more authority from Congress.

Six and a half years after 9/11, the bureau’s mismanagement still threatens our national security.

Until proper oversight is imposed on the intelligence community, our security and our rights will remain at risk. As Congress is seeking to further expand surveillance powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we urge them to take these facts into account. The bureau must be held accountable. If the FBI can’t even manage its checkbook properly, how can we trust it to ensure that our rights are being protected?”

For more information on FISA and surveillance, go to:
www.aclu.org/fisa

[From American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU Says FBI Can’t Manage Checkbook]

Written by Seth Anderson

January 10th, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

Telecom Immunity Priorities

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Bush’s buddies, the telecom giants, are still worried they might have to answer for their crimes.

From the Senate floor, Ted Kennedy just cut through all the crap:
“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 retro-active immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.”

[From Daily Kos: Kennedy on Telecom Immunity]

Zing!

(H/T)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 19th, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

The Spy Chief Lies

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Isn’t misleading Congress an impeachable offense? Just wondering.

Helios 3294

From the Sunday NYT we read, and laughed:

The Spy Chief Speaks – New York Times:
After Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to intercept communications between people in the United States and people abroad without a warrant. That is a violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA.

Now we know the law was broken thousands of times. In 100 or so cases, the unlawfully intercepted calls led agents to believe that the person in the United States was a bad actor (Mr. McConnell implied, sort of, that they were terrorists), and the government’s lawyers obtained a warrant. We are still looking for that loophole in the Fourth Amendment.

Mr. McConnell told The El Paso Times that it was necessary to rush through major changes to FISA before Congress went on vacation because warrants require pesky paperwork — 200 hours’ worth each.

Really? The government applied for 2,181 FISA warrants in 2006, which the blog Threat Level translated to 436,200 hours. Figuring a 40-hour workweek with two weeks off, that’s more than 218 top-secret-cleared officials doing nothing all year but writing out FISA applications.

Mr. McConnell said telephone companies turned over call data to the National Security Agency without a court order, which may be illegal. He revealed this while praising Congress for giving the telecoms immunity from lawsuits or criminal sanctions if they continue doing that. Now, he said, Congress should absolve the companies retroactively. That would be a nice twofer: protect a deep-pockets industry that may have broken the law, and cut off judicial scrutiny of Mr. Bush’s decision to ignore FISA in the first place.

Other parts of Mr. McConnell’s interview were bewildering, like his claim that debating wiretapping in Congress will cause American deaths. It was odd that he spoke at all about matters the intelligence community still considers classified. But there was a secret Mr. McConnell was determined to keep. He was asked why the White House bitterly fought reasonable Congressional proposals to give spies a bit more needed flexibility to use modern technology. Mr. McConnell said there was “untenable” language in the bills and lawmakers refused to fix it. The White House then stampeded Congress into passing a bill it wanted, one that shredded FISA.

What was the language? Sorry, that’s classified.

So glad the Dem-controlled Congress rolled over for the President so readily. McConnell sounds like a real tool.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 27th, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Posted in politics

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41 House Dems Tremble Before the Bush-meister

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The Democrats cave in to the Republicans so frequently it no longer surprises me, only increases my disgust with the party. What good does the opposition party do itself by allowing the White House to brow-beat it into accepting legislation that the citizenry is appalled by? Why not just have a merger or leveraged buyout and be done with it?

The key provision of S.1927 is new section 105A of FISA (see page 2), which categorically excludes from FISA’s requirements any and all “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States.”

For surveillance to come within this exemption, there is no requirement that it be conducted outside the U.S.; no requirement that the person at whom it is “directed” be an agent of a foreign power or in any way connected to terrorism or other wrongdoing; and no requirement that the surveillance does not also encompass communications of U.S. persons. Indeed, if read literally, it would exclude from FISA any surveillance that is in some sense “directed” both at persons overseas and at persons in the U.S.

The key term, obviously, is “directed at.” The bill includes no definition of it.

- Balkination

Daily Kos: 41 House Dems Tremble Before the Mighty Bush:
These are the Dems who…failed our country.

These Democrats In Name Only should be forced to wear a crimson R on their lapel.

Jason Altmire (4th Pennsylvania)
John Barrow (12th Georgia) Blue Dog
Melissa Bean (8th Illinois) Blue Dog
Dan Boren (2nd Oklahoma) Blue Dog
Leonard Boswell (3rd Iowa)
Allen Boyd (2nd Florida) Blue Dog
Christopher Carney (10th Pennsylvania) Blue Dog
Ben Chandler (6th Kentucky) Blue Dog
Rep. Jim Cooper (5th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Jim Costa (20th California) Blue Dog
Bud Cramer (5th Alabama) Blue Dog
Henry Cuellar (28th Texas)
Artur Davis (7th Alabama)
Lincoln Davis (4th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Joe Donnelly (2nd Indiana) Blue Dog
Chet Edwards (17th Texas)
Brad Ellsworth (8th Indiana) Blue Dog
Bob Etheridge (North Carolina)
Bart Gordon (6th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (South Dakota) Blue Dog
Brian Higgins (27th New York)
Baron Hill (9th Indiana) Blue Dog
Nick Lampson (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Daniel Lipinski (3rd Illinois)
Jim Marshall (8th Georgia) Blue Dog
Jim Matheson (2nd Utah) Blue Dog
Mike McIntyre (7th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Charlie Melancon (3rd Louisiana) Blue Dog
Harry Mitchell (5th Arizona)
Colin Peterson (7th Minnesota) Blue Dog
Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota) Blue Dog
Ciro Rodriguez (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Mike Ross (4th Arkansas) Blue Dog
John Salazar (3rd Colorado) Blue Dog
Heath Shuler (11th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Vic Snyder (2nd Arkansas)
Zachary Space (18th Ohio) Blue Dog
John Tanner (8th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Gene Taylor (4th Mississippi) Blue Dog
Timothy Walz (1st Minnesota)
Charles A. Wilson (6th Ohio) Blue Dog

Written by Seth Anderson

August 26th, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Posted in politics

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Bush Opens Mouth, Lies

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Oh, yeah, I believe the Dauphin. Especially after reading this tidbit about the Pentagon also collecting data on everything possible for our upcoming gulag.

WSJ.com – Bush Defends NSA Eavesdropping Program

President Bush said the government does not troll the personal lives of Americans, but didn’t directly address a newspaper report that the National Security Agency has gathered millions of Americans’ phone records.

So in other words, don’t believe a word of this non-denial denial.

…Congressional Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration Thursday after a report in USA Today said the NSA secretly collected records of ordinary Americans’ phone calls to build a database of every call made within the country.

“It is our government, it’s not one party’s government. It’s America’s government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers’ phone calls to the NSA program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel “to find out exactly what is going on.”

The telephone companies on Thursday declined to comment on national security matters, and would say only that they are assisting government agencies in accordance with the law.

“We have been in full compliance with the law and we are committed to our customers’ privacy,” said Bob Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon.

The White House defended its overall eavesdropping program and said no domestic surveillance is conducted without court approval.

“The intelligence activities undertaken by the United States government are lawful, necessary and required to protect Americans from terrorist attacks,” said Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, who added that appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on intelligence activities.

Mr. Leahy sounded incredulous about the latest report and railed against what he called a lack of congressional oversight. He argued that the media was doing the job of Congress.

“Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaida?” Sen. Leahy asked. “These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything … Where does it stop?”

The Democrat, who at one point held up a copy of the newspaper, added: “Somebody ought to tell the truth and answer questions. They haven’t. The press has done our work for us and we should be ashamed. Shame on us for being so far behind and being so willing to rubber stamp anything this administration does. We ought to fold our tents.”

The program doesn’t involve listening to or taping the calls. Instead it documents who talks to whom in personal and business calls, whether local or long distance, by tracking which numbers are called, the newspaper said.

The NSA and the Office of National Intelligence Director didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

NSA is the same spy agency that conducts the controversial domestic eavesdropping program that has been acknowledged by President Bush. The president said last year that he authorized the NSA to listen, without warrants, to international phone calls involving Americans suspected of terrorist links.

The report came as the former NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden — Bush’s choice to take over leadership of the CIA — had been scheduled to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday. However, the meetings with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were postponed at the request of the White House, said congressional aides in the two Senate offices.

The White House offered no reason for the postponement to the lawmakers. Other meetings with lawmakers were still planned.

Gen. Hayden already faced criticism because of the NSA’s secret domestic eavesdropping program. As head of the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005, Mr. Hayden also would have overseen the call-tracking program.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California who has spoken favorably of the nomination, said the latest revelation “is also going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of Gen. Hayden.”

The NSA wants the database of domestic call records to look for any patterns that might suggest terrorist activity, USA Today said.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, told the paper that the agency operates within the law, but wouldn’t comment further on its operations.

One big telecommunications company, Qwest Communications International Inc., has refused to turn over records to the program, the newspaper said, because of privacy and legal concerns.

USA Today story here.

More details at TPM Muckraker, TalkLeft, TalkLeft again, CorrenteWire, MyDD, ThisModernWorld, The Huffington Post, and no doubt hundreds more. These are just the pages I’ve managed to read so far.

Can we spell the word, Impeachment, yet?

Written by Seth Anderson

June 2nd, 2006 at 10:38 am