Tag: telecom immunity

Quote for Discussion: Unqualified Offerings

Yes, an argument can be made that however much Reid and Pelosi and their cohort deserve punishment, the other side deserves even more punishment.  That’s assuming that you continue to accept the premises of the system, and dutifully choose between the party that commits the crimes and the party with a leadership that will not actually stop the crimes.  However, stepping back and looking at it, the whole system is broken if that’s our choice.  The only option, then, is to opt out, and vote for, well, anybody else.  (Some would say that revolution is an option, but I say that if you have enough energized people to go and burn down enough stuff, you have enough energized people to vote out the bums and vote in a real opposition.)  The fact that most Americans don’t care something about the culture.

“Not me!  I’m not just blindly excusing crimes!  I’m trying to make a difference!” you say, and you’re probably right.  If nobody else is voting third party, it’s irrational for you to vote third party.  However small the difference between the parties might be, if there’s any difference at all, and if those are the only viable options, then you are being completely rational by voting for the guys who promised to at least pick the undigested corn kernels out of the sh!t sandwich.

But here we are:  Crimes were openly revealed on the front page of the nation’s most important newspaper two and a half years ago, and less than a week ago the ostensible political enemies of the criminals gave them full immunity.  And there is no uproar outside a few corners of the blogosphere and a few activist groups.  The fundamental significance of this is lost on or irrelevant to most people, and so the crimes will go on.

~Thoreau, blogging at Unqualified Offerings.  Emphasis added.

Read the whole thing.

If we don’t understand why this is happening, I assure you that we have no chance of stopping it.

Why Removing Telecom Immunity is So Important

Well, I just read Olbermann’s rejoinder on FISA and man, http://www.dailykos.com/storyo… ,if he’d just check out wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… he would know how fruitless the idea of criminal prosecutions is.  In short, Bush can pardon anybody from criminal prosecutions, charges pending or not.  All you have to do is recall Dick Nixon and what he got from Jerry Ford to know this.

Neglected is the beauty thing of a pardon:  if you accept, you are admitting guilt.  And under the res judicata doctrine (and because the standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, is higher than civil cases (preponderance of evidence), you accept a pardon, you probably (I say probably since a court might hold you didn’t really litigate a case by accepting a pardon) lose your civil case.

So that is the real reason why civil immunity is so important.  Important to the telcoms, their owners and others involved, just so they can accept a pardon and run off scooter, I mean Scot, free.  Important to strip from the bill because it is the only means to keep these folks on the hook–and get their evidence.

If FISA passes, the only thing an Obama admin. could do is not challenge the Unconstitutionality of FISA.  But the telecom immunity would likely be severable and upheld.

Tell Obama no on immunity now.  http://my.barackobama.com/page…  

Keep the Pressure ON

Just a note of encouragement for everybody.  Well, I found it encouraging: Finally checked my in-box today and there’s an email from Sen. Bob Casey–apparently a bunch of his constituents contacted him regarding FISA and telecom immunity, and our actions worked:

After careful deliberation, I voted in favor of legislation to revise and update the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance (FISA) Act of 1978 to provide our intelligence community with the tools they need to target terrorists. This bill is not perfect, but it does improve on the legislation hurried into law last summer by the White House when it comes to strengthening civil liberties protections for Americans and enhancing judicial oversight.

In updating the FISA legislation, however, we did not need to extend retroactive immunity for those telecommunications firms that may have cooperated with the administration in warrantless surveillance programs. I proudly voted for the Dodd-Feingold amendment that would strip immunity from the bill, and I am disappointed the Senate did not agree to this important change. I believe that the retroactive immunity provision is inconsistent with the protections afforded every American by our Constitution. It is my hope that, when the House and Senate conference meet to reconcile the two different bills, they will agree to narrow and limit the immunity provisions for telecommunications firms.

I have been gratified to hear from so many of my constituents on this issue. Please be assured that I kept your concerns in mind as I deliberated and casted my vote.

[emphasis added]

Soviet America

Your U.S. Senate believes it is okay for you to be spied upon by your government, and for Bush to be able to define what that means, according to his whim. Your U.S. Senate believes that it was okay for the telecoms to break the law by allowing you to be spied upon when it was still illegal. Before today’s votes, Glenn Greenwald wrote this:

The Senate today — led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus — will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration’s years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate — led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick — are about to pay huge dividends, as such noble efforts invariably do with our political establishment.

Dan Froomkin put it in these stark terms:

Here’s a White House ” Fact Sheet” on telecom immunity: “Companies should not be held responsible for verifying the government’s determination that requested assistance was necessary and lawful — and such an impossible requirement would hurt our ability to keep the Nation safe.”

But isn’t that the very definition of a police state: that companies should do whatever the government asks, even if they know it’s illegal?

You can read the roll call on retroactive telecom immunity here. These are the Senators who supported Chris Dodd, to prevent retroactive telecom immunity:

Akaka (D-HI), Baucus (D-MT), Biden (D-DE), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), Byrd (D-WV), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Dodd (D-CT), Dorgan (D-ND), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Menendez (D-NJ), Murray (D-WA), Obama (D-IL), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Tester (D-MT), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR)

These are the Democrats who voted against it:

Bayh (D-IN), Carper (D-DE), Conrad (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Inouye (D-HI), Johnson (D-SD), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lincoln (D-AR), McCaskill (D-MO), Mikulski (D-MD), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Stabenow (D-MI), Webb (D-VA)

Not a single Republican or Lieberman voted against telecom immunity!


Father(AG) and Son(Verizon atty) Agree on FISA. Isn’t that nice.

We’re talking here about that sunny bright goodness, the very nobility of corporations, that dear, quaint eagerness which just might fade if they were to act legally, and for pay.  Aspects of the AG’s “New Justice”–Lawbreaking Without Consequences–meaning no disrespect or disapprobation, I promise! –will be parsed. (I’ve been watching too much Jane Austen or can’t you tell? – Heh.)

In this corner:

We have the dad, Michael Mukasey, a powerful

figure in charge of JUSTICE in this country,

defending the telecoms, going to bat for the

corporations, for their retroactive immunity

for spying illegally on us.

In the other corner:

We have the son, Marc Mukasey, a young warrior,

defending the telecoms, seeking immunity for

corporations that illegally spy us, turning

over our calls and emails to the government

without warrants.

I’m wondering if it bothers you.

Crossposted on the orange board.

A strange call to a Senator today regarding telecom amnesty

This is weird, but I thought I’d pass it along.

I hadn’t gotten around to making calls until today due to the press of the upcoming primary.  Between 11 and 11:30 Pacific Time, I reached most of the targeted Senators in person, and left messages at most of the others.  It was the standard spiel: (1) you should require truth for reconciliation — the question of what punishment the telecoms had earned was separate from the question of whether they had committed crimes, but we’ll never find out what crimes they committed if we pass this amnesty; (2) it damages our system to let those with great lobbying resources get away with having committed crimes with impunity; (3) the grassroots are really, really upset about this issue and it isn’t going away.

In most cases, I spoke to a young man or woman, mostly polite, sometimes diffident.  Having suffered through my speech, without fail they all politely thanked me and promised “I’ll pass that along to the Senator.”  (Tim Johnson’s guy also accepted my good wishes and told me he’s doing well.)  I was at most a tick mark on one side of a ledger for them, if they followed through on that promise at all, but one call was a little different.

Push the Candidates To Fight Telecom Immunity

Glen Greenwald over at Salon and Jane Hamsher and the folks over at FDL are trying to push all of the presidential candidates to take a public stand, and a leadership position, on the upcoming telecom immunity question. See here:


and here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/g…

Glen, about the attempt to immunize the telecoms for their illegal spying and violation of fundamental rights, says:

  As always, conventional media wisdom is that Democrats will be harmed politically if they don’t capitulate to the Big, Strong, Tough Republicans on all matters relating to national security (even though the efficacy of that fear-mongering tactic was empirically disproven in 2006). But isn’t it painfully evident that a far greater liability for Democrats at this point than being “soft on terrorism” is their refusal and failure to demonstrate that they will take a stand — any stand — against this extremely weakened President and his discredited political party, and therefore prove they stand for something?

   The only way for there to be any prospect of impeding Bush’s most extreme demands for vast warrantless eavesdropping powers and immunity for lawbreaking telecoms is for the presidential candidates — Obama, Edwards and Clinton — to demonstrate (rather than speak about) real “leadership” and take a stand in support of Chris Dodd and his imminent filibuster. There will be campaigns beginning this week to persuade and pressure them to do so — I will be posting extensively about them here. Any efforts to stop warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity is almost certain to fail without the active support of the presidential candidates, who these days have a virtual monopoly on the ability to set agendas and shape media attention.

Jane says:

  John Edwards should challenge his rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to go back to Washington, DC and fight against retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

   The Republicans are not going to let Reid punt and extend the Protect America Act for another 18 months so it looks like the FISA bill is going to come back up again on Monday. Chris Dodd’s objection to Unanimous Consent still stands, so they will pick up in the middle of the Motion to Proceed debate.

   Glenn Greenwald:


       It will be increasingly difficult to listen to Edwards, Obama and Clinton tout their supreme leadership attributes and their commitment to “changing the way Washington works” if they choose to sit by, more or less mute, and allow such a blatant and corrupt evisceration of the rule of law — and such a vast and permanent expansion of the limitless surveillance state — to occur without a fight. Any one of them, or all three, has a unique opportunity to actually demonstrate with actions, rather than pretty speeches, their commitment to the principles they claim to espouse.

   John Edwards is the perfect person to lead with this message. Such an action would illustrate his genuine commitment to change and fighting vested interests in Washington, and hopefully it will channel that intense anti-immunity passion toward his campaign. He won’t be able to participate in the filibuster himself, but by offering to leave the campaign trail and go back to DC with Clinton and Obama he’ll be able to show leadership in challenging all Democrats to put thoughts of personal gain aside and join together in the fight to save the constitution.

   Without the help of the presidential candidates, we are doomed to lose this fight. And all their calls for change will ring hollow if they allow George Bush to railroad this bill through a supine Democratic-controlled Senate because of their absence.

Jane has posted an email address where you may be able to contact the Edwards campaign:  [email protected]  Here is a link for contacts for other senator presidential candidates:  http://act.credomobile.com/…

She also has a link to a place where you can get updates on how to help this vital project:  http://action.firedoglake.com/…

Telecom Immunity: It’s still about the spying

With FISA Deform again imminent, discussion has focused on telecom immunity, Senator Reid’s inexplicable refusal to honor Senator Dodd’s hold, and Senators Clinton, Obama and Biden following Senator Dodd’s lead, in at least attempting to filibuster. In purely electoral terms, this has been one more reason why it is too bad Senator Dodd’s candidacy likely won’t have any impact on the presidential campaign. It is also further proof that we need him to replace Senator Reid, as Majority Leader.

But the real story is still about domestic spying. The real story is still about the Bush Administration breaking a law that was specifically designed to stop abuses of government that had been going on for decades, but most egregiously by the Nixon Administration.

As mcjoan wrote:

The illegal activities of the telcos in aiding our government in domestic, warrantless spying extends far beyond 9/11 and preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. Not that that was a valid justification for the government to overthrow the rule of law in the first place, but what a cynical effort by this administration to deceive.

Congress should not be voting on any amnesty for the telcos until full investigations of these new revelations have been conducted. The pending legislation on FISA, or at least this provision of it, should be shelved until Congress has a full picture of what these companies have been doing on behalf of our government.

Just so. It’s not only about shielding the telcos for having violated the trust of their customers, and possibly the law, it’s about preventing a full, fair accounting of what exactly the Bush Administration was doing, spying on the American people. The Constitution, the law, history, and the concept of individual privacy demand this accounting. That’s the real story, here.

Dodd Leads On FISA Telco Amnesty

Against the odds, Senator Chris Dodd has led the fight against FISA telco immunity.

The first step is to make sure retroactive immunity doesn’t make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee — where it will be considered shortly.

If we can get it stripped there, it will have to be offered as an amendment to the overall bill where it will be a lot easier to get 41 votes against retroactive immunity than 41 to sustain my filibuster if necessary

This is a vitally important issue, as the Dodd campaign demonstrates in this video of the whistleblower Marc Klein, who told the story of the telco’s failure to respect the privacy of its customers that the law (the Communication Storage Act) requires.

My name is Mark Klein. I used to be an AT&T technician for 22 years.

[Former AT&T Technician Mark Klein Speaks Out on Retroactive Immunity and Domestic Surveillance]

“What I figured out when I got there is that they were copying everything flowing across the internet cables, the major internet links between AT&T’s network and other companies’ networks.”

“It struck me at the time that this was a massively unconstitutional, illegal operation.”

“It affects not only AT&T’s customers, but everybody because these links went to places link Sprint, Qwest, a whole bunch of other companies.”

“And so they’re basically tapping into the entire internet.”

[But isn’t the government only monitoring suspected terrorists and not ordinary Americans?]

“To perform what they say they want to do, which is look at international traffic, none of this makes any sense. These installations only make sense if they’re doing a huge, massive domestic dragnet on everybody in the United States.”

[Shouldn’t the telecoms trust that the Bush administration’s requests are legal?]

“These companies know very well what’s legal and illegal. They’ve been dealing with this for decades. And it’s a fact that Qwest refused the NSA’s approaches because they didn’t have, they weren’t shown any legal justification for it. And they did the right thing and said, “no.” “

“What I’m here for is it looked like a few weeks ago that the Senate bill which passed the Intelligence Committee would give immunity to the telecom companies and that would probably put an end to the lawsuits.”

[The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing retroactive immunity]

“So I came here to lobby against giving immunity to the telecom companies. Let the court cases proceed and Congress should not interfere in that.”

Tell the Senate to oppose telecom immunity

Chris Dodd, leading on the issues now and demonstrating the leadership we will need from our next President.

Now call the Judiciary Committee Senators now. Use this. Chris Dodd will pay for your call.

Important If True

wherein the diarist cobbles together on a semi-regular basis a collection of seemingly random thoughts, no single one of which, taken by itself, may be worthy of your attention, dear reader(s?), but which, when presented en masse in a veritable mélange, a pastiche, as it were, of cerebral offal, might thus put to rest any niggling doubts that you may have had about whether the effort would be worth it. Or, to paraphrase someone, you should waste no time in reading this . . .

PAGING CAPT. OBVIOUS: I wonder why President Bush was in such a big hurry to get to the San Diego County photo op? I mean, it took him four days to land in New Orleans and screw up rescue efforts, right? Well, folks, the answer should be easy – it’s as simple as black and white – erm, I mean, blue and red (just zoom in on this map of the 2004 presidential vote by county; San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties are all the way down in the lower left-hand corner) . . .