Sep 012008
 

Leading up to the Rethuglican National Convention in St. Paul, the federal government is leading local law enforcement in a disturbing number of high profile raids on homes and protesters. Most disturbing is the show of force involved in these raids, and the lack of evidence of any intent to commit any violence (other than protesting the state the Rethuglican have put the country in). Of course, trying to squelch these protests would be a violation of the Constitution. China has no Constitutional Protections, yet all the main stream media here in the U.S. was hand wringing over China’s efforts to quell protests during the Olympics…yet nary a peep from them about what’s going on in St. Paul.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article about all this on salon.com. Sadly, he makes the very valid point that we are basically getting what we deserve here, and that the great tradition on which this country was founded seems lost on us today. Notes Greenwald:

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they’ve done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our “freedoms” in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic — but we’ve decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it’s therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

Greenwald links to a number of articles, many with videos, of these displays of force. If you care about America, I suggest you read the article, and contact your Congressional representatives and demand better. If you live in Ramsey County, MN, demand the removal from office of Judge Joanne M. Smith, if, as It appears from the video below, that she may be the person signing at least some of the illegal search warrants. This is what disturbs me the most…that the FBI is able to get these search warrants. Judges are supposed to hold a high standard, but look to be falling right in line, and not  requiring any real probable cause.

 

So, they can hold these people for 36 hours…starting after today’s holiday, and then manage to keep a little longer as they are processed for release, and by then the Rethuglican Convention is over. Then, the local prosecutors will drop all the charges, maybe issue some mild apology about inconveniencing people, and then say they’ll investigate what happened, and that will be the last you hear of it. The Administration knows this is how it will work, and are using the process to prevent protest.

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Mar 142008
 

Well, the House seems to be sticking to their guns, and not passing a FISA bill that will grant immunity to the telecom industry for illegal spying. This is critically important, because it’s the last best hope to have the illegal surveillance activities of the current Cheney Administration see the light of day.

During a press conference on February 28, George Bush finally went rogue on Dick, and accidentally told the truth about the reason for telecom immunity.

Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance.

The part about aiding our enemies is the usual administration fear mongering BS, but the rest reveals a truth that Dick probably didn’t want exposed.

The truth is that Federal Courts receive and rule on secret and classified information on a fairly regular basis, and those secrets seem better kept than most of the Administration’s secrets (when it suits them to harm someone they don’t like…see Valery Plame). The FISA law provided for those procedures a long time ago, and they have worked just fine. When FISA was originally passed by Congress, they knew that preventing courts from ever having access to anything deemed “secret” would allow government officials to break any laws their little hearts desired, and then just declare it related to national security.

The real reason the Cheney Administration doesn’t want a court to ever hear a telecom spying case is because those lawsuits are the absolute last hope for ever learning what the administration did when they spied on Americans for years in violation of the law. Dismissing the cases based on a grant of amnesty would ensure that their spying activities stay concealed, buried forever, and just as important, that no court ever rules on the legality of what they did.

It amazes me how this aspect of telecom amnesty is never discussed, and how little interest it generates among journalists — whose role, theoretically, is to uncover secret government actions?

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Jan 112008
 

Well, well, well. It seems the big telecom companies (you remember, the ones wanting immunity for assisting Dick Cheney and King George in their illegal wiretapping scheme because of the dire consequences to national security), have been having to cut off the phone lines providing wiretap information to the feds because the FBI can’t pay their bills on time.

The New York Times is reporting on an FBI audit that found that several wiretaps were cut off because the FBI was so behind on paying their bill.

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

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

So let me get this straight…

  • The telecom companies just HAD to provide the government with the illegal wiretaps because of the obvious threats to national security.
  • Now, because they were really just protecting all of us, they expect the government to give them immunity.
  • The Congress probably will give them immunity in a couple of weeks.
  • But when the bills didn’t get paid, it wasn’t really an important enough threat to national security to keep the wiretaps open.

As one writer put, I guess they believed the government when they said the warrant was in the mail, but not when they said the check was in the mail.

Aug 072007
 

Well, S.1927, An Act To Amend The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 passed the Senate and House, with a bunch of weak kneed Democrats rushing to its support.

Unfortunately I’m not surprised to find that Florida Senator Bill Nelson has voted in favor of the amendment. The Senator has consistently cast votes hostile to the Constitution and with the Bush Administration. I can only guess he’s been promised a bed in the bunker during the coming coup. Unfortunately, he’s not up for reelection until 2012, but I have decided he is nothing more than a Republican in sheep’s clothing. He’s very quiet about it, but seems to very consistently vote to support the Administration.

I was also surprised to see that Jim Webb, the newly elected Senator from Virginia, had voted for the amendment. I thought he had a bit more backbone.

The last vestiges of democratic rule are slipping away. Of all the things in the bill, it gives this unbridled power to Alberto Gonzales…a man who has called the Constitution, “a quaint document.” This is a man who wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him in the ass, and he can surveil any person he wants to. Do you honestly believe this administration will use this authority only for good?

Mar 092006
 

Republicans are packaging as “reform” a plan that would gut FISA, leaving the president free to spy on Americans without obtaining a warrant. A NY Times editorial expresses appropriate outrage at this cynical ploy to shield the president’s lawless behavior:

Faced with a president who is almost certainly breaking the law, the Senate sets up a panel to watch him do it and calls that control. … The Republicans’ idea of supervision involves saying the White House should get a warrant for spying whenever possible. Currently a warrant is needed, period. And that’s the right law. The White House has not offered a scrap of evidence that it interferes with antiterrorist operations. Mr. Bush simply decided the law did not apply to him.

The Times reports that the deal, negotiated with the White House, “left Senate Democrats fuming on the sidelines.” The Times also reports that the proposal is “likely to win approval from the full Senate.” Isn’t it time for spineless Democrats to stop fuming and start filibustering?

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