The Immunity Deal

Republicans and Democrats in Congress reached a breakthrough compromise yesterday on a bill that would dramatically revamp the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Most significantly, the draft legislation makes legal the president's probably previously illegal National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program. If signed into law, the new bill would also immunize telecommunications companies from individual lawsuits over surveillance. (More than 40 such suits have been filed already.)

According to today's Post:

The agreement extends the government's ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects while effectively providing a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecom firms. They face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct a warrantless spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks....

Under the surveillance agreement, which is expected to be approved today by the House and next week by the Senate, telecoms could have privacy lawsuits thrown out if they show a federal judge that they received written assurance from the Bush administration that the spying was legal.

The proposal marks a compromise by Republicans and the Bush administration, which had opposed giving federal judges any significant role in granting legal immunity to the phone companies....

The immunity would cover companies that helped the government between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 17, 2007, when the warrantless surveillance program was brought under the authority of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That program had allowed the National Security Agency to monitor communications to and from the United States without court oversight.

The retroactive legal protection would apply only in lawsuits filed against telecommunications firms. Any lawsuits against the government would proceed and would have to be defended by other means.

This compromise is a bitter pill for Democrats to swallow, given their previous staunch opposition to any immunity provision in the FISA bill. It remains unclear how the provision made its way into the law, although it's likely that intense lobbying from the communications industry made a difference. So, too, did a number of new safeguards in the law, including unclassified reporting requirements and additional layers of review for FISA surveillance.

But it should also be noted that telecommunications providers, like other government contractors, have long had similar statutory and common law immunities available to them. The most prominent is known as the "government contractor defense," but there are others. The new FISA bill codifies this immunity and provides a simple procedural mechanism for federal courts to decide the issue. This marks a change from the earlier forms of immunity, which often involved protracted litigation. But the outcome remains the same.

As well it should. Absent negligent or intentionally wrong behavior by government contractors (in this case, telecommunications companies), we should not haul these companies into court over these programs. Decisions about surveillance are made by the government -- not the telecommunications companies. And to a large extent, because they operate in such a regulated field, these companies have very little choice about whether and how to cooperate with government surveillance requests.

I strongly support increased transparency and accountability for the government decisions, and it makes sense for an Article III judge to sign off on every secret surveillance action, even if that has to happen behind closed doors. But the responsibility buck has to stop somewhere, and that should be with the government decisionmakers who initiate surveillance, not the telecom companies.

By Phillip Carter |  June 20, 2008; 8:30 AM ET  | Category:  Law
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So the notion that a secret judge, viewing secret government documents that, if sufficiently scary, will be forever secret, can simply legitimize ANY sort of surveillance fishing expedition, dismiss the suit without explaining why (because it's, y'know, secret) and this somehow is "better" than the secret surveillance law that we already know was broken (though we don't know exactly what was done with it)?

Phil, tovarisch, I am believing that you, like me, are getting nostalgic for the od Soviet. Because the notion that we need to spy on our own and cloak the whole thing is secrecy is so...Brezhnevskian.

This entire mess is just another step in taking a bit of sovreignty from The People and transferring it to An Authority. A judge, a president, a telecom. But the People don't seem to care, and, after all, who knows better what is needed to Protect Us from the Scary Bad Guys? You, me, or The People Who Know What's Better For Us?

Welcome, Phil. Welcome, my fellow subject.

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 9:30 AM

"And to a large extent, because they operate in such a regulated field, these companies have very little choice about whether and how to cooperate with government surveillance requests."

QWest had a choice and chose not to comply. They probably asked their lawyers to review the request, and the lawyers probably told them it was illegal. Do the other telecoms not have legal departments? I suspect that their decision to violate the law was based not on legal advice but on political and economic considerations. And for this they receive immunity.

Posted by: Jay Livingston | June 20, 2008 9:38 AM

I agree with Carter about this, to the extent that I have no enthusiasm for hauling telecom companies into court for something an administration asked them to do in a period of national crisis.

The original reason this was a threat, though, was that legal action involving the telecoms as defendants seemed to be the only way to find out what this administration did ask them to do. It appears as if this is still the case, which is what makes the immunity deal reportedly reached in Congress look to some people like a surrender.

I'm definitely disposed to give an administration the benefit of the doubt when it responds to a crisis situation, but not indefnitely.

Posted by: Zathras | June 20, 2008 10:32 AM

Referring to the provision in the Act that provides immunity to the telecoms for past illegal acts, what about Article 9 of the U.S. Constitution that says, "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." An ex post facto law is defines as, "a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law."?

Posted by: John | June 20, 2008 10:48 AM

My concern is that telecommunications companies are immune if a) the president said it's necessary, and; b) the attorney general or certain other representatives said its legal.

To quote Laura Rozen, "Doesn't that actually endorse and extend to private actors the Nixonian view that if the president says it's legal, it's legal, regardless of what the law says and the Constitution says? Wouldn't that set an awful precedent that an administration could get private actors to do whatever they wanted including breaking the law?"

Posted by: Joe Student | June 20, 2008 10:48 AM

Zathras

"enthusiasm" has nothing to do with it. If it is the law, it is the law. "Crisis" has nothing to do with it. If it is the law...it is the law. Now, if your arguments are; 'it was not the law at time", that's one thing. But "crisis" and "enthusiasm" are too subjective to enter into this.

This deal IS a surrender. It is done by the majority to cover up the fact that Dem leadership went along with this nonsense. And now does not know how to cover their butts...and reject the immunity provisions at the same time. So.....'lets see, right thing to do v. my butt? Hmmm...' Butts win.

I would sooner try to put pants on an elephant than give THIS administration the benefit of doubt. I would like to give them the benefit of being hauled into the dock where they belong. And then off to jail.

But they will walk. On the other hand, increasingly, I don't think many of them will 'fly'. Not overseas. Me thinks the international community awaits them. And if so, it is a good thing. And a sad thing...as we look away from this once great nation, to others, for justice.

Posted by: jonst | June 20, 2008 10:56 AM

"It remains unclear how the provision made its way into the law, although it's likely that intense lobbying from the communications industry made a difference."

Let me offer an alternate theory as to why.

Perhaps, just perhaps, what happened was the Dems stopped playing politics and actually read the classified documents, orders, etc given to NSA. Might they have even read all of the very strict directives all signals intelligence personnel must comply with. Perhaps, those opposing the bill were read-on to what was methods were really being used, and determined for themselves that what was happening was very controlled, and in not as bad as the whole thing appears on the surface and was not a threat to Americans' privacy.

If this was true, then of course those legislators who were read-on could not further explain their change in position because they must protect our capabilities, methods and sources (or lack of).

Perhaps, and this is just a theory, we are not as capable in signals collection as the public perception (fed by Hollywood) believes we are, and perhaps there was some "military deception" feeding off of this myth. Again, I don't know, I am just playing devil's advocate here.

Again, these are just theories and alternate explanations why legislative representatives, who surely feel as strong about privacy as FDC, Thomas Jefferson or the ACLU, why they would change their feelings about the legislation and the methods.


Posted by: bg | June 20, 2008 10:58 AM

You say that the telecoms should be retroactively immunized against prosecution for their illegal wiretapping because they did it at the request of the government, "And to a large extent, because they operate in such a regulated field, these companies have very little choice about whether and how to cooperate with government surveillance requests." How does regulation force a company into doing illegal acts at the government's request? Are not such requests in and of themselves illegal, and the telecoms then legally bound NOT to comply with them? Your arguments on behalf of telecom immunity are based on false premises and do not make sense. The "Mikey made me do it" defense will not fly.

Posted by: John | June 20, 2008 11:04 AM

I think you're way off on this one Mr. Carter.

"Decisions about surveillance are made by the government -- not the telecommunications companies."

Aren't we agreed that members of the military need not, and should not, obey an unlawful order? Why should private companies be granted a get-out-of-jail-free card when the military doesn't get one?

And where would you draw the line? Should an airline implement a government decision about extraordinary rendition just because they are asked to? Should a private contractor in Iraq commit torture if the government decides it is needed? And should they get off with the "just following orders" defense?

Further, there was and is no need for granting this authority to the government. Congress was quite clear about the requirement to go before the secret FISA court for a warrant (the target of which had to be "linked to foreign espionage"), and was quite lenient about allowing initiation of surveillance before a warrant was granted.

And the number of warrant requests refused by the FISA court before the Patriot ACT was vanishingly small -- only five rejections in 14,000 requests before 2001 -- and the FISA court became even more of a rubber stamp after 9/11. Now the target need not be connected to foreign intelligence; it can be subject to secret searches approved by a secret court if there is a chance that the government may learn something about a terror-related investigation.

Tell me again why telecoms should simply go along with a gov't request instead of demanding to know whether a warrant authorizes it?

Cheers,

JP

Posted by: almost drafted | June 20, 2008 11:21 AM

"Perhaps, those opposing the bill were read-on to what was methods were really being used, and determined for themselves that what was happening was very controlled, and in not as bad as the whole thing appears on the surface and was not a threat to Americans' privacy."

Perhaps. And perhaps not.

The point is: we don't know.

My issue with this isn't spying or national security or who gets to know what and why. It's that the fundamental logic behind this is that more secrecy is better. That we should simply trust that our government (both the NSA and the judge reviewing the NSA) is doing the right thing - despite not knowing what either of those actors are doing, who they are or the information they're seeing.

Frankly, knowing myself, I wouldn't trust me not to use a relatively broad power to snoop on others not to snoop on my political enemies. The genius of our political system is that it was NOT built on trust. That, in fact, it was built on suspicion, the valid suspicion that power corrupts and that to check that corruption the best prescription is transparentcy and the seperation of powers. More than seperation; the active counterposition of mutually antagonistic power bases.

But if you can't see the powers act, how do you know they're competing and not colluding? How do you know that the judge in question isn't a Scalia or a Thomas, that never met a paternalistic, authoritarian principle he didn't like?

It's said that hard cases make bad law. I would add that fear and war make bad law, too. This ruling seems based more on our fear of the Other - whose ability to hurt us is transient and proscribed - rather than our fear of our own worst impulses which, unrestrained, can do more damage to our polity than any mad mullah.

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 11:33 AM

If this bill passes we will regret ever having done so. It permits tacit approval of the actions of an outlaw President and fully inoculates the enabling actions of several telecom companies whose legal staff knew full well that these actions violated the Constitutional measures against privacy rights and search-seizure that have stood this nation well for nearly 240 years. The Democrats in Congress are selling their constituents down the drain. Shame on Pelosi and Hoyer; we dont need these domestic tradeoffs; we can wait until the next President is a Democrat and the dems control both houses.

Posted by: ClaudeM | June 20, 2008 11:56 AM

FDC,

I can't argue any of your points, they are well stated as always. It is hard for me to offer an unbiased view on the world of "secrecy", because, after all, I live in it. If I didn't see the need for it, I couldn't live with myself day to day.

With that bias and any other self-justification aside, here is my counter to you. You state that our government was NOT built on trust. I disagree. A representative democracy DEMANDs and IMPLIES trust of our elected representatives. Otherwise we would put every issue up for a general referendum, yes? (please don't confuse trust with blind faith)

I don't know anything about the tax code. I don't care about the tax code (except how much I have to pay). I don't know anything about laws that regulate 90% of what our federal government does. I TRUST that those who I elect to represent me will know about such things through self-study or by surrounding themselves with smart people (unfortunately, usually consisting of self-interested experts, aka lobbyist). When I lose my trust in their ability to represent me, I elect someone else.

Is the case of secrecy much different? While we all really want to know what happens in the puzzle palace of NSA, do we all really need to know? Perhaps I have to trust my elected government representative, who I elected because I have shared values with, I have to trust that person to learn the nature of these secrets for me, and then make the proper ethical, moral and legal decision for me. It could not work any other way.

Please do not confuse trust with blind faith. I am not advocated blind faith. We must continually question our government. But in this specific case, my argument is that if our elected leadership changes their view on this bill so suddenly, there must a valid reason that is neither nefarious nor Orwellian.

Posted by: bg | June 20, 2008 11:57 AM

It should be noted that House Majority Leader Democrat Steny Hoyer was a major broker in this "compromise", which will forever seal the Bush Administration's egregious lawbreaking behind a curtain of secrecy. Hoyer has since been claiming that he was forced to do it. Anyone who knows how the House works knows full well that Hoyer is lying.

The ACLU, ActBlue, and Ron Paul's organization - along with many others - are working to punish those in Congress who've green-lighted the abrogation of Americans basic right to privacy and thereby handed a massive victory to Bush and the Republicans.

Personally, I planned to make the first political donation in my life to the Obama campaign next week. Instead, I'm giving that money to ActBlue. And I called Senator Obama's campaign (another first, I've never made a political call before) and told him that he'll need to do more than make a speech when this matter comes before the Senate. If ever a bill called for a filibuster, it's this one.

http://www.actblue.com/page/fisa

Posted by: Peter Maranci | June 20, 2008 12:05 PM

Several comments upthread highlight a key difficulty here. They express indignation about the Bush administration's alleged disregard of the law and a desire to see its officials punished -- through legal actions in which the defendants are telecommunications companies.

Now, I hold no brief for these companies as such, in the sense that I have no more interest in pleading their case than in pleading a case against them (though in the interest of full disclosure I should probably say I've been pretty happy with the cell phone service I''ve gotten from Sprint lately). I just think that it's asking a lot of a private business to demand that it tell government agencies asking it to help stop another terrorist attack -- in some case mere weeks and months after the last one -- that it can't, because it disagrees with the government about the legality of what it's being asked to do. If, say, Vice President Cheney was responsible for relevant laws being abused, I agree he ought to be held responsible by the legal system. I don't agree that Verizon or AT&T ought to be considered equally culpable.

On the other hand, bg's comment upthread advances a plausible scenario that we must assume is only plausible. Is it possible that Congressional negotiators, having been fully read in to what the administration did with respect to telecommunications surveillance after 9/11, concluded correctly that no laws were broken (or at least that whatever laws were broken then are not being broken anymore)? I agree that it is possible. But this must be set against what we know to be the record. Congress, and the intelligence committees' leadership in particular, has offered little resistance to most of the things the administration has sought to do in connection with the terrorism problem. Unlike telecom companies, legislators do have as part of their job description making sure that what an administration is doing is legal. The people who negotiated this deal haven't been especially diligent about upholding their obligations in this area up to now. I can understand why their say-so wouldn't be good enough for many people. I'm not sure it's good enough for me.

Posted by: Zathras | June 20, 2008 12:14 PM

Two comments:
(1) Isn't this a matter for the courts to decide? If the lawsuits are so groundless because "Decisions about surveillance are made by the government -- not the telecommunications companies.", then this shouldn't be an issue. Why is it so unreasonable to have the courts determine what's appropriate. Why should we take the Administration's word for it?

(2) How unreasonable would it have been for the telecoms to request a warrant to proceed? I DON'T want companies to automatically do WHATEVER the Government asks them to do, especially if they have any question that it's illegal. That's why we have a Court system and why we have FISA in the first place.

I'm not at all clear why we have Courts and FISA in place if the Government can just do whatever it wants and get private companies go along. Just trust us, they say.

Posted by: Elizabeth | June 20, 2008 12:32 PM

I'm still very unclear on the case for telecon immunity. Perhaps an analogy would help: what we're saying here is that if Gordon Liddy had a note from Nixon saying that tapping the DNC offices was legal, then Liddy should be immune from prosecution.

Posted by: David | June 20, 2008 12:33 PM

The Dems sold us out again.

The laws that were in place prior to 9/11 were good enough. As evidenced by the FBI memo that described the 9/11 disaster pretty accurately. Yet conveniently forgotten by the Bush, Cheney and Rice. I guess I would ask Bush, "Are you done covering your A$$...".

This is disgusting. Bush can make up laws, break laws and then scare spineless dems into giving away American's rights.

Posted by: magicInMiami | June 20, 2008 12:33 PM

I assume that the telecom companies will reap a windfall from not having to litigate these suits, and I expect that a substantial portion of those savings will find its way into the pockets of those who vote in favor of this law. It sounds like a sophisticated bribery to me...

JB

Posted by: jb | June 20, 2008 12:41 PM

Just for the record, Speaker Pelosi could stop this in the House even now.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
(202) 225-0100

As for Zathras' comment that the telecom companies shouldn't be punished for obeying the Bush Administration: there was already a mechanism in place. Qwest's lawyers told their management that the Bush requests were unlawful, and Qwest refused to comply. Nobody was blown up as a result, but Qwest was punished by losing government contracts.

And the thing that makes this amnesty so PARTICULARLY bad is that it will end the lawsuits which are currently going on, thereby ending the process of discovery - forever sealing the evidence of warrantless spying which by all reports was committed against huge numbers of ordinary Americans. Does anyone believe that Bush & co. were combing through so many phone calls and emails looking only for *terrorists*? What are the odds that they were looking for ways to increase their political power? Politicians have certainly done that before - that's why we instituted FISA in the first place!

When the government has the unchecked and secret power to spy on anyone it wants to, we are only the slightest step away from tyranny. This is NOT the freedom that our ancestors fought and died for!

Posted by: Peter Maranci | June 20, 2008 12:42 PM

Bush may be an imbecile and a criminal, but the Democrats are the most spineless, cowardly, pathetic bunch of politically driven losers I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. Rolling over for Bush on anything at this point (especially an instance of overt criminality) is just gutless. I am so angry, I can't think of any more synonyms for cowardice.

And frankly Carter, your logic sucks. What if Bush had told the telecoms it was necessary for them to waterboard one of their mailroom employees? Then when some did (and others didn't because they had serious questions as to whether it was A) necessary, and B) legal) we let them off the hook just because Bush told them it was "ok."

In fact, the abuse of prisoners is very similar. The grunts on the ground SHOULD be punished because they are responsible for knowing the law too and should have known better. The problem is not whether the ACTUAL ACTORS (telecoms and grunts) should be punished, the problem is stopping there and not pursuing the people who asked them to make these bad decisions. EVERYONE involved in breaking the law should be held accountable.

Posted by: Nick | June 20, 2008 12:50 PM

"Perhaps I have to trust my elected government representative, who I elected because I have shared values with, I have to trust that person to learn the nature of these secrets for me, and then make the proper ethical, moral and legal decision for me. It could not work any other way."

And I would, if this legislation authorized, say, the full House Intelligence Subcommittee to review a synopsis of the FISA requests, say, quarterly. Not every transcript but let's say a list of names and addresses. So if bg's name, or my name, or Rush Limbaugh's name, or one of Pelosi's staffer's names popped up several times another congressional staffer might just take the time to drop by the NSA and ask "Why the hell are you looking into this person's phone calls?" and, in the process, find out whether or not this was being used to dig for political dirt and/or intimidate political opponents.

But that's not what's going on here.

This isn't the same thing as trusting the government to, say, write the tax code (although don't get me started on THAT; our tax policy has been somewhere between shortsighted and moronic practically since the Reagan years). This is trusting my government with a tool that is particularly useful for political suppression of enemies, both foreign, and in particular - domestic. But these enemies do not have to be enemies of the state. They may be enemies of one party or the other. And that is my fear.

Although...a huge part of me hopes that a) this passes, b) Obama gets elected, and c) the Dems then use this to ratf-ck the GOP, thus proving that the best way get shot is to point the gun at yourself.

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 1:38 PM

there is one aspect of this thread I find some what upsetting from a professional stand point. When we say we don't trust the government not to use these powers for political subversion, I find that insulting to those who do the signal collection. Does anyone think that Bush Co. Is sitting in a windowless room with head phones on? Of course not. It is NSA. Therefore any assertion that political enemies of Bush are being spied on implies that U.S. Service members are complicity involved.

Does anyone honestly believe that a professional military officer such as the Director of the NSA would allow such obviously illegal and unethical nonesense?

Posted by: bg | June 20, 2008 2:02 PM

Phil, this is closer to your practice area, but it strikes me that you're playing a little fast and loose with the term "government contractor." The only relation between the telecoms and the government in this instance is the government asked for data specifically requiring a court order or AG certification (without either), and the telecoms happily complied. Note also that not all telecoms capitulated (see, e.g., Qwest). I think that bellies your argument that they had little choice. Lastly, even if telecom immunity in the abstract was a good thing, I think in this particular instance it is the lone means of airing the administration's dirty laundry. In that regard, I'm more than happy to sacrifice AT&T's litigation expenses for the sake of revelations of the recklessness displayed by this admin in the area of civil liberties.

Posted by: Armen | June 20, 2008 2:04 PM

I don't see any "compromise" here at all. Bush gets everything he wants. He gets retroactive telecom immunity. His domestic spy programs become law. And, the ability of the courts to oversee the spy programs is weakened even more.

What's the other side of the compromise? FISA is, again, declared to be law?! That doesn't make any sense. FISA is already the law of the land. Stating it again does not make it more so. In fact, this FISA amendment weakens FISA immeasurably since it demonstrates that violations of the law will be allowed so long as they are ordered by the President.

In other words, Nixon's view of the executive was just ratified by the Congress. If the President orders it then it is law. Congress just dealt one of the most serious blows to our systems of checks and balances that this nation has ever seen. They may as well all just go home now and let the President rule as dictator.

Posted by: fletc3her | June 20, 2008 2:13 PM

When the telecoms are taken to suit for the illegal wiretapping they will argue in their defense that they were given an order they thought to be lawful which ordered the wiretapping. This will then open up the question of whether the order was lawful. Eventually, the Supreme Court would have been able to weigh in on whether the executive could order private parties to violate the law or not.

Now, it's all just legal. The Supreme Court doesn't have to weigh in. The Congress went and said that anything the executive orders is legal. I said in an earlier post that Congress can go home now and leave the dictator to run the country. The courts may as well go home too.

Posted by: fletc3her | June 20, 2008 2:16 PM

Good intentions don't equate to good Law. And once again, it'll be up to the Supreme Court at some distant date to school the Executive and Legislative branches yet again on this point. That's the thing that bugs me most about our system of legislation. Rogue Laws like this can operate for months or years before the Supremes rule on its constitutionality. Seems to me laws of immense consequence and controversality like this should get constitutional review by the Supremes PRIOR to their enactment.

Posted by: Eludium-Q36 | June 20, 2008 2:17 PM

An earlier poster asks "Does anyone honestly believe that a professional military officer such as the Director of the NSA would allow such obviously illegal and unethical nonesense?"

Have you missed the last several years completely? The NSA has been violating the FISA act and spying on Americans without a warrant?! Yes, they are going to commit illegal and unethical acts! We have documented cases of just that! Jesus Christ! How much evidence do you need before you stop giving these people who act in secret the benefit of the doubt?

In another government agency, we've learned that the CIA has been torturing prisoners. They have committed acts so illegal and unethical that they are considered war crimes and have been punished by death. That's the world we live in today. A world where we know that CIA agents have committed war crimes.

Posted by: fletc3her | June 20, 2008 2:21 PM

We're told by the Administration that terrorists "hate our freedoms", then Bush Jr goes about raping, subverting and undermining the same Constitution he swore to uphold against all enemies foreign and domestic.

The Democrats are past worthless slugs and parasites, apt descriptions considering how they always cave-in to the most despised, unpopular President in living memory.

Two examples make this gutting of our 4th Amendment even more infuriating.

When the FBI searched, with a legally-issued warrant, Rep. William Jefferson's office in 2006, the House leadership of Hastert and Boehner pitched the most hissy of fits, whining about the need for a clear separation of powers, and strong legislative oversight of the Executive branch. Boehner even called it a "Constitutional crisis" that would have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. In other words, for the elitists on Capitol Hill, privacy rights are only for themselves, the constituents privacy rights don't count or matter in the least.

And Boehner's hypocrisy takes on an even grimier sheen when considering how he sued Rep. Jim McDermott for illegally taping, then releasing, a conversation Boehner had with Newt Gingrich (I believe) during the GOP's hysteria in impeaching Bill Clinton.

The ONLY bright spot here is that these blithering Bush Jr lackeys will start to realize, the closer we get to election day, that the unchecked, imperial powers they cheer Bush Jr on for using will also transfer to his successor, in this case, Barack Obama.

And if these Bush Jr enablers don't do everything possible to roll back his power grabs, then they deserve to go under the same warrantless-spying microscope they back for everyone else.

Posted by: KingCranky | June 20, 2008 2:22 PM

Treason. War Profiteers. Corruption. ...This is a horrible moment for the Democracy. It is a time for rebellion.

Posted by: artforhumans | June 20, 2008 2:30 PM

bg - "With that bias and any other self-justification aside, here is my counter to you. You state that our government was NOT built on trust. I disagree. A representative democracy DEMANDs and IMPLIES trust of our elected representatives. Otherwise we would put every issue up for a general referendum, yes? (please don't confuse trust with blind faith)" -

Yes, all this is true, but our government, for whom I also work in a non-secret agency, has abused that trust time and time again. I no longer trust our government, nor do I trust these particular telecoms. And sadly, While you and your colleagues may, indeed all be willing to resist unlawful orders, we now know that high placed leaders in the government authorized the torture of alleged enemies based on the legal opinions of a few lawyers. That torture violates US law, it violates international treaties to which we are signatories, and it violates principles of human decency. Those tortured have subsequently been released or are languishing in unspeedy legal processes because our government refuses to try them, lest their cases fall apart. These are not the actions of a law based government or is the unlawful electronic surveilience. Nor are these actions Constitutional. Your personal actions, while no doubt legal, are not at issue here.

Zathras - "I just think that it's asking a lot of a private business to demand that it tell government agencies asking it to help stop another terrorist attack -- in some case mere weeks and months after the last one -- that it can't, because it disagrees with the government about the legality of what it's being asked to do." -

Ok, but many small telecoms did tell Bush "no" as did Qwest. If all the telecoms of all sizes in the entire country had done this, I MIGHT be willing to agree that the ones currently under litigation needed a waive. Since many looked and no thanks, I do not see how these few deserve this protection.

Posted by: Philip H. | June 20, 2008 2:41 PM

Shame on all who voted for this travesty.

Posted by: billsiarny | June 20, 2008 2:52 PM

If a police officer tells me to shoot an innocent person, should I be allowed to do it without fear of reprecussions? If a police officer asks me to break into someone's home? Or hack someone's email account? Why are the telcos any different?

Posted by: timbnyc | June 20, 2008 3:02 PM

the LAW is the LAW!!

equality under the LAW! Some said no... we should give them good citizen awards!

Posted by: tai hunter | June 20, 2008 3:03 PM

Can anyone post a list of who voted in favor of this? We should string these lickspittles up!

Posted by: tai hunter | June 20, 2008 3:08 PM

Maybe Carter should have taken a dump instead of dropping off that brown matter via the Intel Dump. Shame on you dems for backing down from your rightful position.

Posted by: Dudeinator | June 20, 2008 3:13 PM

I will not support any candidate for re-election who votes for this outragous legislation. Any Democrate who votes for this should run out of office.

Posted by: Bert Pace | June 20, 2008 3:13 PM

I say vote them ALL out. Congress hasnt worked for the American public for years now. They work for and do the bidding of the lobbyists. Both Democrats and Republican need to go. Let elect Nader and clean out all of the scum.

Posted by: Sonia Texas | June 20, 2008 3:13 PM

Seriously this is rediculous.

The list of who votes for this needs to get viral! Seriously youtube, email, phone calls.

Do not vote for anyone that votes for immunity. Especially if they are democrat.

We the people seriously need to take this country back and hold politicians accountable.

Posted by: Revolution | June 20, 2008 3:14 PM

SPREAD THE LIST OF WHOEVER VOTES FOR THIS

Posted by: Revloutions | June 20, 2008 3:16 PM

I am ashamed that this was passed in a Congress with a Democratic majority. In the next election cycle, many Democrats will be surprised when they are swept out with the Republicans. Those who do not uphold the Constitution have no right to sit in Washington's seats of representation.

Posted by: Glenn Wahl | June 20, 2008 3:16 PM

The problem with excusing this type of behavior because we are in a "period of national crisis" is that we are still in that period. A war against terrorism is never ending so by excusing this behavior now we are allowing the government to trample our rights indefinitely. Allowing private entities to break the law and get away with it because the white house asked them to do it is one step closer to tyranny.

Posted by: drywdragon | June 20, 2008 3:17 PM

What immunity from prosecution gets the Telecoms and the Administration is no discovery, but the sunshine of discovery is exactly what is needed in this case. I really don't care if the telecoms are fined for their law-breaking in this case. America just needs to know what happened.

Posted by: Clay Haapala | June 20, 2008 3:17 PM

What a shame, some Dems have joined hands with GOP to gut the 4th amend rt against police miscondut. A greatest check and balance against state brutality against its citizens is being flushed down the toilet by Dem collaborators. California wake up and get rid of Pelosi and Fienstien, they are sheep in wolf's clothing. No wonder, now China is telling how to run our democratic instituitions. I dont see any blog or mainstream media calling out the names of those Dems who are in cohoots with GOP in gutting this constitutional right of privacy. Is our nation evolving into a Soviet style system ? How double faced can our politicians be when they thrash other nations for lack of transparency and civil rights, while the very same politcians are eating at very foundations of our democracy.

All those Dems who voted for this draconian legislation gutting 4th and providing retroactive ( what a shame) immunity to telecoms ( with their money bags) in the middle of the night should be thrown out in the next election. Why dont I see an outrage from our so called leaders ? Are they such imbeciles who cannot see what is happening? Where is Obama on this, who knows something on 4th and right against unreasonable search and seizure??

Posted by: ramu1 | June 20, 2008 3:18 PM

DEMS & REPS SAME GANG
They stole elections, spy on us, invaded a country, killed millions, slurped up Iraqi oil(2 mil barrels a day), sold the service contracts of the oil to American Companies and the list goes on and onnnnn.

When we all realize that our country has long been out our(citizens) control.

We need a revolution, George Washington style!!!!!!!

Posted by: DEMS & REPS SAME GANG | June 20, 2008 3:18 PM

This is one case the corporations are the innocent, caught between the government and the law. That's scary enough. Bottom line. Every time we justify trouncing any civil liberty in the name of "security" the terrorists win! They don't need to blow us up, we'll gladly destroy everything that makes this country great all by ourselves.

Posted by: flaal | June 20, 2008 3:18 PM

It comes down to a very simple choice: when the government asks a company to do something, the decision as to its legality should be made by
1. the company's legal department, or
2. a judge
You appear to be saying 1. is the better choice. I think it should always come down to a judge.

A couple of other points:
-- When you write that there were "more than 40" lawsuits, it makes it seem like AT&T was being swarmed. There was the EFF's nearly 2 1/2 year long lawsuit: the other lawsuits had been moved to the same case.

-- The judge in that case, explaining why he didn't dismiss the case 2 years ago, said that AT&T couldn't "seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal"

In other words, yes, companies and people do have an obligation and responsibility to not obey orders simply on the say-so.

Decisions about surveillance are made by the government. But requests to see the warrants are made by people and companies.

Was the judge here wrong when he said they couldn't "seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal"?

Posted by: Kathryn | June 20, 2008 3:21 PM

1. Collusion of the Executive Branch.
2. Collusion of the Congress.
3. Collusion of the Telecom.
4. Downfall of the 4th Amendment.
5. The end of America as we knew it.

This bill does nothing for the American People of this United States other than to protect people and corporations -retro actively- agains high crimes against the people of the these United States.

Any ONE person who votes for this should be quickly shuttled out of office in the next election.

Posted by: goodogo | June 20, 2008 3:21 PM

This is why I no longer live in the United States. You're just beginning to learn what fascism is.

The common mentality -- and even the uncommon mentality -- in the United States has never even begun to consider that fascism doesn't NECESSARILY have to follow the very same hallmarks as past fascisms.

Here's one quick example. Burning books, in the current age, is not a necessary requirement of fascism, although many years ago it was. People in the United States don't read substantive books anymore, and do not discuss ideas. And, what's more, the major media and corporations -- with a wave of their cash flow -- can (and do) simply discredit anything they do not like. There is no need for censorship or burning books -- not in this age -- because the masses of non-thinking, common, average of the population the ideas are controlled, and those "in the know" who would expose

Posted by: Jan Klinghauer | June 20, 2008 3:22 PM

"Perhaps, just perhaps, what happened was the Dems stopped playing politics and actually read the classified documents, orders, etc given to NSA."

Yeah, these would be the same folks who made up weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so you could see why their reports should be believed.

Posted by: SenorPlaid | June 20, 2008 3:22 PM

To follow the law or not to follow the law...

The one thing that differienciates a developed country from a Banana Republic is the respect and enforcement of their laws.

Are we another Banana Republic?

Posted by: PAT | June 20, 2008 3:24 PM

We already have ex post facto application in Texas - anything can be made "legal" by stating that it is merely a change in "procedure". Read your books.

Posted by: Concerned | June 20, 2008 3:24 PM

Vote them all out. Heres the list for all those that asked.

http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll437.xml

Posted by: Real American | June 20, 2008 3:27 PM

Bush said "you are either with us or against us". Under his Enemy Combatant law, any of us could be picked up, whisked away without charge, with no right to council or phone call and held indefinitely. Since many Republicans and some Democrats running our gov believe it is cool to torture enemies to extract info and Bush already has old military barracks being turned into detention centers for an expected large influx of illegal immigrants...

The poster who thinks it okay to grant a pres supreme control in a "crisis" is why the US "of, for and by the people" is going bye, bye. It may have started when police killed war protesting students back in Kent State days...

Posted by: Mary CA | June 20, 2008 3:28 PM

bg,

Your analogy of this situation to your lack of understanding tax law is invalid. Self imposed ignorance is different than secrecy. If you want to learn about tax law, you can do so. If you want to know what laws the Bush administration has broken with thier illegal surveillance, you can not find this information. Congress has now created a blanket of fuzzy protection for those who have most likely broken several laws. You call what you have "trust". But I'd say it's much closer to blind faith. It was a republican (Reagan) that said "trust, but verify." We cannot verify, and that is the problem.

Posted by: Greg | June 20, 2008 3:28 PM

"To follow the law or not to follow the law...

The one thing that differienciates a developed country from a Banana Republic is the respect and enforcement of their laws.

Are we another Banana Republic?"

We became one years ago. And once Americans responded to September 11th by sacrificing their rights and freedoms for some transparent increase in security, we became a sorry one at that.

Posted by: Andy | June 20, 2008 3:32 PM

AGAIN our US congress is being Lead around by the White House!
This all started with the Passage of the so-called"Patriot Act".I have a new name for this "Act"-"Destruction of the US Constitution Act".This "act" has all but Voided the ENTIRE US CONSTITUTION!
This is what happens when a Governing Body passes legislation using trheir hearts instead of their heads!.This Act has literally Handed the Office of the President Dictorial Powers over thuis Nation and its People!(Read the" Rise History of the Third Reich"for a VERY Similar Scenario)..
CITIZENS of this Country-WAKE UP,Especially the Members of our Congress.Our US Congress has Given far too much Authority and Power to the Office of the President-AND THATS A FACT.

Posted by: Sherwin | June 20, 2008 3:33 PM

"...period of national crisis..."

Not quite. What it is called is fearmongering.

Bush has done his best to lie to the American people, and in this case Telecommunications companies, so he can push his agendas. Immunity deals are nothing less than asking forgiveness rather than permission.

Posted by: OverTheRiver | June 20, 2008 3:34 PM

Well, this is the day the USSA was born...kiss the USA goodbye.

Salute your rulers in Washington DC, click those heals together and shout a hearty HEIL BUSH!.

Posted by: cthings | June 20, 2008 3:35 PM

The representatives of the United States Government has sold out it citizens once again and shown the amassed corruption of it given power. Never again should this happen. The citizens of these great United States will send a clear message to our elected leaders. They have failed their fellow citizens and their oath to the U.S. Constitution.

Do not contact your local congressman or congresswoman. Let hear the silence before the storm. come November speak in once voice and vote every incumbent out of office for they have failed and provided a heavy burden on their fellow citizen. Never again give them the power.

To quote our Declaration Of Independence:
"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Posted by: Patriot | June 20, 2008 3:36 PM

Vote for Ron Paul in November, and strike a blow for freedom and the Constitution.

Posted by: Chris Coughlin | June 20, 2008 3:37 PM

Echoing Mr. Livingston's comment, Qwest balked at the request.

It's crucial that Telcos diligently review requests, why? They receive literally thousands of requests from munis, states, as well as the Fed. The burden is on both parties to ensure that warrants are valid, otherwise any agency could simply assert that we really need to do this.

Properly put, the administration's assertions mitigate but do not automatically absolve and keep in mind that every journalist, blogger, and Congress person is entirely in the dark as to what was actually done.

Is it the case that the administration simply asserted 'national security' plugged a cable into the backbone and began listening to and reading whatever they wanted? This is not far-fetched, based on the AT&T whistleblower it's the best we have. Is this the kind of privacy protection you feel comfortable with?

It's incredibly dangerous when a company required by law to protect your privacy elects, uses their own discretion, to ignore judicial review.

Posted by: Will | June 20, 2008 3:38 PM

And while I am at it...

We shall all be lucky enough to name one string "crimes against the American people" on the rope that hangs Mr. Bush for his war crimes.

Posted by: OverTheRiver | June 20, 2008 3:38 PM

So what I'm reading from this is that someone broke the law, someone who should have known they were breaking a law, and that no one will be punished. Maybe we should punish the telecoms, maybe not, but if we don't, then we really should punish the people who led them into breaking the law. I mean, what are laws for otherwise. They apply to everyone including the president, so some one should bear the responsibility of these decisions.

Posted by: ben | June 20, 2008 3:39 PM

Wake up, people. The Democrats are just another mask for the GOP. Voting one party out of power, and replacing it with its doppelganger isn't going to change anything.

Posted by: Thomas Mc | June 20, 2008 3:40 PM

What's next? Granting immunity to war criminals and anyone outing CIA operatives. Gee, now I feel safe! Might as well call it the United States of Congo.

What a joke! The Constitution has been killed by the Republicans; and the Democrats are all to eager to please by burying the corpse in a deep grave so that no one notices it went MIA on their watch.

Posted by: George from NY | June 20, 2008 3:42 PM

Regular readers of here:
Does Phillip Carter generally respond to comments or update his posts based on them?

PC: Again, if a company is asked by the government to do something that doesn't meet the usual standards a reasonable person expects (warrants, say), then the actual choice will be made by
1. the legal department or
2. a judge. Why would you prefer the legal department?

Posted by: Kathryn | June 20, 2008 3:44 PM

YOU SAY:

"""Decisions about surveillance are made by the government -- not the telecommunications companies. """

Huh?

No, the government consists of three branches. And the COURTS not the "GOVERNMENT" decide who, after a showing of probably cause, can be wiretapped. Your broadening it to "surveillance" is false. The government can surveil people without anything but once they tap phones they need probable cause approved by a Court.

Your astonishing lack of understanding the basic principles of the Constitution are frightening.

Two telecoms knew this was illegal and rightfully refused. If the Govt, you mean, Bush, wants to wiretap people, they should easily be able to establish PC for it.

Posted by: mottorama | June 20, 2008 3:44 PM

Law is a human institution, and as such is imperfect even at best. No matter how much we tweak it, it can never fully satisfy any one person all the time, and certainly not everyone all the time.

Even if we all agreed that our government should never again tap an overseas call, it would still be recorded by some entity we have little or no contol over. So start encrypting all your phone calls, you never know for sure who is listening. I bet even money Mossad records everything coming in or out of the middle east.

Posted by: Nathan | June 20, 2008 3:47 PM

People please, there's more important things to worry about. I don't really care if the government wants to listen to my phone calls and hear what I'm ordering for dinner.... know why? Because I'm not a terrorist and I'm not plotting illegal activity. Everyone cries about privacy and this and that.... well I'll happily give up my phone privacy if it helps keep our country safe.

Lets be educated human beings. I will happily join the consiracy theorists in resisting the governments actions WHEN the governments actions actually infringe on 'rights' of the 'people' that shouldn't be infringed upon. But listening to my phone conversations- please, listen all you want!

Posted by: Matt | June 20, 2008 4:02 PM

I can only hope the Senate filibusters this near abolition of the 4th amendment ... did the Minneapolis branch of the FBI need surveillance to know that one of the 9-11 hijackers was training to fly an airplane without landing? ... come on people, law enforcement by the books is what we need to catch terrorists ... if we throw out the Constitution in the process, they've won! FISA was considered a laughing stock back in 1978 by the way ... constitutional scholars thought it was a horrid mistake to cede authority to the excecutive branch for such surveillance ... now FISA is the gold standard from which we're departing. This administration is good at only one thing ... slowing lowering standards for civil liberties by gradually moving the goldposts in such a way as to seem 'reasonable' ... we're on our way to a police state that gives lip service to the constitutional privileges of our democracy, but secretly surveils dissident opinion for eventual elimination. Orwellian is only word that comes to mind ... God help us ...

Posted by: Felix Kos | June 20, 2008 4:09 PM

@ flaal. I couldn't have put it better. The plotters of 9/11 have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. One terrorist act (a flea-bite, really, with all respect to the dead), and OSB could just sit back and watch us sytematically dismantle everything that made this country a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." So true. Look what fear has done to my country! It helped to have a coward in the White House.

Posted by: Chip Gower | June 20, 2008 4:14 PM

"...I don't really care if the government wants to listen to my phone calls and hear what I'm ordering for dinner.... know why? Because I'm not a terrorist..."

Hmmmm I wonder if the Constitution means anything to some people. Apparently not, which is why we are in such a mess today.


Here are the words of another apologist who saw the light when it was too late:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


------

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security."

Posted by: George from NY | June 20, 2008 4:16 PM

Why get in a dither about what the Republicrates did? Bush would've/will hand out absolutions (ie pardons)like confetti.
Ron Paul's right. Ignor the media's bias and read up on his ideas for yourselves.

Posted by: Scalaway | June 20, 2008 4:20 PM

"Just following orders"

Has been used many times to justify all sorts of horrible actions. Its is not nor ever is it an excuse.

Posted by: T604 | June 20, 2008 4:20 PM

Wow. The left wing outrage on this compromise is incredible. If all of you really believe that your candidate Obama, if elected, will never cut FISA corners and otherwise act transparently all the time, then you are really, really naive.

Posted by: Rich | June 20, 2008 4:21 PM

You should not get away with breaking the law because one of your co-conspirators says its legal. Other telecoms declined to participate because their counsel said it was illegal.

This may not be the last word because this bill is unconstitutional. Should the federal courts see fit to uphold the constitution, the lawsuits will continue.

You are responsible for obeying the law, period.

Posted by: Greg | June 20, 2008 4:28 PM

Hitler's hench men consistently repeated that they were just following orders. That defense was overwhelmingly rejected at Nuremburg as the ex-Nazi's all swayed on their respective ropes. The leaders and their followers must be held accountable!

Posted by: Trust-No-Government | June 20, 2008 4:32 PM

Here's the list:
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll437.xml

I might add that this really makes no practical difference. Why? This government routinely violates the law. As such, it makes no difference what the law says. The only way to protect our privacy from political subversion is to employ technology to make interception impossible.

Posted by: Greg | June 20, 2008 4:33 PM

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security."

And how long ago did Ben write that? I love how people put words in our forefathers mouths pretending they know what their opinions would be if they were alive today.

In my opinion, i think Ben is rolling in his grave saying "when will these people start thinking for themselves and make decisions based on PRESENT day problems".

And I like how some would stereotype others. Just because I don't care if someone hears what I'm eating for dinner doesn't mean I don't care about the constitution. It just means that I have the ability to treat everything on a case-by-case basis.... you know, actually THINKING (try it if it doesn't give you a headache). A perfect example "Whats the difference between what the phone companies did and a police officer telling you to kill someone?".... whoever asked that should be ashamed if you don't know the answer.

Posted by: Matt again | June 20, 2008 4:46 PM

Well it does appear that the communist right has won the war for America. Little George Orwell Bush has done the previously impossible by imunizing himself from prosecution after the fact. How soon will he tell us that under the war powers act he intends to remain our savior for own good. Just an aside to this assinine nonsense, I wonder where this moron intends to refine all the oil he is going to allow his buds to pump since they claim to be at 97.7% capacity now????? I'm beginning to wonder if Bin Laden might be a better choice for the republican candidate, God only knows he's far smarter than Bush!

Posted by: anOPINIONATEDsob | June 20, 2008 4:57 PM

If any laws were broken, why are we giving rettoactive immunity to the telecoms?

If no laws were broken, why are we giving retroactive immunity to the telecoms?

Everytime this nation felt "threatened" and suspended the constitution, history has shown us that it was no necessary. For example the internment of Japanese American during WW2, the McCarthy hearings, and now this.

Our founding fathers fought so hard to protect us from government abuse such as spying. This is truly a sad day in our history. I hope that everyone who voted for this "compromise" will be properly recognized in the history books as were those who suspended our liberties in past.

Shame on our leaders!

Posted by: rudya | June 20, 2008 5:00 PM

Phil You are so wrong on this one. If they had any reasonable expectation that it was illegal, they should have refused. Didn't Quest refuse? Under your theory, any firm with a letter from the Justice department can circumvent my constitutional rights - the ultimate government of men

Posted by: Factory Rat | June 20, 2008 5:05 PM

Posted by: Chambeau | June 20, 2008 5:07 PM

Welcome to USSR replica 1972

Posted by: pavel | June 20, 2008 5:08 PM

Okay all you Dem haters out there... yeah it is pretty dispicable how they are folding...to the current administration, however who are they folding too? Repubs? I am guessing since you like to bash the Dems that your past few votes went to the guy that made this all possible... You wanted 4 more years well you got it you have some nerve to be complaining about it now..something to think about when you cast that vote for McSame.

Posted by: Anon | June 20, 2008 5:14 PM

This was the response i got from my House Rep. And my answer. She chose not write back before the vote.

Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite
wrote:
>
>
>
> Dear Timothy:
>
>
>
> Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. I appreciate the time you took to contact my office on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.
>
>
>
> As you know, a news leak revealed information about a classified National Security Agency (NSA) program for monitoring international communications without a warrant. However, you should know that this program does not allow the government to listen in on someone's conversation with Aunt Millie, or take notes on someone's Domino's Pizza order. Instead, it is specifically targeted toward terrorist communications.
>
>
>
> Since the announcement of this program, legal scholars, judges, and Members of Congress have vigorously debated the legality of warrantless monitoring and whether or not such monitoring should be pre-cleared by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court judges. Through this examination of FISA and the legality of foreign surveillance, officials have found circumstances in which current law will not allow the NSA to monitor phone calls placed by foreign individuals in foreign countries that are routed through U.S. communications systems without a warrant.
>
>
>
> To address this issue and other necessary updates to the 1978 FISA law, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced S. 1927, the Protect America Act of 2007. The bill clarifies that the NSA may monitor communications by individuals abroad. The Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence must first draft procedures to ensure that the surveillance is solely of foreign targets suspected of terrorist activity, and the FISA court must approve the procedures. The authority for warrantless surveillance expires in six months so that Congress may provide increased accountability by reviewing and reauthorizing the program in February of 2008.
>
>
>
> It is important to note that S. 1927 is not authorizing a new presidential power. The authority to use warrantless wiretapping predates the current Administration. President Clinton signed an executive order that authorized the Attorney General to conduct physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes without a court order, and President Carter signed an executive order that authorized the Attorney General to use electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order. The NSA surveillance program is not unprecedented, nor is it uncommon for Presidents to protect Americans in this manner.
>
>
>
> If the President were to stop monitoring communications of suspected terrorists, it would be a major threat to our national security. It would be irresponsible to allow suspected terrorists to operate in this country without attempting to thwart their operations. The safety and security of United States citizens prompted the President to use this avenue. Given that our country has gone six years without another attack, we should attribute some of that success to the NSA operation. Those who attack this operation are reckless partisans and should know better. They are putting political gain ahead of the security of this nation.
>
>
>
> To that end, I voted in favor of S. 1927 on August 4, 2007. The Senate likewise passed the legislation, and the President signed it into law on August 5.
>
>
>
> Throughout my tenure in public service, I have always kept an open door and an open dialogue with my constituents. As Congress addresses the many challenges facing our nation, I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and views with me. Accordingly, I encourage you to visit my website at http://brown-waite.house.gov to email me and find useful information about our 5th Congressional District.
>
> It is my honor and privilege to serve the people of Florida's 5th Congressional District and my offices and staff are here to provide you with any assistance you may need.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Ginny Brown-Waite
> Member of Congress
>
Precedence for it in the past only means that our government has disregarded the Constitution for a long while now. Congressional approval at the same time, implies the same for he House and Senate. A lie told over and over again, may in fact become the accepted, this however does not negate the fact that it was a lie to start with. If all was done "legally" as you imply, there would be no need for Telecom immunity. Immunity in itself implies wrong doing, awarded to those who commit actions outside the law, which the offending party does not want to be held accountable, in favor of a certain outcome, usually not in favor, of a party or parties. The fact that a communication that originates from a foreign place does in no way negate my privacy and protections as a U.S. citizen afforded in the Constitution. After all not all American citizens ' Aunt Millie', as you put it, are American citizens or even in your 'down the road' scenario.. As soon as the communication reaches an American server, it is the property of the recipient. and therefore falls under the due processes guaranteed under the Constitution to the citizen. An American has the right to read their communication from ' Aunt Millie', as you put it, before it is sifted through, by a government entity, regardless of it's origin.

Furthermore you assertion that,' Those who attack this operation are reckless partisans and should know better', and is an insult directed at me personally and others that feel the same as I do.. I do not deserve that, nor does any one else, simply because they disapprove. 'They are putting political gain ahead of the security of this nation.' I have no political gains or aspirations except the hope that 'liberty' and 'freedom', the very values of our countries founding are preserved for all of us. I expected a sincere response not a motherly chastising.


Posted by: Timmy | June 20, 2008 5:17 PM

Wouldn't it be nice if government's democracy was more like the free market?

Imagine, anytime you get tired of your representative, you choose a new one to give your support to. When these representatives went to congress, they would carry not the weight of every person living in some arbitrary geographical district, but of the number of real citizens anywhere in the country who signed on with them. When they would vote in Congress, each rep's vote would carry the relative weight of their number of supporters in relation to the other reps, instead of each having only one equal vote.

For example. I live in Pittsburgh, and am represented by Mike Doyle. But what if I disagree with him on the issues? Am I still well-represented? What if I can move, VIRTUALLY, to the representative who I DO feel represents my values? I might give my support to Dr. Paul, who was born in Pittsburgh, but represents a Texan district now. A democrat in DeLay's former district might have removed their support and lent it to their favorite Dem.

Why do we assume that geography means more than philosophy? Why do we still pretend that it does? Isn't that what our local and state governments are for?

Or maybe, we should remove the federal government's jurisdiction over any citizen, since their proper domain is inter-STATE issues.

Back on topic, I just don't understand why a warrant isn't good enough, but that implied consent is necessary, for the government to do its job. If something is too secret for a secret judge, then its too secret.

If Qwest knew it, the others should have known it too. But since the Fed has f***ed up the economy already, we can hardly afford to let our massive communications companies pay for their crimes. Their value might fall, further wrecking the overinflated stock market. So to prevent too much change, we're gonna let all these bad actors get away with it for now. I mean forever.

Posted by: Richard | June 20, 2008 5:18 PM

Constitution?

We don' need no stinkin' Constitution.

Posted by: Amgems | June 20, 2008 5:19 PM

Matt:

"...I don't really care if the government wants to listen to my phone calls and hear what I'm ordering for dinner.... know why? Because I'm not a terrorist..."

But I'm willing to bet that at some point you've had an opinion contrary to someone in power. Say, a local town councilman.

So let's say you're venting your spleen about this terrible decision (and it is a terrible decision; the councilman's as corrupt as they come) on the phone one night.

And the councilman has compelled the phone companies to listen in to all conversations in town... "to protect against terrorism."

And he hears you venting. And the next day there's a housing inspector at your door, checking to see if your pipe fittings are to code. And the day after that your permit to add a deck is denied. And the day after that your car is towed, though you only missed the meter by five minutes. When you get your car back, you're pulled over and ticketed for doing 26 in a 25, and arrested for reckless endangerment of the kid walking along the sidewalk holding hands with his mom.

That's the equivalent of what "our" representatives are authorizing here. Substitute "President" for "Councilman" and "Head of Greenpeace" or "Head of NRA" or "Famous Influential Actor" for you.

The point isn't to strip elected officials of the power to act on our behalf; it's to make sure that they do so within the bounds of the law. The phone companies here acted extralegally--and every one of them has lawyers enough to know that they were doing so. And even if they didn't--even if they believed wholeheartedly that they were doing something legal--it's been proven again and again that ignorance of the law is no excuse for its violation.

Posted by: jp | June 20, 2008 5:25 PM

It's summer time and the hope is that the nation is not paying attention to this sell out. Once again our elected representatives have sold out this country to corporate interests. Despite what they all claim to the contrary, Republicans and Democrats alike respond to the greased hand quicker than a higher moral authority.

Posted by: Harvey | June 20, 2008 5:25 PM

"Does anyone honestly believe that a professional military officer such as the Director of the NSA would allow such obviously illegal and unethical nonesense?"

bg, why should the Dir of NSA even have to know about it? The beauty of Cheney's system is that the really dirty work can be done by "private entities". . . $42 Billion and counting of the US Intel budget being spent on private companies. . . Just call Blackwater, they'll get the job done, that is provided it has sanction from "the highest levels" . . .

Posted by: seydlitz89 | June 20, 2008 5:34 PM

If we allow companies to get away with the "just following orders" defense, we only encourage them to do illegal things and are, in essence, BEGGING the government to abuse its power because we remove any pretense that the voters have any say in this.

I'm disgusted by this "compromise" because it is a compromise of principle. If they want us to vote Democrat because we're mad at the Republicans, they shouldn't be rolling over and surrendering to the Repugs!

Posted by: Joe | June 20, 2008 5:36 PM

What kind of country are we living in? We're acting like the Soviet Union now?

Our elected "representatives" should be ashamed of themselves (again). If I had a $1 for everytime I've said THAT the past 8 years.

I actually think the Dems may be more culpable than the Repubs on this one. They talk about how heinous Bush and his cronies have been and how we need to get back to our principles under the Constitution.

Then they sign on to this lunacy?

Posted by: WTF | June 20, 2008 5:40 PM

'Educated' Matt thinks giving up his privacy will protect him.

HA! It sounds like he thinks he's safer with a secretive, unaccountable government, than his own right to privacy.

Oh, what education! That must have been paid for by government, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2008 5:40 PM

This is clearly a case of political blackmail being carried out. I would be willing to bet that the Bush administration had signaled, in no uncertain terms, that they were prepared to name names of all the Democrats that went along with him when this crime was initially committed. You have got to give it to Rove and company--they laid one hell of a trap. This was the same type of methodology employed when the Iraqi War resolution came into existence.

Dem's in the House caved to prevent their support from being publicized. I hope that it is GOD's will that the Senate will somehow not follow suit!!

I am not proud of this country or it's highest governmental institutions. I am a veteran who has earned the right to criticize. Armageddon is at our door!!

PS: I called Pelosi's office and got through on the first ring--scary!!

Posted by: Michael_in_Atlanta | June 20, 2008 5:41 PM

It is not true that the telecom companies had little or no choice. The proof is that one company refused to carry out this illegal activity, and you can't have any better proof than that. Anyone following this story knows this, so shame on the author for spreading what he must know is a lie and using it to justify his opinion that these lawbreakers should be protected retroactively from punishment for their crimes.

In case he needs a reminder, it was Qwest who refused, in February 2001. This also proves that the excuse that the illegal wiretaps were done as a response to 9/11 is another lie. It has nothing to do with protecting us, everything to do with protecting those in power.

Posted by: Brian | June 20, 2008 5:45 PM

Matt, don't you think a court should also be able to judge these actions on a case-by-case basis, just like you? Why give them blanket immunity? Do you think its a power that's impossible to abuse?

Posted by: Richard | June 20, 2008 5:45 PM

This bill if it becomes law is in opposition to and nullifies Article 9 of the Constitution which prohibits ex post facto bills by Congress. But destroying our Constitution, article by article, amendment by amendment, this the modus operandi of this administration and this Congress and the neocons. The Patriot Act nullified the Fourth Amendment, the Military Commissions Act nullified the Fifth Amendment. In fact, the whole purpose of the last eight years of both the Bush administration its enablers in our supine Congress has been to subvert and destroy our basic American founding principles and values and morph our constitutional form of democratic republic into a tyrannical dictatorship - tyranny is what this nation was created to oppose. And stop calling these acts of treason against our freedoms "compromises" and "deals." It amounts in total to the death of our form of government.

Posted by: lorax2 | June 20, 2008 5:48 PM

My only hope, is that this will be revisited, if Senator Obama becomes Pres, with a larger majority in Congress/Senate.
I won't hold my breath, though.
This country is getting scarily close, to one Mussolini would be proud of.
Viva la Plutocracy/Corporatocracy!!!

Posted by: jon | June 20, 2008 5:52 PM

BTW, everyone knows that NSA can ask for a FISA warrant up to 72 hours after the surveillance actually begins, right? So its not like they need the warrant first, they just need to get it to cover their butts. Correction: USED to need to get a warrant, within 72 hours after actually beginning surveillance.

Posted by: Richard | June 20, 2008 6:01 PM

I am normally a calm, reasoned individual with only a passing interest in politics. This bill, this administration, these people who are systematically crushing the most thoughtful, well designed government in the history of mankind, these things have spawned a seething anger within me that, at times, make me consider the possibility of an armed revolution, as some have suggested here. A revolution, not to remove a government, but to restore it, or at least restore the sound principles on which it was originally built. Having just re-read the Federalist Papers, I can tell you that one of those principles (perhaps the most fundamental) is systematic, institutionalized *distrust* of the federal government. That's the reason we have three branches, and the reason the president is not the king. Perhaps, before we get all the way to revolution, it would make more sense to convene another constitutional convention, bring in a few smart non-politicos and reimagine the American government for the 21st century. Oh, but first, let's throw out all the weak-minded weasels in Congress who voted for this bill.

Posted by: Duttonator | June 20, 2008 6:04 PM

No one who enters into power will ever willingly give it up, as long as it benefits him to retain it.

If Obama is elected, he will use this power, too.

Posted by: Richard | June 20, 2008 6:04 PM

We have become a nation so afraid of speaking the truth because we are fearful of being put in jail or tortured in some remote part of the world. We as Americans won't utter any decent against out government because of what will happen to us.

After reading "the Trial of Henry Kissinger" by Christopher Hitchens I'm convinced that we have become a nation involved in secret acts and divisive means. We have men and women in government who will stop at nothing to control power and will destroy anyone who stands in their way. Our war in Iraq is a prime example of this.

Americans moan about the economy, but the underlying reason for our collapse is the war in Iraq. Spending trillions on a war that was not justified, didn't protect the American way of life and has caused us more grief than gain.

Americans have taken their eye of the ball and are preoccupied with finger waving while the thief in the street takes our wallets out of our pockets.

For years the Bush administration has waved their fingers in our face to distract us with, "orange" alerts, imminent terrorism attacks, needed wire tapping, and surveillance on American citizens. And we have lost our wallets and our self respect in the process.

All this while over 4,000 men and women have died, gas prices soared, and the economy tanked.

Wake up America! Wake up and get to work on fixing your nation, this is as important as any ride Paul Revere made, your nation is being taken over and you need to make it stop!

Posted by: FedUp | June 20, 2008 6:10 PM

this just proves the point that the Bush administration has forced Congress to submit to their will, otherwise they will start fear mongering. I can remember not too long ago hearing reports about the color-coded threat-level all the time before the 2004 election. And they want to do it again so the Republicans can win the White House again to hide their misdeeds. Too bad McCain is a hunchback who could never beat Obama in a presidential race. Bush better be prepared for trial, because Obama is going to clean up his mess and put him where he belongs.

Posted by: patrick | June 20, 2008 6:14 PM

This legislation is your Congress in action, or inaction. Or even indifference since these senators and representatives aren't subject to the same laws as everyone else--apparently. The President could be the dirtiest mafioso ever to terrorize the nation, but it is Congress and only Congress that is allowing him to do so.

Ask yourselves this: Disregarding so-called party affiliations, is this government--the Congress, the President, the Supreme Court--ever simply going to stop abridging our rights?

Who or what agency or department in this government, once given a facet of power over the People has ever given it back?

Don't try to tell me that Oblama will or McCain will, or the Democrats will or the Republicans will. The two party system is simply, for all intents and purposes, two sides to a very bad penny.

Now, can we just proceed to consider what we as Americans truly have to do to get back to the nation our Forefathers envisioned when they wrote the Constitution that EVERYONE in government ignores, or should we just roll over into Facism? The writing's on the wall and all the talk in the world won't change that.

I am sick and tired of waiting for a majority of this nation to wake up and act versus talking endlessly about (insert your favorite civil rights issue here). If you prefer to remain sheep baa, baa, baaing between yourselves instead of emulating the example our forefathers set in establishing this once-great nation, please let me know. Then I can either leave the country for some other where I can watch Freedom's demise from afar or simply save myself the heartache and put the gun to my head, because as a staunch American and a Patriot, if all we're ever going to do is talk, talk, talk about patching this obviously broken and failed system like our worthless politicians, then I don't see much hope for America's future.

Posted by: M.L. Bushman | June 20, 2008 6:27 PM

Greg and seydlitz,

I just want to give you two props, of the many responses to my post, yours were the most reasonable. Most of the responses are justifiably angry people who don't want to debate anymore. Once we lose control of our emotions, we lose control of our reason and become hopeless biased. This doesn't make for meaningful or useful debate.

Here is my question to Greg. Your point is well taken, a public tax code is not the same as an official secret. How do we keep secrets then? Let's forego the pointless argument of whether or not the government should be allowed to keep secrets at all, let's just assume that will not change. So how do we keep secrets and still have a satisfactory system of oversight? The current system is your elected officials. What other system do you recommend?

seydlitz, the DIRNSA is responsible for all communications intelligence in the US Govt. You can find several declassified documents explaining this relationship. If there is a freelance organization (contractor) conducting COMINT for the government without the approval of the DIRNSA, then that organization is illegal anyway.

My point regarding the DIRNSA was that no DIRNSA would allow the nation's communications intelligence to be used for partisan politics or "domestic political subversion", as implied in above statements.

Posted by: bg | June 20, 2008 6:34 PM

Sick, Sick, Sick, Sick. The corporations and our current government are one and the same. Our founders policies of non-interventionism in foreign affairs need to be looked at again. Some of the other comments to this article give me hope for change, while others scream out, please abuse my rights, pull the wool over my eyes and most importantly steal all of my earnings. I don't think it is fully understood that there a price to freedom, and that price is that there is no way we can legislate our safety. Yes there are some sick bastards in the world, but don't take away my god given rights under the guise of creating safety for us all, because safe is the last thing a free society will ever be.

Posted by: john | June 20, 2008 6:36 PM

The Democrats sell out again. I can't believe I voted for some of these wimps. They finally get the majority and this is the pathetic result.

Posted by: Jack Straw | June 20, 2008 6:38 PM

FDC, of course I regard you in that list of constructive responses as well. (didn't want to slight you).

Philip H, just saw your reply, it is getting hard to keep up today. I agree with you, trust is a serious issue. I think your point about who should shoulder the blame is in line with Phil C's argument.

If you are the phone company, and the government comes to you asking for help, and the legality of the action is assured (by the very executor of the laws), I think the phone company was just trying to do the right thing and should not be punished. If you are going to punish someone, punish those who convinced the phone companies that their actions in support of the government were legal.

Posted by: bg | June 20, 2008 6:43 PM

bg-

Thanks for your response, I hope everything is fine with you.

"seydlitz, the DIRNSA is responsible for all communications intelligence in the US Govt."

You're right, but he also answers to the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) who is Mike McConnell who was former COB of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance which is the private spooks's trade association . . . the way this system is set up imo is to allow massive use of intelligence assets directed at the American people with little or no oversight or accountability . . . in other words a system ripe for misuse/abuse.

Posted by: seydlitz89 | June 20, 2008 6:59 PM

"Therefore any assertion that political enemies of Bush are being spied on implies that U.S. Service members are complicity involved.

Does anyone honestly believe that a professional military officer such as the Director of the NSA would allow such obviously illegal and unethical nonsense?"

I think Smedley Butler would pipe up here that professional military officers have been doing our country's dirty work for a long time. Military and intelligence officers have been doing their Prince's dirty work since before there WAS an America. Do I think that a green ID card and a red-blooded love of apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet make our military and intelligence professionals somehow immune to praetorianism?

I'm not going to pretend we don't need spies. But I can't pretend that it's a good thing to let the spies decide who to spy on, or to let politicians tell the spies who to spy on, without very, VERY careful, judicious oversight. And this piece of...legislation...pretty much decides that whatever the government says was legal WAS legal. A very injudicious way to oversee spying.

And, more to the point, what's the "problem" we're fixing here? A small gaggle of suits that attempt, not to stop the spying, but merely to discover who was being spied on and why.

So my thought would be if the choice has to be between letting the lawsuits proceed to discovery versus quashing them forever...why be in a hurry to quash them? ISTM that the way to proceed here is to let the already established legal process proceed. Time enough to shut these lawsuits down IF they stand to reveal anything deadly dangerous to intel collection. But if these suits turn on an issue of intel techniques versus constitutional lawbreaking, do we do ourselves any favors by preemtively pulling a curtain on them and leaving everyone outside the intel community in the dark?

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 7:10 PM

Just how far should the government be allowed to extend immunity to third parties for following executive orders? When President Mugabe orders his thugs to butcher political opposition, should the killers be protected because of who gave the order? No power grabbing executive should be given authority to protect his illegal directives by an automatic grant of immunity. This is America. Nobody is supposed to be above the law or to be able to create his own law on the fly. This extraordinarily bad policy has now been endorsed by a wimpy House.

Posted by: steve | June 20, 2008 7:15 PM

Bg: "Does anyone honestly believe that a professional military officer such as the Director of the NSA would allow such obviously illegal and unethical nonsense?"

You mean because he's a general or an admiral, we can trust him? C'mon, Bg. The answer to your question is "Yes." Big time.

More Bg: "My point regarding the DIRNSA was that no DIRNSA would allow the nation's communications intelligence to be used for partisan politics or "domestic political subversion", as implied in above statements."

Bg, you're a field grader now, aren't you? Time to leave Pollyanna behind, I'd say, and start really thinking these things through. DIRNSAs have violated the law before. That's well documented.

Further, you might wish to consider that the DNI and the Director, CIA, are both "professional military officers"; both also have a great deal to do with NSA operations. Unfortunately, it seems we're hearing a little bit these days about a certain intelligence agency not following either international or U.S. law WRT to its operations--based on a so-called get-out-of-jail card from the president. We've also seen some evidence of similar behavior from your own branch, so one wonders why you would so casually write off the possibility that the DIRNSA might break the law.

As a veteran of the Church committee days, I can attest to how easily one can fall into the trap of following orders from higher authority. Oh, boy, can I. My advice to you is to know the laws and follow them, regardless of what General Hoof and Mouth may order. Oh, and don't trust General Hoof and Mouth; he may well be jockeying for a political job in this brave new world of ours. He's not your friend.

Insofar as the Dems are concerned, I've written this crowd off. They are every bit as bad as the Republicans. I will spend my remaining days on this earth trusting no one in any political office. And also taking extreme defensive actions when it comes to my family and my money.

Our government has forfeited the right to any trust from the citizenry.

Matt: "People please, there's more important things to worry about. I don't really care if the government wants to listen to my phone calls and hear what I'm ordering for dinner.... know why? Because I'm not a terrorist and I'm not plotting illegal activity. Everyone cries about privacy and this and that.... well I'll happily give up my phone privacy if it helps keep our country safe."

Fatuous. Unintelligent. Unamerican.

Posted by: Publius | June 20, 2008 7:15 PM

Barack Obama is moving to the center, and House Democrats CANNOT deliver on ANY promises they made to their voters in order to win back Congress!

Posted by: KYJurisDoctor | June 20, 2008 7:18 PM

"If you are going to punish someone, punish those who convinced the phone companies that their actions in support of the government were legal."

But...if you simply allow the suits to be quashed, you will never know who these people are, what they said, or why.

This just seems to buttress my initial instinct, which is that the real issue here is "what is the most beneficial legal approach to the problem of intelligence collection versus public safety?"

If the lawsuits are allowed to proceed, there is a CHANCE that sensitive techniques and tactics may be revealed.

If the lawsuits are quashed, it is a CERTAINTY that we will never know any more about this program, including who was being investigated.

And as I was writing this, bg, I thought of an analogy for this as per your tax code one. I see this as rather as akin to the damn "No Fly" list that DHS has cultivated that catches two dozen Ted Kennedys and Mary Jo Rottencrotches along with Ali ben Kaboom. There's no oversight, there's no check and balance, and once you're caught on it, it's a freaking Kafka nightmare you can't get loose of.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2008 7:23 PM

BG said:
"....no DIRNSA would allow the nation's communications intelligence to be used for partisan politics or "domestic political subversion"

BG, Donnervetter!!!!! a former DIRNSA, is now the chieftain (DIRINT) of another self licking ice cream cone of an intel (insert irony here) entity...the mother ship, actually. This hack constantly appears in front of congress, telling them that failure to sign off on all of the NCA's requests, vis-a-vis COMINT, will mean our fine young troops will die in greater numbers.

We are supposed to take this idiot's word on this (filtered through our Congresscritters). The congresscritters themselves (with the exception of four of them) don't even have the clearances to hear the whitewashed nuts and bolts explanations of what is being done. Small surprise, since a minority of said maggots could not be sufficiently motivated to read even the executive summary of the 2002 Iraq NIE, spewed out by Tennet, much less the entire text. Tellingly, Tennet's nuts had to be put in a vise by former Sen. Graham (fl) to produce an au courrant version, since the former tried to get the House and Senate to vote on war powers with the previous, aged NIE.

So in closing BG, I believe DIRNSA's and DIRINT's now engage in "domestic political subversion." It is not as sinister as it sounds however, since getting anything over on this Congresscritterish Ship of Fools, takes almost no effort, since they will fold like a house of cards.....an apt analogy which can be likened to our past form of government.

Posted by: Fasteddiez | June 20, 2008 7:25 PM

The Democratic leadership has lost my support with this maneuver. It is Congress that is the only branch of the government that has the authority and ability to check a President; the courts will almost always defer out of cowardice, usually by labeling a dispute a "political question" that it cannot adjudicate. A Democratic Congress has now repeatedly passed a law that it claims it doesn't really want. When the first FISA revision passed, Democratic leaders said they didn't like it but the law had a sunset provision and when it expired, they'd pass a good law. What happens? This happens. Again and again, this Democratic Congress passes laws that it claims not to like: the Patriot Act, the torture bill, the military tribunal bill and now FISA. It begs the question why it keeps on passing laws it doesn't like.

Speaker Pelosi's performance has been especially shameful. She claims the major achievement of this bill is that it contains an exclusivity provision that makes clear this law is the only avenue through which surveillance can take place. As Pelosi well knows, the last law has the very same exclusivity provision. It wasn't the absence of an exclusivity provision that was the problem; the problem was that President Bush ignored it under his claim that the President has an inherent constitutional power that supersedes any statutes. In other words, this so-called new exclusivity provision does NOTHING to actually deal with President Bush's constitutional claim. Its so-called exclusivity isn't worth the paper its written on. Speaker Pelosi knows this yet she has the gall to claim this mumbo-jumbo nonsense is some kind of victory of achievement.

That's it, I'm done with the Democratic Party. I see no point in supporting a party so afraid and incapable of acting as a check on executive power. Shameful constitutional capitulation and a stupid politics.

Posted by: no_more | June 20, 2008 7:27 PM

In happier news, the Minitrue print sources and telescreens continue to conceal Oceania's new Miniluv FUSION CENTERS http://www.aclu.org/privacy/gen/32966pub20071205.html, where Miniluv will work hand in hand with federal and local thought police, Oceania's Homeland Security thought police, Blackwater, Corpos and the National guard. Now that the forth Amendment is dead, the historic merger of Federal and State forces will be used to collect thought-crime dossiers on all Oceania's Proles and Outer Party Members, to be used (only if needed) to root out dissenters, liberals, anti-war, er... I mean, anti-PEACE activists, sympathizers, union organizers, and green-party enviro-terrorist thought criminals. The enforcement model follows the secret surveillance model which the School or the Americas, er... I mean the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" - used in Chile, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, only now it will be applied to domestically. The secret Charters include the requirement that all FUSION CENTERS may not respond to Prole's Freedom of Information Requests, so renditions, extended stays of interrogation disappearances and gravesites and interrogators will never be reported by Minitrue or Miniluv.

Miniplenty also reports that the four Big Oil companies, who met with Mr. O'Brian in January of 2001 , and for whom our glorious army recently fought the war with Iraq, er, I mean Eurasia, will be given no-bid contracts to pump oil. The four Big Oil Companies deserved no-bid contracts because they had their property stolen from them 36 years ago. The new oil wells should reduce the $5.00 a gallon oil prices set by Big Oil to $17.00 a gallon by 2030, unless Miniplenty, Big Brother, the Inner Party, and Big Oil reach some higher agreement. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/world/middleeast/19iraq.html?hp.
We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia.

The "two minutes hate" against Emmanuel Goldstein, I mean Osama Bin Laden, will begin at 2:00. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,544921,00.html

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength. Today is April 4, 1984. It has always been April 4, 1984.

Posted by: You_are_now_living_in_a_fascist_fuedalistic_surveillance_banana_republic_terrorist_police_state. | June 20, 2008 7:28 PM

"Fatuous. Unintelligent. Unamerican."

Sweet. On time, on target. Boom, baby.

A battalion six from the old Intel weenie.

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 7:33 PM

What does it look like when the world's only super power aggressively invades sovereign nations, adopts a policy of torture, and asserts that presidential authority trumps the Constitution?

It could never happen here, right?

My advice to all other countries is to arm yourself with nukes as fast as possible.

My advice to citizens of this country is to sharpen your pitchforks.

Posted by: KAckermann | June 20, 2008 7:40 PM

publius-

"Fatuous. Unintelligent. Unamerican."

Agree with FDC as usual, but your comments in fact label sooo much. . . What happened to our Republic?

Posted by: seydlitz89 | June 20, 2008 7:47 PM

that obama voted for this leaves me with only one thing to say to him, give me back my money and one thing to say about him, that is if he thinks he can monitor the behavior of the security freeks from the white house he is as naive as the clinton's maintained. what a disappointment, but then only a fool hopes for change in this system and there were warning signs. i once got an e mail from obama that said that good ideas could come from outside of the belt way. okay. so i googled good ideas beltway and , well i'm sure you know what came up. i have Fourth obama to be as closed to content as any other of the majors, his programs offer more of the same but with variations like he's go after afghanistan and get out of iraq!!! these people just don't get it and the it is that the muslim countries will never accept christan armies on their soil. christan armies on muslim soil is the only thing that has ever served to unit them and the presence of our armies in their lands may create a major problem not only in the muslim lands but in this country. the muslims are not the viet cong and they will carry the battle to this country and if the Israelis can't stop them with as little territory as they have, how will we. the whole thing is a battle that shouldn't be fought, can't be won and will end up with the establishment of the United Police States of America. this vote is a step in that direction and the support of obama for it bodes not change but more of the same. i have spamed him.
www.saintpeterii.com

Posted by: saint peter II | June 20, 2008 7:58 PM

The secret government needs your phone line for its infinite war. There can be no rights until all the bad guys are taken care of. They define the war, the enemy, the victory as ambigously as possible, while they loot your 401k, destroy your currency, and steal your Constitutional rights. You all just sit there and watch it, like sheep watching the wolf eat your herd. You pay these fools top dollar with your hard earned income, you give them retirement benefits of a King, you give them pensions and limitless health benefits and they give you the shaft.

Will you ever wise up? If you do will it be too late? You have less than a week to stop this travesty or else the whole country begins to crumble. The smart and the rich will move out of this country and we will become the nation of the stupid, the poor and the hostile belligerent bullies that rule us.

wake up or die

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2008 8:02 PM

"What happened to our Republic?"

"As long as the imperium of the Roman people was maintained by conferring benefits rather than inflicting harm, our wars were waged either on behalf of our allies or to uphold our imperium, and their conclusion was either moderate or no harsher than necessary. The Senate was a haven of refuge for kings, cities and tribes, while our magistrates and commanders sought the height of glory in one thing only, the protection of the provinces and allies by treating them fairly and responsibly. Therefore in those days we might more accurately be said to have exercised a guardianship over the whole world than imperium. Gradually, however, even before Sulla's time, we began to loosen the old standards of behavior and morality, and after his victory we gave them up altogether. For no act against the allies seems any longer to be unjust after such violence was perpetrated against our fellow citizens."

Cicero

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 8:09 PM

"What happened to our Republic?"

"I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do,"

Senator Kit Bond, today

That's what happened.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2008 8:29 PM

"I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do,"

Sen. Kit Bond

"I will spend my remaining days on this earth trusting no one in any political office. And also taking extreme defensive actions when it comes to my family and my money. Our government has forfeited the right to any trust from the citizenry."

Publius

"We. Are. So. F-ckin'. F-cked."

FDChief

Posted by: FDChief | June 20, 2008 8:31 PM

What gives me a smile: reading these posts, and noting their intelligence, thoughtfulness, insight.
With an educated electorate, all things can change. FYI: I've learned Obama's office has been deluged with emails and phone calls; he may be making a statement yet tonight as a result.
I personally emailed him and suggested he was fast becoming "the same old same old," losing his boldness along the way. Yet also encouraged him to get back to what he started, in the way he started it. (Sometimes kind words can help while still holding accountability.)
I also emailed Feingold and Dodd, thanking them for their statements and suggesting filibuster, called my wonderful representative Ellison to thank him for his "Nay" vote (the one and only Muslim in Congress, btw, and doing an outstanding job), and contacted both of my senators encouraging them to vote against.
Finally, I emailed Pelosi with the latest Gallup info:
"Just 12% of Americans express confidence in Congress, the lowest Gallup has measured for any institution in the 35-year history of the confidence in institutions question." Gallup, June 20, 2008
This democracy stuff...takes involvement. I've decided to once again start doing my part.
Again, thanks to the commenters here for their incredible analyses. Truly, this is what will "shift" things. (It's not going to be the politicians. It's going to be...us.)

Posted by: Barbyrah | June 20, 2008 8:46 PM


The bottom line here is that Bush is just getting a pass on every crappy thing he's ever done. The fact is that the legislature is utterly craven in the face of his criminal activity. FISA is just part of the package.

The lesson here is that for the GOP it's fine to lie about nuclear weapons, but it is not ok to lie about extramarital sex.

Posted by: Nym | June 20, 2008 10:02 PM

Power rules and obviously our government is heavily into power. The people of the United States do not matter to our so-called leaders and if anyone thought Obama was going to change anything they are a fool. I long ago decided not to be afraid anymore. Government be dam*ed.

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2008 10:11 PM

And as far as oil prices, the real issue not being addressed which is the artificial inflation of oil prices that have been hiked up due to oil speculators, and why would this be? Can you ask one thing and that is who in our government has stock in oil? Hmm wonder if they'll get the memo to sell oil stock whenever the bubble bursts?

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2008 10:14 PM

I liked the above post, which would I rather have, a president that received oral sex or a government with a general disregard of it's people and looks at them as tools to be used even to the points of losing their life in a war, their income and their privacy and constitutional rights?
I guess it's a matter of priorities...

Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2008 10:17 PM

How is this any different than Chavez restructuring the Venezuelan Spy agencies to do his bidding. The democrats are either dopes or just un-American. The Republicans are just criminals.

Posted by: GULAG | June 20, 2008 10:54 PM

Before we go off half-cocked, has anyone who has posted here ever tried to initiate a FISA motion? It is unbelievably difficult, requires a preponderance of the evidence (typically targeted is reasonable doubt) and requires a horrendous amount of paperwork. So by legitimizing this practice brings it out into the open, puts more checks on the system and will be ultimately beneficial to the intelligence community as a whole. To get a FISA court in session requires ALL ducks to be squarely in a row. FISA judges are also very well versed in the law of the land and typically are some of the US Federal Government's finest attorneys and judges. I think that while we have not reached the final solution, this is a step in the right direction.

Posted by: S | June 20, 2008 11:18 PM

Funny.... "Fatuous. Unintelligent. Unamerican."

Yea, you have me pinned. I'm un-American because I believe that we have bigger things to worry about in this country than someone listening to our dinner plans.

Get a clue and post an intelligent response with some meaning. Must be an "Obama" supporter since your responses have no substance; just open ended stereotyping comments.

Posted by: Matt | June 21, 2008 12:04 AM

First, consider all the high crimes and misdemeanors by the the Fascist Criminal Enterprise of "Thing" cheney and his puppet "Thing" bush. Now, why would any Congress, any individual,or any peoples give anything to these Fascists. Reward the miserable failure criminal mis-administration and they will think there are no stop signs and they can do as they damn well please.

Posted by: ghostcommander | June 21, 2008 1:35 AM

Wake up people this is America moving closer to a police state. Fascism is here in America and will only get much more worse!

We continue to send the same Douchebag's back to Congress only for them to continue to screw the American citizens over. Once again the American citizens have just been bent over, one more time to take it up their A**!

"Those who would trade their freedom for their protection deserve neither"-Benjamin Franklin

This illegal intrusions on our Constitutionally protected rights. Are the majority of American's really this ignorant? Our founding fathers of this country would all be calling us weaklings and COWARDS for not standing up and fighting this.

Posted by: Ashamed | June 21, 2008 2:10 AM

Ugh.

This stuff is irrelevent, and I think the Democrats mostly just decided it wasn't a profitable use of their time before November.

And why would anyone suppose it matters to the Republicans what the law says?


Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 21, 2008 2:21 AM

I think the actual "wiretapping" is the minor part of what they are trying to keep from the light of day. The TIA program (courtesy of the felonous Poindexter) was about data mining. Today's technology has been able to take this to a whole new level.

Look at what happens on many commercial sites. You get offers from Amazon based on your past purchase patterns and their correlation to people with similar purchase patterns. Your offers of insurance and loan products are based on patterns. FICA is pattern recognition which then correlates your ability to pay, and therefore the rates you get, to similar patterns using large quantities of data. I know we do this, because I work in the IT world where it is done all the time.

Not much of a strech to see how adding inbound/outbound phone usage patterns could be combined with other credit history, tax records, law enforcement data, etc. to "profile" thousands of potential targets on the fly. The call content for large numbers of targets could then be saved and analyzed in detail at after the fact.

The idea that numbers of unknown individuals may be recorded based on just a pattern probably would make it difficult to get a warrant. FISA was aimed at individuals. This new "wiretapping" is probably about gathering data from large groups of people based only on similarities in patterns. I doubt pattern matching would get authorized by the FISA court. But then again, I am not an attorney. I am just an old IT guy.


Posted by: ChiTech | June 21, 2008 2:51 AM

What a great precedent in America - telecoms criminally violate the Communications Act of 1934 and then are given immunity. Does this mean any industry that violates the law can hope for immunity from an arrogant, corrupt and punitive executive branch? Sieg Hiel!

Posted by: Roy | June 21, 2008 7:25 AM

In line with FDC's Cicero quote:

It's all about Empire, or more specifically Cheney's Defense Planning Guidance of 1992 when the grand strategy of the US became global domination, specifically by preventing potential new rivals from challenging American hegemony. This was never about "soft power" but rather hard power and force, taking what we wanted and looting at will. Obiously control on the ground would have to be part of this, of strategic positions and the ability to project force at will. Thus explaining the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the next moves yet to come. My point is the strategy has always been in place, 9/11 provided the opportunity to implement what would have come in any case.

This is imo the reason for our consistent use of force since 2001, Bush's torture policy, turning the awesome power of our intelligence collection ability on the people, the new permanent bases in Iraq and elsewhere, the massive war budgets increasing being cashed in by well-connected private operators, involving the military in domestic information ops, the sham excuses as to why we are in Iraq . . . It is all in support of this unspoken strategic policy which has broad "bipartisan support" which in real terms means that the US political/economic elite have bought off on this with gusto.

The irony is that something we could have achieved with "soft power" that is through leading instead of taking, could have been achieved. However the brutal clowns currently in charge never thought in those terms, were incapable of that, and now it seems our elite is too blind to see the direction we are headed. Prepare for the worst.

Posted by: seydlitz89 | June 21, 2008 7:49 AM

"Yea, you have me pinned. I'm un-American because I believe that we have bigger things to worry about in this country than someone listening to our dinner plans."

The danger of allowing unrestrained surveillance has been clearly pointed out. Nobody is interested in your dinner plans. But there's a long record of gov;t officials misusing their offices to define any political opponent as an enemy and using the powers of gov't to harass their "enemies list" (remember where that came from, Matt). Consider the ability to drum up "crimes" that have later been tossed out of court (but only after the victim is out huge amounts of money an time"). And, as recently seen, some officials that are just out and out corrupt and probably wouldn't mind using wiretaps for direct political or commercial gain.

While some people have appallingly dull lives, I conduct a lot of conversations on the phone and via e-mail involving confidential company business, some of which could be quite valuable to rivals or stock market touts. I discuss opposition to government policies and specific politicians and bureaucrats.

I'm not doing anything illegal - but I have good reason to want my privacy protected and to require the gov't to follow proper procedures that inlude independent oversight by courts and Congress AND that conform to Constitutional requirements.

Posted by: Butch | June 21, 2008 10:53 AM

"Before we go off half-cocked, has anyone who has posted here ever tried to initiate a FISA motion? It is unbelievably difficult, requires a preponderance of the evidence (typically targeted is reasonable doubt) and requires a horrendous amount of paperwork."

Um, no. Even Admininstration officials have admitted before Congress that FISA requirements aren't onerous. And you can begin surveillance without a warrant and have up to 72 hours to either apply or drop surveillance with no penalty.

And past records show the FISA court has been extraordinarily deferential to admin requests for warrants - better than 98% granted. (Which says you have to have done a really piss poor job to get a warrant rejected.

ZThe Busf Administration just doesn't want too have ANYONE, however deferential, in a position to see what they are doing.

Posted by: Butch | June 21, 2008 11:04 AM

Phil,

Nice to see that you believe in near dictorial powers for the President. Enough with that outdated concept of "rule of Law". So the Admin breaks the law for 5 years, the President says "no, its legal - I don't care what the law says" and poof - it's legal. Thanks for helping to trade the republic for a monarchy. Nice going Phil.

Posted by: JohnK | June 21, 2008 11:34 AM

Last night on Leher, the person defending the legislation likened what Bush asked the telecom companies to do to a cop asking to borrow your car to chase a crook.
The opposition let him get away with that analogy. The cop is NOT asking you to break the law. Bush did so request and at least Qwest knew as much.
Immunity for Verizon and AT& T represents the cosy alliance of industry and government. Mussolini called it "corporatism." We are more than halfway there, and the craven Dems must realize that somewhere in their corrupt souls.

Posted by: H R Coursen | June 21, 2008 12:09 PM

Ya, well...

Barabara Lee made some excellent comments on the floor of the House yesterday about the sheer irresposibility of all this with which I strongly agree, and I also have to second ChiTech's comment as an old IT guy myself.

But the reality is that there is no chance of enacting an intelligent law on this subject while the Bush administration is still in office. It is equally true that this act can be repealled by the 111th Congress when we are no longer so afflicted.

People have got to quit thinking that there's some easy solution, and equally, that there is nothing we can do about it because we let this law be passed, or we failed to impeach, or the Constitution is broken, or any of the other excuses that people allow to convince them there is nothing to be done but go along. We can do what all the people who went before us did: we can work as hard as we can to see that justice is done in the end.

And that is what the Obama camapign is about: uniting together to work for change in the interest of justice and reason and all the other things that this nation has aspired to from it founding, resolved to move beyond our failures and shortcomings in the past. It's mistaken to think this about any particular act or political issue, because what's most important is to re-establish and apply sound principles and methods -- and you can't make a silk purse out a of sow's ear.

First things first: we have to win in November. After the elections, we have to see where we are and be ready to move ahead whatever the results. Our chances are good, our cause is just, and if every honest American voter had an objective understanding of the Republicans and their agendas not one would vote for them -- not one.

But we MUST work together, and we MUST put first things first.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 21, 2008 12:40 PM

Well, after a lot of bandidth, ISTM that the positions defending this nasty bit of business can be broken out into two main intellectual threads:

1. The Bedwetter. This justification, in essence, can be reduced to "Terrorists! Bad! Scary! So bad, so scary, that to protect my home I need to burn it down! And so do you!"

2. The Cynic. Shorter cynic: oh, well. Business as usual. Bush will ignore anything so why bother?

Oh, and there's the Moron ("Yea, you have me pinned. I'm un-American because I believe that we have bigger things to worry about in this country than someone listening to our dinner plans."), but you can't really characterize this as an intellectual thread, given the hindbrain level of understanding it shows regarding democracy and exective power. So two positions.

I find neither convincing. The bedwetter, who has been running the Administration's position since 2001, has clearly forgotten(or never considered) that the primary threat to democracy is ALWAYS internal. Foreign enemies come and go, and can, at best, merely conquer. Internal treason is a much more dangerous and subtle poison, killing the vitality while leaving the facade intact.

The cynic - a philosophy of which I am generally guilty - I think overestimates the strength of the bedwetters' position with the public AND the efficiency of simply refusing to allow this bit of business to pass. Pelosi and her fellow useful idiots could have simply refused to bring this to the floor, explaining that the status quo would have been better than this bad law. Let the suits proceed and see what vermin are turned up under the rocks of secrecy.

But it's done for now. WASF until the 111th, at the earliest and at best.

Most Americans should thank God that their understanding of the political implications of this action are right dwn there at the Moron level. Otherwise the despair at seeing the great work of the Jeffersons,Franklins, Madisons and Washingtons reduced to a cretinous little syncophant like Kit Bond would drive whole dmographics to drink, if not more.

Posted by: FDChief | June 21, 2008 1:09 PM

If your company or organization was asked to violate the constitution by the federal government, what now would be the disincentive for complying?

This time it is the telecoms... next time it may be private medical records or psychologist notes. If a judge determines it is for security purposes, that's one thing, but what if it is for political purposes... to get dirt on potential opponents? We have seen the politicizing of the Justice Dept already from this motley crew... so I think anything is possible.

Posted by: Charlie S | June 21, 2008 5:14 PM

The "W" word that should be a worry in this case is not the "wire tapping". I think everyone is OK with clandestine pursuit of people trying to mass murder citizens. The "W" of contention is "warrantless".

There is a good reason to make a judge a gatekeeper on allowing wire tapping to occur. That is the mechanism that ensures it is being done for proper reasons and that it isn't a tactic abused for political or personal gain by the executive branch (a legitimate concern).

Posted by: Charlie S | June 21, 2008 5:19 PM

Nancy Pelosi's message is that "laws" are only for the little people. The big people can do whatever they want, and they can always invent new laws to cover themselves.

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Posted by: buy cheap fioricet | June 22, 2008 1:40 AM

The 4th Amendment says:" The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Very odd that no Congress has ever made it a penalty for violation of this amendment. There does not appear to be any accountability for implementing a surveillance without warrant. What happens if an 'official' instigates a secret surveillance for his personal gain? As a secret process, the individual and the ones who accept his orders cannot be held accountable for their acts even when they have obtained personal information that benefits their own status. If the surveillance perpetrators are not accountable under the Constitution (ie, renounced the constitution for personal gain), would a right of self defense outside the Constitution's jurisdiction be appropriate?

Posted by: arjay1 | June 22, 2008 9:58 AM

"Matt: "People please, there's more important things to worry about. I don't really care if the government wants to listen to my phone calls and hear what I'm ordering for dinner.... know why? Because I'm not a terrorist and I'm not plotting illegal activity. Everyone cries about privacy and this and that.... well I'll happily give up my phone privacy if it helps keep our country safe."

Please define 'illegal activity' and 'safe'. Ye gods, I heard the same thing, almost word for word, from a colleague at work the other day.

"Fatuous. Unintelligent. Unamerican. "

Publius, you rock as always. As an aside, I know I've been away a while, but Charles, what did you do with Charles? No references to drool or math lessons? Does it have something to do with Phil's new digs?

Cheers,
FAI

Posted by: FemaleAlienInvader | June 22, 2008 10:50 AM

FAI,

Well I suppose it just has to do with the fact that I've not been here much since the move and this particular thread didn't give me reason to -- however, if you visit Balkinization you'll see I still don't suffer fools or lying apologists for war crimes gladly.

Mostly, I've just haven't felt there was much of anything more to say about anything until the Supreme Court decided Boumediene, hence, the last few months I've been deeply preoccupied with figuring out where things will stand post-Boumediene -- and the elections are now the prime consideration.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 22, 2008 11:15 AM

We did miss you Charley. But FAI is right, you have softened up a little. I will have to work up a good posting soon to get you riled up. Give me some time to come up with something.

Oh, wait, here we go:

"Our chances are good, our cause is just, and if every honest American voter had an objective understanding of the Republicans and their agendas not one would vote for them -- not one."

C'mon. Stop pretending like the opposition party, aka Dems, are any different from the Republicans. Actually, they aren't even the opposition party, they are the party in power. Yet, they still are allowing these crazy laws to pass. Why do you honestly think anything will be different next Jan? You are too experienced and too wise to believe that serious "Change" will occur as we move from one Party to the next, the are the different sides of the same coin.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and you know our executive branch is way too strong. Any one in that position will take every bit of power they can grab in order to further their own initiatives (albeit with the best intent, it will perpetuate the cycle of an over weighted executive branch).

You show me a modern day "Cincinnatus" who will willing give up executive powers back to the legislature, and I will be convinced of real "change."

Posted by: bg | June 22, 2008 8:15 PM

Oh, and while we are on the topic of "change."

Show me a candidate who is willing to transcend partisan politics and go with a split ticket, and bring opposing party into his key cabinet positions. That would be change. But we won't see that. We will see more partisan "he said, she said" blame games.

C'mon Charley, I thought you were the cynical one.

Posted by: bg | June 22, 2008 8:19 PM

Hey, I just had two postings deleted. Let me try to recap.

Charley,

Good to see you back, but as FAI stated, you are softening up on us.

"Our chances are good, our cause is just, and if every honest American voter had an objective understanding of the Republicans and their agendas not one would vote for them"

C'mon. They are two sides of the same coin. The problem isn't what party is in power, the problem is the power itself. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The executive branch is reaching that point, equal branches of government no longer exist. If the Dems return to the White House, they will continue to do the same thing. They will grab as much power as possible, albeit with the best intentions, to get things done the way they feel things should be done. But this power grab and retention will just perpetuate the problem as it exists today.

I will believe real "change" when I see a modern day "Washington/Cincinnatus" in power who gives power back to the other branches. Who transcends party politics by choosing an opposing party member on his ticket as VP and staffs key cabinet positions with opposing party. This would be real "change." But I don't think we will see that. I think we will see more of what we are seeing during the election. "He said, she said" and blame game. Grandiose ideas that are unworkable in lieu of small changes that can make a difference today.

Posted by: bg | June 22, 2008 8:40 PM

Wow, that was weird. Sorry, disregard my last.

Posted by: bg | June 22, 2008 8:40 PM

It is a little diccomforting that we seem to mistrust of government more than our real, admited enemies. These people have admitted, even bragged about a desire to kill Americans, not Republications-Americans. Your Mothers,Childern,rich, poor they don't care-you are evil because you are alive. This didn't start in 2000, if we can't get beyond this PETTY bickering over gathering important intrl on our enemies because we are brainwashed into thinking "W" is the only enemy, we've already lost. Do you really think for one minute they are going to become the "good" terrorists just because we change the party in office? You want to see a violation of your civel rights? What do you call it when they blow up your grandmothers bus or train. Or a mall? they don't care about Dem or Repub. They have a goal-KILL AMERICANS. Get a Clue. George is gone in 6 months. Grow some brains and some BALLS.

Posted by: MarxBro | June 22, 2008 11:53 PM

Well bg, theres no mystery about what the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is:

The Republicans are war criminals in exactly the same sense that the Nais were, and the Democrats are all we've got to work with. If you actually hold an honest belief in DEMOCRACY, then there is something that you should hold firmly in mind:

Democracy per se, is a process by which a society shares the decision making process among all the citizens -- and it isn't just a matter of picking a dictator by popular sufferage every four years, but a continuous process of decision-making aimed at two things:

1) making sound decisions.

2) insuring that every reflects the best understanding of the entire society.

It's very difficult for me to suppose that any military officer would argue with me on that much, becasue military decision making is much the same: indeed, the concerns I'm trying to focus on here can be consiely described as the very concerns which the military understands as C2 -- COMMAND AND CONTROL.

The pragmatic concerns in both realms are identical, and the reason that the Republicans are defective in the same sense that a commanding officer who is insane or a traitors is: they will either short circuit or subvert the decision making process in ways that will prevent sound decion-making.

You've heard all their lies and fallacies bg, and if you don't understand that they are lies and fallacies at this late date, it's only because you haven't been paying attention or examining their claims objectively.

The situation in the elections could not be any more simple. The Republican Party is a criminal organization that has been systematically subverting the government of the United States for criminal purposes for years now. As long as they remain in power the United States is effectively brain-dead, and what the Democrats offeer is simple: a chance to restore order and reestablish a sound process of objective decision making within the US government.

What anyone thinks about any particular issue on the merits is enitrely beside the point here, because the issues don't matter unless the process does, and the reason for that is that simple: you can't solve a problem that you don't understand, and you can't understand anything without sound methods of evaluation and analysis.

And you want a wrangle with me bg, I'll be only too happy to oblige. You might look at my recent discussion with Ray for example: there's plenty about there.

Or we might revisit the detainee issues in the bright light of Boumediene. I'm working on that stuff right now, and I can tell you the bottom line up front:

18 USC 2441(c)(2) makes it a federal offence to deprive any military detainee in a war of any right or action of law.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that all of the current detainees have at least the right to habeas.

What the administration's own public record shows is that they have spent the last six and half years doing everything in their power to deny these detainees any rights at all.

1 + 1 = 2 bg, not 0 or 3.


Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 23, 2008 12:31 PM

Republicans are war criminals because we detain terrorists without access to Habeus? Wow!!! What does that make FDR and the Dems for all those German soldiers kept during WW2 without the same access?

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 23, 2008 3:16 PM

You asking a rhetorical question based on false assumptions doesn't say anything about anyone but YOU Panhandle Willy.

An accused "terrorist" is not a German soldier, and you or George Bush accusing someone of being one isn't proof that they are. On the other hand we do know that the Bush administration lies about everything and that they've murdered a lot more innocent people than al Qaeda has over the last six years.

The truth is that you don't even know what the word 'terrorist' means Willy -- you just like having an excuse to abuse people you consider your enemies.

Posted by: Charles Gittings | June 23, 2008 4:28 PM

I nomanate Charles Gittings to head up the first Death Camp for "Re-education" of Republications.

Posted by: Marx Bro | June 23, 2008 9:41 PM

Charley,

I like your argument here, but I have a small problem with it:

"An accused "terrorist" is not a German soldier, and you or George Bush accusing someone of being one isn't proof that they are."

I agree, a German soldier in uniform is obviously a German soldier, yes, and therefore should be treated as a POW by law. Let's fast forward 60 years. An Arab male, no uniform of course, is found in possession of weapons, found in possession of Jihadist "kill America" paraphenalia, and he even confesses that he is a member of a organization whose purpose is to kill Americans.

Now please tell me, in that not so unique case, can you not compare the detainee to a declared German prisoner of WWII? Isn't the only difference between the two that one is a member of a nation state, and the other is a member of an non-nation state? Or is the real difference that the laws that allow the detention of the nation state POW are not updated to the times and do not recognize formally organized non-nation states? When was the last time these international laws were updated?

About the whole Republican bashing, it just seems to me like a great deal of overgeneralization. I am sure not every person who calls them self a Republican is pure evil. I guess I have a hard time thinking of things is such stark terms of black and white.

Posted by: bg | June 23, 2008 10:34 PM

I so enjoy reading these discussions! I'm glad Cheney hasn't shut down the media yet -- or consolidated it 100%, anyway.

FDC, bg, + others who have so eloquently explained why this bill's a BAD IDEA are absolutely spot on! Think of the indignation over China's use of internet companies to spy on their citizens. I'm sure Beijing considers the subjects of their surveillance as dangerous security problems.

Our Constitution was supposed to prevent this sort of thing. This new law may well fail the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, even the current 9, should they get to hear about any of it. The current suits may be resurrected + many more are sure to arise. Pinochet was arrested. Milosovic died in jail, albeit before conviction + sentencing. Dubya + his cronies will have only a few select places to travel to, well as long as the Saudi regime survives. Maybe he can even have Mugabe as a cellmate!

It is true that we must remember our civics once this 8-year nightmare is over. We must work together to bring to account those who broke the law + to give pink slips to those who cheered them on or failed to object to all the illegal + foolhardy actions taken in our names. And we need to recognize that Conservatives + Liberals all still want a strong, vibrant America. They just don't agree on how to achieve it.

Posted by: Liz_M | June 24, 2008 12:40 AM

Charly, good to see you're alive and kicking. I really like what you've done on this thread and am happy you've not lost your focus. Keep it up.

FAI, a voice from the past. Now you've found your way here, don't be a stranger.

Bg, you never refuted my skepticism at your assurances that no Director of NSA would ever countenance anything other than the righteous path when it comes to collection activities. You've left me hanging here, my friend.

BTW, I suggest folks here might wish to go on over to Rangeragainstwar.com and check out the challenge he's made to certain segments of the military regarding terrorism. It might be a very enlightening experience. Plus anyone reading Phil Carter should be reading the Ranger as well.

Posted by: Publius | June 24, 2008 9:47 PM

Publius,

I guess I've never met a DIRNSA, and can't refute any evidence you present. I will just have to go on having faith in my leadership until they prove otherwise (but always with a skeptical eye, of course). What else can I do?

Posted by: bg | June 25, 2008 12:31 AM

Let me see if I understand this correctly. As long as a corrupt Attorney General says that something is legal, then that exempts anyone who performs that act?

Last time I checked, the legislative and judicial branches make those calls. It is not within the purview of Congress to delegate this power to the administration. Also every single Telecom company has more than enough attorneys to recognize that something is clearly legal or illegal.

Saying that those who commit a "sanctioned crime" are lot liable for that crime is the same sort of irresponsible lunacy that was trotted before the Nuremberg tribunals. "I was ordered to do it." "It was my job"

I believe high level Nazi officials who collaborated with Hitler were sentenced to hanging by the neck until dead.

http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin/trials3.html

Posted by: daniel | June 25, 2008 2:17 PM

Anybody who thinks George, Dick & Condi will be tried for their crimes has forgotten the presidents' power to pardon. I can certainly see him his last day in office handing out blanket pardons to everyone he's involved with this mess.

Posted by: GW | June 25, 2008 3:52 PM

While Dubya + his successors are able to pardon HERE whomever has done their dirtywork, they will have limited options abroad. More countries are willing to arrest persons charged with war crimes these days. Bush, Cheney, + Rumsfeld will likely only head a list of indictees under international law. There may well be more countries willing to arrest them than to overlook their criminal acts. They'll be motivated not only by the illegal acts conducted in Iraq + in the "War on Terror," but by the economic havoc their policies of politicization-over-merit, anti-regulatory, pirate-corporatism has wrought.

Posted by: Liz_M | June 25, 2008 7:46 PM

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