S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Senate "caves" - what else is there to say?

They raised their hands in droves, and couldn't wait to do it. Democratic senators lined up behind OCP (our current president), and abandoned the American people's civil liberties. "Kagro X" at DailyKos states it clearly: " There is something fundamentally wrong here." There is no other way to say it. We expect the House to follow suit today.
The news is disheartening. It is this. The "Senate passes Bush-backed spy bill", according to Reuters. To quote the story basics,
On a vote of 60-28, the Senate sent the measure to the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives for consideration as early as Saturday as lawmakers push to begin a month-long recess.

. . . The Senate defeated, on a 45-43 vote, a Democratic alternative, which would have placed tighter controls on the spying and provided for independent assessments of the attorney general's implementation of the measure.
Like watching the production of sausage - We observed more than we wanted to know as the events emerged. We saw that the fear mongering of OCP and his lieutenants worked well on the highest legislative officials in the land, United States Senators. They lost their nerve, perhaps rationalizing that the measure is temporary. Vulnerable Americans are now left to the protection of Alberto Gonzales. The Los Angeles Times headlined, "Senate votes to expand spy authority - The last-minute legislation gives agencies more power to track foreign communications and removes the court approval process." It was written by Greg Miller, August 4, 2007. Quoting portions of the story,
. . . The House is scheduled to vote on an identical bill today; congressional officials said they expected the measure to pass. On Friday, the House rejected a competing version offered by Democrats

. . . The Senate's action was a key victory for Bush at a time when adverse court rulings and dismal approval ratings have forced his administration to retreat from some of its most aggressive assertions of executive authority in the war on terrorism.

. . . In January, facing scrutiny from Congress and accusations that the program was unconstitutional, Bush shifted the program to the FISA court's purview. Sometime later, however, a FISA judge ruled that certain aspects of the Bush administration surveillance program violated the law. Intelligence officials indicated that the ruling required the government to obtain warrants even for "foreign to foreign" communications when the e-mail or phone call crossed networks in the United States.

That secret ruling — the court's deliberations are classified — caused a panic in intelligence circles. National Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell warned that U.S. spy agencies were suddenly unable to collect dangerously large swaths of foreign communications.
In the Middle East, treatment of the story was matter of fact. It points out that the "crisis" occurred after it was leaked that the FISA court was not allowing the illegal program to continue as it has been. Oh, and there was an increase in foreign so-called "chatter." Will the court now be able to provide the oversight needed? I doubt it. The law will now be in the hands of DNI Admiral Mike McConnell, as superviced by OCP. We saw during the negotiation process how little independence the DNI really has. We have become a nation of men, not of laws, as a pundit pointed out. Aljazeera English - News headlined its story, "US senate approves spy bill." I quote,
The US senate has approved a bill that would maintain president George Bush's authority to eavesdrop on terror suspects without court approval. . . The temporary powers give Congress time to draw up a more comprehensive plan instead of rushing approval for a permanent bill before the break. . . The bill would allow the administration to continue the warrant-less surveillance but require it to describe to a secret federal court the procedures it uses in targeting foreign suspects.

. . . After the September 11 attacks, Bush authorised the interception without warrants of communications between people in the US and others overseas if one had suspected ties to terrorists. . .Critics say the programme violated the FISA law, but Bush argued he had wartime powers to do so.

A recent ruling by the FISA court barred the government from eavesdropping on foreign suspects whose messages were being routed through US communications carriers, including Internet sites, prompting the Bush administration to call for the new bill.

The steam roller moved unchecked. Individual senators lost their nerve in the face of threats, hyperbole, and the duplicity of a White House negotiating in bad faith. It will be interesting how many senators foreign phone calls will come under the watchful eyes of our now ubiquitous big brother watching out for us. The next six months will see the presidential campaign in full swing, the September reports of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and the finishing of this current session of Congress. It is one of the saddest times for me since the elections of last November. What were these people thinking? They turned us over to people demanding tools to "keep us safe." Our freedom and civil liberties have not been so threatened in a long time, if ever. The International Herald Tribune headlined, "Broader wiretapping authority advances in U.S. Congress," by Eric Lichtblau and Mark Mazzetti, August 4, 2007. To quote,
A furious push by the White House to broaden its wiretapping authority appeared on the verge of victory Saturday as a bill advanced in Congress to give the Bush administration more latitude temporarily to eavesdrop without court warrants on foreign communications that it suspects may be tied to terrorism.

. . . Some Democrats and civil rights advocates accused the Senate of capitulating to White House demands by broadening the ability to eavesdrop without warrants on communications that are primarily "foreign" in nature, even if they may touch on Americans' phone calls and e-mail. . . Caroline Frederickson, head of the American Civil Liberties Union office here, said: "The Democrats caved in to the politics of fear we're seeing from this administration. They didn't want to be depicted as soft on terrorism. But this measure removes any court oversight from surveillance on Americans in a large number of cases."

. . . In an unusual maneuver, Bond pressed the case for new legislative authority by reading on the Senate floor, apparently to the surprise of some administration officials, an e-mail message that the office of the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, sent to Congressional leaders on the urgency of amending the wiretapping law. "We understand that the FISA Court judges urgently support a more appropriate alignment of the court's caseload and jurisdiction away from the focus on non-U.S. persons operating outside of the United States," the message read. "The judges have clearly expressed frustration with the fact that so much of their docket is consumed by applications that focus on foreign targets and involve minimal privacy interests of Americans."

Court officials and McConnell's office refused to comment on the message. The concerns from his office appeared to reflect, at least in part, the recent restrictions imposed by the court on intercepting what is known as "foreign-to-foreign transit traffic," in which both parties are outside the United States but the phone calls or e-mail messages are routed through telecommunications centers in the United States.

Please let your elected legislators know how disappointed you are when they get back to their districts. Their adjourning for the August recess was far too much of the impetus for all this.

My links: Cross posted at The Reaction.
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Good Second Mondays is about the dreaming process.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And the house about to follow today I bet. Makes all that work in the 2006 elections all worth while now, doesn't it - good grief! why did we even bother?