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.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On FISA Favorites --

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act story is complicated and very difficult to follow. It has been in the news a great deal in recent weeks, but I have been following the issue since late 2005 when the existence of the Bush domestic spying program was first revealed. In the process I have come to rely on other sources doing the same thing. From that I have developed my list of FISA Favorites. Today's post features excerpts from the work of that esteemed group.

Empty wheel joined in the recent discussion of what would happen after the ACLU case (bringing suit against telecommunications companies that assisted the government to spy on its own citizens) was turned down. The LA Times via memeorandum, clarified what is really going on with Congress and amending the FISA bill. The White House backtracked on its claims of lost intelligence. To quote:

Hours after chiding Congress for not finishing a wiretapping bill and leaving the nation 'vulnerable to terrorist attack,' officials acknowledge all requested information is being received.

. . . The comments by Mukasey, McConnell and Bush were criticized by civil rights and privacy advocates, including Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"In an attempt to get sweeping powers to wiretap without warrants, Republicans are playing politics with domestic surveillance legislation," Fredrickson said.

FISA Favorites are still coming through for us. What has been needed to support the House of Representatives efforts to say no, is continuous insightful posting by the blogosphere's experts in the FISA field who have followed this story from the beginning.

Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake, deserves a "hooray" for this phrase alone: "FISA: President Specious Opens Yap, Petulantly Stamps Foot…Again." Her point was this, "For President Bush, retroactive immunity for telecoms -- who would only be liable in the first instance if they knowingly cooperated with unlawful requests from the Administration -- is more important than preventing the degradation of our capabilities of surveilling terrorists." Smith's post yesterday included a quote from another blogosphere expert, Glenn G.

Glenn Greenwald: What he said Saturday seems significant to us:

In the letter from Chairman Reyes to which McConnell and Mukasey are responding, Reyes pointed out that under the still-existing FISA law, the Government is free to commence surveillance without a warrant where there is no time to obtain one. In response, McConnell and Mukasey wrote:

[You imply that the emergency authorization process under FISA is an adequate substitute for the legislative authorities that have elapsed. This assertion reflects a basic misunderstanding about FISA's emergency authorization provisions. Specifically, you assert that the National Security Agency (NSA) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) "may begin surveillance immediately" in an emergency situation. FISA requires far more, and it would be illegal to proceed as you suggest].
Wow, what a blockbuster revelation. Apparently, as it turns out, in the United States it's "illegal" for the Government to eavesdrop on Americans without first complying with the requirements of FISA. But even if telecoms were refusing to cooperate, the reason for their refusal was not because they don't have retroactive immunity, but rather, it's because there is alleged uncertainty over the legality of current surveillance requests, and uncertainty over the ongoing validity of the prospective immunity provided by the PAA, because the PAA expired.

Basic references on how all this began:

View my current slide show about the Bush years, "Millennium," at the bottom of this column.

My links:

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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