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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PAA & FISA - civil liberties boiling in alphabet soup

The prospects for correctly fixing the Protect America Act seem to be dimming this week. There is a lot going on in Congress, according to Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake. Her excellent piece on Monday, "FISA Update," gives the likely schedule of what will be happening right now to pending intelligence legislation in and out of committee. It contains a very useful contact list of legislators whose votes my or may not be going the right way to protect our civil liberties.
Far too many Members of the House and Senators are leaning the wrong ways in these matters, according to "Scarecrow" at Firedoglake, who says "they need some encouragement" in a couple of areas:
  1. There is a risk that blanket retroactive immunity may be given to the telecommunications companies who so happily cooperated with the Bush administration to illegally spy on Americans from the beginning of the administration. Glenn Greenwald at has done a magnificent piece of writing recently about the harm this amnesty would do to our country.
  2. The law may allow "basket warrants" from the FISA court for domestic surveillance, rather than individual warrants to wiretap U.S. citizens. This practice would not provide adequate protections; the ACLU has an excellent exploration of why. (See Scarecrow's post above for the most recent ACLU statement on pending legislation).
Administration supporters are "searching for excuses" to weaken our civil liberties protections, says "Siun" at FDL. This writer explores in depth the unsupported allegation by DNI Mike McConnell that it was the unwieldy FISA law that kept the government from saving the lives of three kidnapped soldiers in Iraq. See also my previous post about this House Judiciary Committee hearing, in which I paraphrased McConnell's testimony:
We asked that the law be changed because the FISA court orders were such that we had to get a warrant to surveil the terrorists who kidnapped the soldiers in Iraq. Could we have used the (72-hour) Emergency Provisions? That is not the point - we would have been required to show probable cause, a lot of work and trouble. The whole process slowed us down. The point is that there should be no 4th amendment right at all for foreigners. The reason a warrant was required before it was just changed, was the mode of communication, and where the signal picked up - in the U.S. The law did not keep pace with technology.
Three pieces of mainstream media journalism on the issues have the blogosphere boiling. "The Beltway Establishment's contempt for the rule of law," another Glenn Greenwald (10/14/07) post, points to Fred Hiatt and David Ignatius at the Washington Post, and Joe Klein at Time. (I include references after the Greenwald quote). To quote:
The corruption and sleaze here is so transparent and extreme. We're just sitting by watching as telecoms right in front of our faces purchase from government officials the right to be exempt from lawsuits currently pending in our court system. Government officials, more or less on a bipartisan basis, are about to intervene in these lawsuits and prevent them from proceeding to a determination of whether telcoms violated numerous, long-standing laws. And Fred Hiatt and David Ignatius and Joe Klein and virtually all Beltway "journalistic" opinion-makers think that is the right thing to do, just as they insisted that the President and his aides should never be subjected to consequences for their lawbreaking either.
Fred Hiatt, editorial the Washington Post, "Surveillance update"
Joe Klein at Time, "Democrats fold? Yes and No"
David Ignatius column at the Washington Post, "Dangerous Logjam on Surveillance"
Also - - Blogs about Protect America Act
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(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays .

1 comment:

The Future Was Yesterday said...

"Far too many Members of the House and Senators are leaning the wrong ways"

You noticed that too, huh?:) I hate to be your daily dose of acid rain all the time, but I think we both know when all the make believe postering is done, Bush is going to get what he wants, don't we?...(: