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.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Where's the uproar?

Fierce debate might soon break out over the congressional reauthorization of the Protect America Act. At least we must hope that the Democrats finally step up to the plate on this one. The two mainstream media stories on the subject have a bit of a different tone, as well as significantly contrasting information.
The first is, "Democrats to Offer New Surveillance Rules" by Ellen Nakashima, at the Washington Post. She takes an excellent and (on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand) balanced look at the various proposals being discussed. Because it is civil liberties news to me, I quote the part of her story that was of most interest to me:

Adding a new perspective on the debate, a group of prominent computer scientists from organizations including Sun Microsystems, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania recently warned that the current emergency law opens doors to the interception of purely domestic communications without a warrant. The computer scientists are concerned that the government's actions could threaten the privacy and security of U.S. communications.

Administration officials have testified that any information gathered that involves an American who is not a target will be "minimized" -- their identities blacked out -- so that their privacy is protected.

Second is the NYT headline: "Democrats Seem Ready to Extend Wiretap Powers." My co-blogger at The Reaction, Edward Copeland reports that the Dems are ready to cave again, citing an important New York Times story by those intrepid reporters, Eric Lichtblau and Carl Hulse. The authors conclude with the part that interests me most,

Civil liberties advocates and others who met House officials on Monday on the proposed bill agreed that it was an improvement over the August plan but were less charitable in their overall assessment.

‘This still authorizes the interception of Americans’ international communications without a warrant in far too many instances, and without adequate civil liberties protections,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, who was in the group that met House officials.

Caroline Frederickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was troubled by the Democrats’ acceptance of broad, blanket warrants for the security agency rather than the individualized warrants traditionally required by the intelligence court.

“The Democratic leadership, philosophically, is with us,” Ms. Frederickson said. “But we need to help them realize the political case, which is that Democrats will not be in danger if they don’t reauthorize this Protect America Act. They’re nervous.

“There’s a ‘keep the majority’ mentality, which is understandable,” she said, “But we think they’re putting themselves in more danger by not standing on principle.”

A digest of Information - As my regular readers know I have been writing a great deal about this particular subject. My goal is to inform readers in order that you can contact Senate Democrats and House Leadership about what you want them to do about these important civil liberties issues. Here are a few of the early links that give a feel for how it was "way back when."
  • Spy World - Oct. 20, 2005. This is my first significant foray into the subject. I begin with Nancy Drew, I talk about a few women intelligence experts in Congress, and end with DNI John Negroponte.
  • Patriot Act may be extended - Dec. 9, 2005. Discussed inadequate checks on National Security Letters as well as FISA Court orders.
  • NSA Surveillance of Americans: NYT - Dec. 18, 2005. I explored the level of interest among Americans as they first found out about the existence of the NSA domestic surveillance program.
  • How do Americans view domestic spying? - Dec. 27, 2005. A look at public opinion polls on the subject of spying on Americans.
  • Civil Liberties have staying power in the long run - Dec. 31, 2005. This was a New Year's Eve post covering the Government's investigation of who leaked the original NYT expose. The administration had begun to feel its oats and was making many more claims of inherent presidential powers under the so-called unitary theory.
  • The time has come to investigate - Jan 2, 2006. Coming back to Washington in an uproar, Congress was beginning to make investigation noises.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
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The Future Was Yesterday said...

"At least we must hope that the Democrats finally step up to the plate on this one. "
I've been trying to read the tea leaves on this one, at least to the extent of how the Dems might vote. I read a lot of conflicting reports, just as you said.

That worries me considerably, as I'm wondering whether it's just more posturing, or do they, as you said, finally have a bit of spine.

My guess (as you already know from my past comments: Here comes Mr. Negativity) it's just more posturing. I want SO bad not to believe that.....but track records are so hard to ignore...(:

Carol Gee said...

The Committee stuff went pretty well yesterday (10/10) in the House Judiciary Com. There was even a bit of cooperation from a few of the Republican Members. We'll see how it goes.
According to OCP, it will all be up to Admiral McConnell, whether the president signs any legislation. Somehow that doesn't seem right to me.
Thanks for your comment.