Telcos Immunity Games Continue

The FISA Amendment Act, currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would amend the questionable Protect America Act, absolving the telecoms, the president and all the others in his administration involved in the illicit wiretapping activities retroactive immunity. Two federal judges have already found that the Protect America Act is unconstitutional.

In spite of President Bush’s hissy fits and demands for retroactive immunity protecting telecoms involved in more than 40 lawsuits related to illegal surveillance, using threats, deceitful and unethical propaganda and fear-mongering to feed his fantasy of being above the law, some key U.S. Senators are reportedly reluctant to offer it…they’re thinking of making the taxpayers pick up the legal bills instead.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA.), the co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they still don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s wise or not to immunize past assistance by the telecoms to a wide variety of U.S. agencies over the past six years.

Earlier this summer, Congress and the Senate quickly approved an amendment making it easier for the government to get information with no oversight (technically, it’s ‘monitored internally’ which is the same thing) for six months, set to expire on February 1, 2008.

Indemnification and more pathetic attempts at Fear-Mongering

Specter suggested granting ‘indemnification’ to telephone companies who ‘allegedly’ cooperated with the government, allowing the lawsuits to go forward, but making taxpayers responsible for covering any legal expenses or damages awarded, potentially running into tens of billions of dollars according to Senate Intelligence committee estimates.

Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security at the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) strongly discouraged politicians from endorsing anything less than blanket immunity, citing the ‘importance to national security as a whole’ because “every little nugget of information that comes out in the course of this litigation helps our enemies.”

Wainstein also said indemnification would also be the wrong approach because it would still require communications companies to go through litigation, potentially inflicting damage to their corporate reputations, or even endanger employees working overseas if terrorists or surveillance targets caught wind of the role these companies are playing.

Translation: Because of the Bush administration’s participation and the politicized, corrupted DoJ’s participation in the ‘legal’ wiretapping and privacy violations running rampant, the administration wants to continue to cover up their illegal activities, blame everything on the ‘war on terror,’ use whatever fear tactic full of lies and deceptions to try to scare you and continue destroying the Constitution as well as everyone’s other rights. Apparently the billions of dollars the telecommunications companies rape the public out of every year might cut into the ‘donations’ received by several of the politicians.

How To Spread Propaganda Like the Pros

The Washington Post published an Op-Ed written by Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman (and beneficiary of donations from the telecoms involved) sounding suspiciously like Vice president Dick Cheney, explaining why it’s ‘unfair and unwise’ to allow telecoms to be sued for breaking the law, and as reported by Salon News, justifying their breaking the law based on one argument: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.

Both the Bush administration and the telecoms jointly broke the law for years, and before the attacks of 9/11. The administration was too busy with power trips and the theory that the President could exercise power without limits or oversight, making his friends wealthy and the telecoms were too busy receiving great profits (at taxpayers expense) from being in bed with the government. Now the administration and all those involved are panicking and scrambling to cover their butts.

Former Justice Officials Involved With Telcos

Not to be outdone on the fear-mongering, former Justice Department officials and insiders who opposed the spying program and resigned reportedly joined forces with the Bush administration.

Former Attorney General (AG) John Ashcroft, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, and former Office of Legal Counsel attorneys Patrick Philbin and James Goldsmith who previously fought the White House in 2004 over the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping programs sent a letter (PDF) to the Senate Judiciary committee arguing that telecoms deserved to be freed from class action lawsuits.

The letter notes that when corporations are asked to assist the intelligence community based on a program authorized by the President himself and assurances that the program has been determined lawful they should be able to rely on their actions being legal and that if immunity isn’t provided it’s like that in the future the private sector won’t provide assistance swiftly and willingly, resulting in critical time obtaining information being lost.

It’s an interesting, powerful letter. As noted by Wired.com, one must note that these careful lawyers are only saying that the government told the participating telecoms that the Administration thought that its conduct was legal; not that the telecoms’ participation was legal. It also doesn’t say the telecoms were ordered to participate, they were asked.

Conveniently enough, Ashcroft didn’t note in the letter that his lobbying firm has represented AT&T since 2006 or that AT&T and Verizon both threw fundraisers for him earlier this year.

An article eerily similar to the Rockefeller/Cheney Op-Ed article appearing in the Wall Street Journal is signed by former Carter AG Benjamin Civilleti, Reagan AG Dick Thornburgh and former FBI Director William Webster. All three are affiliated with telco law firms. Non-disclosure of their ties shows how unethical their actions are.

The ‘Justice’ Department’s Life and Liberty site, funded by federal tax money, is also telling Congress to give immunity to companies that violated federal privacy laws. It’s nice to see a Congress, allegedly the voice of the people, so concerned with their citizens.

Bush has threatened to veto any proposed renewal of the law that doesn’t shield wiretapping ‘cooperation’ in the past. If the temporary, Unconstitutional Protect America Act isn’t renewed, FISA will revert back to what it was and he’ll have to succumb to oversight again. Let it expire. It’s his loss.

If everything the Bush administration has done was legal, he wouldn’t be worried about it. The vast majority of the Republicans and undoubtedly the Democrats involved in trying to extort immunity from Congress have either received donations from or are affiliated with telcos. Obviously the telecommunications industry is in bed with politicians in Washington too.

Links to More Information

Links to the above information as well as other governmental misadventures can be found below:

Republican Senator: Should taxpayers pay for illegal spying? article from CNET News

Jay Rockefeller channels Dick Cheney’s fear-mongering to urge telecom amnesty article from Salon News

Former DOJ Insiders Who Fought Spying Ask Senate to Pardon Snooping Telcos article from Wired.com

10 Reasons To Hate Cellphone Carriers article from Wired.com

Excellent article detailing 10 reasons, including they illegally spy on you and they own politicians and gives you excellent reasons why.

The war on whistle-blowers article from Salon News

From the Desk of Donald Rumsfeld article from The Washington Post:

“In a series of internal musings and memos to his staff, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued that Muslims avoid “physical labor” and wrote of the need to “keep elevating the threat,” “link Iraq to Iran” and develop “bumper sticker statements” to rally public support for an increasingly unpopular war.

In one of his longer ruminations, in May 2004, Rumsfeld considered whether to redefine the terrorism fight as a “worldwide insurgency.” The goal of the enemy, he wrote, is to “end the state system, using terrorism, to drive the non-radicals from the world.” He then advised aides “to test what the results could be” if the war on terrorism were renamed.”

Attacking Iran for Isreal? article from AntiWar.com:

“The Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, let the cat out of the bag while speaking at the American Jewish Committee luncheon on Oct. 22. In remarks paralleling those of Rice, Meridor said Iran is the chief threat to Israel.

Heavy on the chutzpah, he served gratuitous notice on Washington that effectively countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions will take a “united United States in this matter,” lest the Iranians conclude, “come January ’09, they have it their own way.”

CentCom commander Adm. William Fallon is reliably reported to have said, “We are not going to do Iran on my watch.” And in an online Q&A, award-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest recently spoke of a possible “revolt” if pilots were ordered to fly missions against Iran. She added:

“This is a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. Just look at what Gen. [George] Casey, the Army chief, has said … that the tempo of operations in Iraq would make it very hard for the military to respond to a major crisis elsewhere. Beside, it’s not the ‘war’ or ‘bombing’ part that’s difficult; it’s the morning after and all the days after that. Haven’t we learned that (again) from Iraq?”

Cover-up: FBI Threatens Suspect’s Family with Torture [updated] article from Daily Kos

Honey, They Shrunk the Congress article from The New York Times:

“President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, Michael Mukasey, was asked an important question about Congress’s power at his confirmation hearing. If witnesses claim executive privilege and refuse to respond to Congressional subpoenas in the United States attorneys scandal – as Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have done – and Congress holds them in contempt, would his Justice Department refer the matter to a grand jury for criminal prosecution, as federal law requires?

Mr. Mukasey suggested the answer would be no. That was hardly his only slap-down of Congress. He made the startling claim that a president can defy laws if he or she is acting within the authority “to defend the country.” That is a mighty large exception to the rule that Congress’s laws are supreme.

The founders wanted the “people’s branch” to be strong, but the Bush administration has usurped a frightening number of Congress’s powers – with very little resistance. The question is whether members of Congress of both parties will do anything about it.”

Holding Up History article from The New York Times:

“Before his disastrous turn as the nation’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzales was the White House counsel behind some of the administration’s most egregious legal maneuvers, including President Bush’s 2001 executive order unilaterally repealing the presumption of public access to presidential papers enshrined in the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

The executive order, which Mr. Gonzales drafted, made it significantly harder for historians and the public to gain access to a former president’s official records, and it provided an early glimpse of two Bush White House themes: a mania for secrecy and a dangerously inflated view of presidential authority to override existing law.

Six years and one Congressional power shift later, there is ample support in the House and Senate for repealing the executive order’s cumbersome rules, which give presidents, former presidents and even their heirs power to withhold sensitive documents well beyond the standard 12-year waiting period. A bipartisan measure reversing the presumption of nondisclosure and reasonably limiting executive privilege claims passed the House in March by a veto-proof majority. In June, it cleared Senate committee review.”

Bill Moyers: Cheney Has Been Fighting to Spy On You For Over 30 Years article and video from AlterNet:

“BILL MOYERS: Remember “The Lives of Others” – the movie that won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film….a story of life under East Germany’s secret police. The critic Roger Ebert said: “The movie is relevant today, as our government ignores habeas corpus, practices secret torture, and asks for the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on its citizens. Such tactics, he said, did not save East Germany; they destroyed it, by making it a country its most loyal citizens could no longer believe in.” You want to say it couldn’t happen here but we’ve been close before. During the cold war with the Soviet Union and then the hot war in Vietnam, a secret government mushroomed in this country. …

In 1975 the Select Senate Committee headed by Sen Frank Church (D-ID) began looking into allegations first reported by Seymour Hersh in the NYT and found that the CIA, NSA, FBI and other federal agencies had been involved in everything from plots to assassinate foreign leaders, illegal storage of poisons and biological warfare agents including anthrax, warrantless opening of mail and wiretapping and other intel-gathering on US citizens, and misuse of the IRS , just to name a few of the abuses by the Executive Branch they discovered.

One of the ways Congress responded to try and restore checks and balances was by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which established a secret court to oversee all domestic wiretapping activity. Bill Moyers looks at the undoing of Congress’ checks and balances put in place following the Church Committee hearings and the unprecedented expansion of Executive authority in the wake of 9/11.”

US: No objection to Egyptian nuclear program article from The Raw Story

Al Qaeda infiltrates FOX News article and video of the Daily Show from FoxAttacks.com:

“In response to FOX News repeatedly attempting to link Al Qaeda to the California wildfires, Jon Stewart suggests that “perhaps Al Qaeda is trying to infiltrate a cable news channel and staff it with morons.”

2007 Spying Said to Cost $50 Billion article from The Washington Post

Strengthening of Consumer Agency Opposed by Its Boss article from The New York Times:

“The top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation that would strengthen the agency that polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistleblowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.”

Ernie Said It article from Lew Rockwell.com:

“Ernie Hemingway explained the problem many years ago. The first thing politicians do to hide their mismanagement, he said, is inflate the currency; the second thing they do is go to war.

Our currency has been inflated and we are at war. The demonization of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which you saw take place in New York City and on American television, is just the first step in preparing the country for a third war.

I’ve heard some politicians say that Ahmadinejad has “blood on his hands.” Well, our $40 billion worth of intelligence cannot even determine if he was involved in the taking of the American embassy back in 1979. As for blood, American politicians have far more Iranian blood on their hands. We overthrew Iran’s democratic government and installed the Shah and his secret police. We sided with and assisted Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran. Tens of thousands of Iranians are dead because of America’s foreign policy.

We truly have a corrupt and incompetent government in Washington.”

For Retiring Republicans, Several Explanations article from The New York Times:

“Deborah Pryce said she was fed up with ugly politics and being separated from her 5-year-old daughter. David L. Hobson is reaching the end of his time at the top of a powerful subcommittee. Ralph Regula will turn 83 in December, and he said he wanted to pass on his political wisdom to students and drive the flashy Thunderbird he had just bought.

None of these senior Republicans from Ohio, all of whom have announced plans not to seek another term in the House next year, cite their reduced status in the minority as a major factor in deciding to join the exodus of their party members from Congress. Nor do they mention the bleak prospect that running for re-election could mean spending millions of dollars and toughing out a difficult campaign, only to lose anyway.

Ms. Pryce, thoroughly familiar with the rough and tumble of modern politics, sees little hope of a shift in tactics unless there is a public backlash, since she said her last campaign convinced her that negative ads work.

“I don’t think anything will change until Americans revolt and get it into their heads that they need to be informed voters instead of just listening to the paid political ads,” she said.”

FBI Puts Antiwar Protestors on Criminal Database; Canada Uses It To Ban Protestors From Entry article from OpEdNews

Bush, Cheney, Rice Plot Iran War article from The Niagara Falls Reporter:

“The steady beat of war drums reverberates fear and silences reasoned debate. The Bush administration is using reckless rhetoric in marketing another pre-emptive attack on a sovereign Islamic nation, and the plan is working with tragic effectiveness.

The amen chorus of right-wing pundits and shouters is in perfect tune with every inflammatory utterance of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s stunning that people actually listen to this same trio that brought the war in Iraq as they sell another war in Iran.

Of course, the invasion of Iraq made Iran more powerful in the region and nervous about an American army of occupation parked next door. But those were the desired consequences the neoconvervative nuts wanted.

It’s all in their playbook — the manifesto of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), written before the 9/11 attacks and designed to control the energy resources in the Middle East and establish unchallenged American-Israeli military supremacy in the region.”

George W. Bush: The Worst President ever – articles, links, videos and lots more

U.S. Docs Taught Little About Wartime Ethics article from Health Day News:

“Too few American medical students receive adequate instruction about military medical ethics and a physician’s ethical duties under the Geneva Conventions, say Harvard Medical School researchers.

They surveyed students at eight medical schools across the United States and found that 94 percent had received less than one hour of instruction about military medical ethics.”

Norman Podhoretz: Anyone Who Doesn’t Want To ‘Bomb Iran’ Is Appeasing ‘Hitler’ article from Think Progress.org:

I don’t know where these putzes come from but they need to crawl back under the rock they crawled out of:

“On the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer last night, Commentary Magazine editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz, who is also a foreign policy adviser to Rudy Giuliani, repeated his claim that there is “only one terrible choice” left with Iran, which is to “bomb” their “facilities” and “retard” their nuclear program.

When Newsweek’s Fareed Zackaria asserted that deterrence was a viable option, Podhoretz repeatedly accused him of “an irresponsible complacency” that “is comparable to the denial in the early ’30s of the intentions of Hitler”:

PODHORETZ: First, I want to say that I think the attitude expressed by Fareed Zakaria represents an irresponsible complacency that I think is comparable to the denial in the early ’30s of the intentions of Hitler that led to what Churchill called an unnecessary war involving millions and millions of deaths that might have been averted if the West had acted early enough. […]”

A Zogby Poll Shows Complacency In America Has Been Replaced By Ignorance and Stupidity article from JustAnotherCoverUp.com

Depressed America article from The Smirking Chimp

War vs. ‘War’ article from The National Review Online – Supporting the troops means recognizing that Iraq is a real war:

An excellent article written by an Iraq War Veteran:

“There is real war and then there is “war” — the politician’s overwrought metaphor. The best-known examples of the latter are the “war on drugs” and “war on poverty”: Campaigns that were inherently open-ended and unwinnable, and which never commanded the resources of the nation’s real wars. One reason that we have not been as successful as we could and should have been, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is that top officials in the Pentagon and the White House have not treated these conflicts like real wars — with all the seriousness that a real war entails.”

“It is all very well to call on politicians to “support the troops.” The Pentagon should do likewise.”

Police documents: SW Wash. GOP lawmaker had sex with man article from The Seattle PI

Respected Marine Lawyer Alleges Military Injustices article from NPR:

“By all accounts, Colby Vokey is a model officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, at one point helping command an artillery unit in Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991.

For the past four years, Vokey has served as chief of all the Corps’ defense lawyers in the western United States — and he’s played a key role in some of the military’s most sensitive legal issues, including the murder investigation in Haditha, Iraq, and in the debate about detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

So when Vokey announced recently that he wanted to leave the Corps, it said something troubling about the military system of justice that he’s served for almost 20 years. Vokey charges that some commanders and officials in the Bush administration have abused the system of justice, and he’s going to retire from the Corps May 1, 2008.

People who know him say that privately, Vokey has acknowledged he is “angry” and “bitter.” Publicly, Vokey describes himself as “fed up.”

“I think changes to the system are well-overdue,” he told NPR. “And it’s a little frustrating when you see problems are highlighted time and time and again.”

Federal Study Offers Dire Outlook on Child Insurance article from The New York Times – (another perfect example of political propaganda from the Bush administration)

America Is Watching You article from TruthDig.com

Very Interesting comment on the B-52 nuclear “incident” article from WakeUpFromYourSlumber.com:

An interesting, informative article about more military propaganda from the Bush administration and how the Vice-President probably ordered the arming of nuclear missiles for transport, probably to the middle east and how it was averted by a high-ranking officer at the Pentagon:

“This was a pissing contest between the Vice president and the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Chiefs won.”

Bush adviser says waterboarding ‘is legal,’ won’t say if it’s used article from The Raw Story

Cashing In on Terror article from TruthDig.com:

“Not to stoke any of the inane conspiracy theories running wild on the Internet, but if Osama bin Laden wasn’t on the payroll of Lockheed Martin or some other large defense contractor, he deserves to have been. What a boondoggle 9/11 has been for the merchants of war, who this week announced yet another quarter of whopping profits made possible by George Bush’s pretending to fight terrorism by throwing money at outdated Cold War-style weapons systems.

Lockheed Martin, the nation’s top weapons manufacturer, reaped a 22 percent increase in profits, while rivals for the defense buck, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, increased profits by 62 percent and 22 percent, respectively.  Boeing’s profits jumped 61 percent, spiked this quarter by its commercial division, but Boeing’s military division, like the others, has been doing very well indeed since the terrorist attacks.  As Newsweek International put in August: “Since 9/11 and the U.S.-led wars that followed, shares in American defense companies have outperformed both the Nasdaq and Standard & Poor’s stock indices by some 40 percent.  Prior to the recent cascade of stock prices worldwide, Boeing’s share prices had tripled over the past five years while Raytheon’s had doubled.”

Not bad for an industry in serious difficulty with the sudden collapse of the Cold War at the beginning of the 1990s, when the first President Bush and his defense secretary, Dick Cheney, were severely cutting the military budget for high-ticket planes and ships designed to fight the no-longer-existent Soviet military.  Sure, they had Iraq to kick around, but the elder Bush never thought to turn the then very real aggression of Saddam Hussein into an enormously expensive quagmire. He both defeated Hussein and cut the military budget.”

Bush: ‘I Know I would Respond’ If Iran Were To Attack Isreal article and video from Think Progress:

“Before his press conference today, President Bush met exclusively with a group of GOP congressional leaders. According to Fox News, which spoke with some of the members at that discussion, Bush unequivocally promised that he would attack Iran if Iran “were ever to attack Israel.” Bush told the lawmakers, “I know I would respond. … In order for diplomacy to be effective, all options have to be on the table.”

The Bush administration continues to publicly insist that it is pursuing a “path of cooperation” with Iran. But behind closed doors, in meetings such as the one today, the White House seems to be charting a different course. David Wurmser, who until recently served as Vice President Cheney’s Middle East adviser, told a “small group of people” that Cheney is pushing for an Israeli attack on Iran:

[T]he magazine quoted David Wurmser, until last month Cheney’s Middle East advisor, as having told a small group of people that “Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz – and perhaps other sites – in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out.”

According to the report, “The Iranian reaction would then give Washington a pretext to launch strikes against military and nuclear targets in Iran.”

Schumer Asserts Iran War Would Destroy G.O.P. article from The New York Observer

Well-Crafted Phoniness article from The Huffington Post:

“In the race for the highest office in the land, we showed the collective maturity of 3-year-olds. Mr. Gore was taken to task for his taste in clothing and for such grievous offenses as sighing or, allegedly, rolling his eyes. It was a given that at a barbecue everyone would rush to be with his opponent. We’ve paid a heavy price. The president who got such high marks as a barbecue companion doesn’t seem to know up from down. He’s hurled the nation into a ruinous war that has cost countless lives and spawned a whole new generation of terrorists. He continues to sit idly by as a historic American city, New Orleans, remains wounded and on its knees. He’s blithely steered the nation into a bottomless pit of debt. I could go on.

Which brings us to Mr. Giuliani.  The entire basis for this former mayor’s candidacy is his contention that he is some kind of expert, a veritable guru, on matters related to terrorism.  “I understand terrorism,” he says, “in a way that is equal to or exceeds anyone else.”  And yet in the two most important decisions he has made with regard to terror, he has miserably failed.   Mr. Giuliani foolishly insisted, against expert advice, on placing New York City’s state-of-the-art emergency command center on the 27th floor of a 47-story building that was known to be a terror target and that was destroyed in the World Trade Center attack.  And he pushed hard for the corrupt and grotesquely underqualified Bernard Kerik to be appointed to the top antiterror post in the Bush administration, secretary of homeland security. In an episode that humiliated the president, the nomination had to be scrapped after boatloads of damaging information began to emerge about Mr. Kerik. (He has since pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and remains under federal investigation.)  But Mr. Giuliani, who shares with Mr. Bush a Manichaean view of the world and an aggressive, authoritarian temperament, remains not just a viable candidate, but the G.O.P. front-runner.

Not only is Giuliani not qualified as an expert on terrorism, but there is monumental and overwhelming evidence that his lack of qualification resulted in a greater number of deaths than needed to happen.

(full text here)”

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