Misadventures in Governmental Misinformation

Just before the Summer recess this past August, Congress was coerced to pass a bill that would expire in six months, giving the Bush Administration unlimited power to order domestic communications companies — your Internet Service Provider (ISP), Telephone company, Skype or any other email provider — based in the U.S. to use electronic surveillance against you without a warrant.

That wasn’t good enough for the Bush Administration. Now the Administration reportedly wants to make that power permanent and is willing to purposely use misleading information and lies to achieve those goals. Illegal, warrantless wiretapping was secretly and illegally authorized by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks.

The Bush Administration and their supporters want to be able to secretly monitor all electronic information at any given moment with no external oversight, only a promise to only use it against the nation’s enemies and to be absolved of any wrongdoing.

Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) testified to Congress and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, citing a situation in Iraq where the intelligence community figured that insurgents who kidnapped American soldiers used a communication technology that was “going over the wire” into the U.S.

Before passage of the temporary bill, if terrorists in Baghdad were using electronic communications, no warrant would be necessary because it’s in a foreign country. Because the communications passed into the U.S., a warrant would be needed.

If email was used such as Hotmail or Yahoo, the National Security Agency (NSA) would have to get approval from a Justice Department official, then call the ISP and file papers with the nation’s secret spying court within 72 hours to retroactively get court permission. More information can be found from Wired.

McConnell gave inaccurate testimony

Despite the fact that the intelligence community has become an oxymoron, the real problems reportedly appear to be related to how the intelligence community communicates. Yet again McConnell lied to try to get what he wanted when he tried to blame the time lapse on court-based restrictions.

A Senate source, who requested anonymity reportedly disputed the testimony of McConnell, saying McConnell was “inaccurate” in his account of a FISA Court ruling necessitating a delay in spying on Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped U.S. troops. The Senate source blamed the lag time on internal bureaucratic wrangling. More follow-up information from the Senate source can be found here.

Again, there is a 72 hour window (3 days) to get proper court authorization. 12 hours passed before a Justice Department official was able to approve it. That left 60 hours (2 and a half days) available before the 72 hours were up. McConnell tried to blame absences of the proper Justice Department official authorization on the FISA courts.

Bush Administration Seeking Immunity For Telcos

President Bush, DNI McConnell and the nation’s telecommunication companies reportedly want to have Congress give the internet and telephone companies who helped in the massive violations of U.S. citizens privacy laws immunity for helping the government spy on Americans without warrants.

McConnell says that the pending lawsuits against the telcos will bankrupt them. At the same time, Bush and McConnell as well as others in the Administration have repeatedly described the illegal spying programs as being targeted towards suspects, not as a dragnet.

As noted by wired.com, since fines for violating the nation’s communications privacy laws are in the low thousands, how is it possible both for the government’s warrantless spying program to be narrow, but their partners’ real liability to be in the billions of dollars? The only way that AT&T or Verizon could be liable for billions in fines is if there actually was a dragnet surveillance program.

More Misinformation and Lies from McConnell

In his interview with an El Paso reporter, McConnell stated that spy laws needed to be amended because it takes 200 hours to prepare a FISA warrant for the secret special spy court.

As usual, the Bush Administration is attempting to mislead Congress and the American public as they try to cover their illicit actions. Every time McConnell goes under oath he lies. Purposely creating fear for political gain is unethical among other things and should be illegal. Why Congress still won’t pull their heads out and do the right things is still a mystery. Last I heard, lying to Congress was a crime.

The Bush Administration thinks that no one, not even the courts or Congress can do a thing to stop their out of control actions. The Bush Administration says that even if a court finds that the government (PDF) or one of its agents broke the law, they can’t do anything about it as long as it’s a secret part of “the war on terror.”

It’s long past time for Congress and the Senate to quit floundering and to put an end to this abusive unchecked powertrip by a corrupt out of control administration that holds itself above the law. Citizens need to voice their opinions to their legislators either by writing or calling, and let them know that something needs to be done before democracy becomes even more of a delusional dictatorship.

Links to more information

Links to articles referenced as well as a whole lot more can be found below:

Countdown: Bush Used Bogus Terror Threat To Scare Votes For FISA Bill article and video from Crooks and Liars:

“According to Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Terrorism Risk Assessment, the Bush administration knowingly used bogus intelligence to make lawmakers believe there was the chance of an imminent attack on the U.S. Capitol, thus frightening them into passing the temporary expansion of his powers to spy on Americans under the FISA act. Keith talks with former Reagan administration official and chairman of the American Freedom Agenda Bruce Fein, who has called for the impeachment of both Dick Cheney and George Bush about Bush’s unconstitutional power grabs and how the Democrats can exert their powers as a co-equal branch of government by refusing to fund any spending mandated in future FISA bills.”

Government Wants American Internet to Work as A Microphone, Willing to Mislead to Get There article from Wired.com

No Dragnet, No Billions in Fines: Why Do Nation’s Spying Telcos Need Immunity From Congress? article from Wired.com

Telecoms Continue Push For Get-Out-of-Court Card for Illegal Spying article from Wired.com:

“The nation’s telecoms have been quietly lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would immunize them from any liability for violating the nation’s privacy laws for the helping the Administration spy on Americans without warrants, according to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball.  The Administration is pushing for the provisions as well, telling Congress it’s simply a matter of “fairness.”

It’s also conveniently a matter of providing immunity to government officials involved in getting telecoms to install spy rooms and turn over phone and email records to the government.”

Spies Spent 50,000 Days in 2006 Writing Warrants, Chief Spy Says article from Wired.com:

“The Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told an El Paso reporter that the nation’s spy laws needed to be loosened because it takes 200 hours to prepare a FISA warrant for the special spy court.

In 2006, the government filed 2,181 such applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The court approved 2,176. 2006 FISA Warrant Applications.

That means government employees spent 436,200 hours writing out foreign intelligence wiretaps in 2006. That’s 53,275 workdays.”

King For a Never Ending War article from Wired.com:

“According to the government, that’s just plain wrong. The “Global War on Terrorism” means no one, not the courts and not Congress, can do anything to touch the king.

So the government is saying that even if a court found that the government or its agent broke the law, it can’t do anything about it, so long as the government says it’s a secret part of the “war on terror.”

Which means they could wiretap everyone’s phone, bomb mosques in Detroit, or systematically kill every person who has ever expressed sympathy for Palestinians, and neither the courts nor Congress could do anything about it, so long as the head of the CIA writes a judge a secret letter saying we are fighting terrorists so it’s all a secret.”

State Secrets Privilege Misused From the Start article from Wired.com:

“The privilege is being used to hide criminal activity — embarrassing activity — and protect the president from adverse publicity and close off the investigation,” Weaver said.

The full story from the New York Times is here.”

‘The Big Con’ article from the New York Times

Telecoms Launch Secret Lobbying Campaign For Immunity On Illegal Spying article on Crooks and Liars / from Newsweek

Bush Administration Urges Social Security Cuts article from MSNBC News

The White House Criminal Conspiracy from the Nation article

OpEdNews author’s page – story of P.R. and spin can’t hide failures in Iraq article

Think Progress – The architects of war – where are they now? article

Potomac Watch: White House should get out of the media business article

AlterNet: MediaCulture: The White House fakes it article

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practive to Deceive article from OpEdNews

NPR: Fact-Checking the President’s Speech on Iraq article

Letter from Washington: The Hidden Power article from the New Yorker – The legal mind behind the White House’s war on terror article

Former Justice Insider, an Unlikely Civil Lib Hero, Details Battles Over Torture and Eavesdropping article from Wired.com

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Six Years After 9/11 – Why We’re Losing the War on Terror article

9/11 Linked To Iraq, In Politics if Not in Fact article from The Washington Post:

“The television commercial is grim and gripping: A soldier who lost both legs in an explosion near Fallujah explains why he thinks U.S. forces need to stay in Iraq.

“They attacked us,” he says as the screen turns to an image of the second hijacked airplane heading toward the smoking World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “And they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.”

Every investigation has shown that Iraq did not, in fact, have anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. But the ad, part of a new $15 million media blitz launched by an advocacy group allied with the White House, may be the most overt attempt during the current debate in Congress over the war to link the attacks with Iraq.”

Daily Kos: Big Brother IS Watching You, Starting October 1st article

Ralph Nader criticizes ‘spineless, gutless’ Democrats for not impeaching Bush article from Raw Story

Documenting Gen. Petraeus’ record of statements about war article from Salon

The Amibtious Delusions of George Bush and David Petraeus article from Yahoo! News:

“We now learn that General David Petraeus fancies himself a Dwight Eisenhower for the 21st century.

According to a report in London’s Independent newspaper by the reliable Middle East observer Patrick Cockburn, the U.S. military viceroy in Iraq would like very much to return from his mission and — like the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and of North Atlantic Treaty Organization in its aftermath — mount a bid for the White House.”

United States House of Representatives – call or write to your Congress Person

United States Senate – call or write to your Senator

War on Iraq: What Is Iraq Costing You? article from AlterNet

It’s Not a ‘War’ on Terror article from The Nation:

“Nevertheless, the “war” metaphor–as retired American Ambassador Ronald Spiers wrote in a provocative piece in March 2004 in Vermont’s Rutland Herald, “is neither accurate nor innocuous, implying as it does that there is an end point of either victory or defeat…. A ‘war on terrorism’ is a war without an end in sight, without an exit strategy, with enemies specified not by their aims but by their tactics…. The President has found this ‘war’ useful as an all-purpose justification for almost anything he wants or doesn’t want to do; fuzziness serves the administration politically. It brings to mind Big Brother’s vague and never-ending war in Orwell’s 1984. A war on terrorism is a permanent engagement against an always-available tool.”

It’s easy to see how this Administration has used the “war” as justification for almost anything–abusing international human rights standards, unlawfully detaining thousands of women and men, condoning torture.”

A Criminal War of Lies: Why the U.S. is really in Iraq article from Global Research

What Has Bush Done to the Government? article from The Washington Post:

“The last two times the Pew Research Center asked people to describe President Bush in a single word, chief among the overwhelmingly negative responses was the word “incompetent.”

What makes that particularly fascinating is that it’s a realization that the public has reached pretty much on its own.”

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