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Senate Votes to Give Retroactive Immunity for Telecoms
By Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker
Let there be no doubt: a majority of senators, and a large number of Democrats, think the telecoms should not suffer the hazard of accountability for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the floor last night to give a speech asking, "This is our defining question, the question that confronts every generation: The rule of law, or the rule of men?" The resounding answer: the rule of men.
29 Congress Members Say Illegal Bush Program Undermines Basic Civil Liberties, So Need to Impeach Him
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Progressives Vow To Oppose Immunity in FISA Legislation
Congresswomen Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey & Progressives Target Bush Spying Program with Telecomm
(Washington, DC) – Declaring that telecommunications companies involved in President’s Bush’s domestic spying program “undermined [the] fundamental civil protections and privacy rights of Americans,” twenty-nine House Members today wrote to President Bush to warn him that they will oppose any legislation that grants the companies retroactive immunity.
By Ryan Singel
In a Senate floor speech, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) inadvertently made plain that the proposed changes to the nation's spying laws radically expand how the government wiretaps inside the United States. Rockefeller was decrying an amendment that would require the government to discard non-emergency evidence if a court later finds that the spying methods violate the law.
Rockefeller makes clear that the impending changes to the law aren't about making it easier for the National Security Agency to listen in on a particular terrorism suspect's phone calls. Instead, the changes are about letting the nation's spooks secretly and unilaterally install filters inside America's phone and internet infrastructure.
Domestic Wiretapping Could Pose ‘An Awesome Risk’ to National Security
By Justin Rood, ABC News
Although the Bush administration calls it a vital weapon against terrorism, its domestic wiretapping effort could become a devastating tool for terrorists if hacked or penetrated from inside, according to a new article by a group of America’s top computer security experts.The administration has said little about the program except to defend it against charges it amounts to illegal spying on U.S. citizens. When news of the program broke in 2006, then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the program a “limited” effort “targeted at al Qaeda communications coming into or going out of the United States.”
By Robert Jereski
Truthout's Matt Renner reports: "a think tank with close ties to the telecommunication industry has been working with a key Democrat in the Senate on a domestic surveillance bill that would provide telecommunications companies with retroactive immunity for possibly violating federal law by spying on American citizens at the behest of the Bush administration. Third Way, a non-profit [so-called] 'progressive' think tank that is funded and controlled by hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers and business executives has advised Sen. Jay Rockefeller on a domestic surveillance bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies with which Third Way board members have close ties."
While they may have primarily been defending their right to get a chance to vote on amendments, Senators today did block immunity for criminal telecom companies spying in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and they did so with a filibuster, and they did that because Senator Chris Dodd had the backbone and the decency to throw down the gauntlet. Now why in the world will not one single senator choose to be an instant international hero, win or lose, and propose to filibuster any more money for the occupation of Iraq?
Despite Reid's recent pledge to oppose immunity for the telecom industry, he has brought forward one of two bills, both amended by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which contains… immunity!
Reid didn't have to do this. He could have championed the other bill, which eliminated immunity for the telecom industry.
So today, the Senate will vote to grant immunity to the telecom industry for their illegal spying on Americans, or they will protect our rights and the Constitution and vote no.
Michael Ratner: Senate vote on FISA bill could threaten basic rights (complete interview)
By Elliot Cohen, Truthdig
Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.
For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes.
By Glenn Greenwald
Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.
By Marjorie Cohn
After a January 24 debate in the Senate on amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Senate appears ready to capitulate once again to the Bush administration's agenda of sacrificing liberty for questionable security.
On the day before Congress was slated to take up this issue, Dick Cheney addressed the Heritage Foundation, the most influential right-wing think tank. He was given a thunderous reception, to which he quipped, "I hold an office that has only one constitutional duty - presiding over the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes." But the most powerful vice president in this nation's history was about to strong-arm Congress into doing the administrations' bidding.
When it comes to protecting the rule of law, words are not enough. We need action.
It's wrong for your government to spy on you. That's why I'm asking you to join me today in calling on Senate Democrats to filibuster revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would give "retroactive immunity" to the giant telecom companies for their role in aiding George W. Bush's illegal eavesdropping on American citizens.
By mcjoan, www.dailykos.com
Tim Tagaris has Senator Dodd's statement on continuing his FISA filibuster:
"Few things are more detrimental to this country than the erosion of and attack on the civil liberties we enjoy. This isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; this is an American issue. If after debate, the Senate appears ready to pass legislation granting telecom providers retroactive immunity I will use any and all legislative tools at my disposal, including a filibuster, to prevent this deeply flawed bill from becoming law. More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both. For all those who have stood with me throughout this fight, I pledge, once more, to stand up for you."
By Coleen Rowley
Dick Cheney was at his best shilling for immunity for telecom companies today before the Heritage Foundation. His speech came one day before the Republican rubber stamp machine in the Senate attempts another push to give blanket immunity to the telecommunication companies suspected of engaging in illegal eavesdropping and surveillance of Americans. Although wiretapping is usually justified as a necessary tool in the "War on Terror", there is good reason to doubt the official story and question the legality of the Bush administration's practices.
By Tom Raum, Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney prodded Congress on Wednesday to extend and broaden an expiring surveillance law, saying "fighting the war on terror is a long-term enterprise" that should not come with an expiration date.
"We're reminding Congress that they must act now," Cheney told the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The law, which authorizes the administration to eavesdrop on phone calls and see the e-mail to and from suspected terrorists, expires on Feb. 1. Congress is bickering over terms of its extension.
By Stephen Lendman
This article reviews two police state tools (among many in use) in America. One is new, undiscussed and largely unknown to the public. The other was covered in a December article by this writer called Police State America. Here it's updated with new information.
The National Applications Office (NAO)
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established a new domestic spying operation in 2007 called the National Applications Office (NOA) and described it as "the executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement purposes within the United States." The office was to begin operating last fall to "build on the long-standing work of the Civil Applications Committee (CAC), which was created in 1974 to facilitate the use of the capabilities of the intelligence community for civil, non-defense uses in the United States."
By ADAM LIPTAK, New York Times
A couple of years ago, Michael T. Arnold landed at the Los Angeles International Airport after a 20-hour flight from the Philippines. He had his laptop with him, and a customs officer took a look at what was on his hard drive. Clicking on folders called “Kodak pictures” and “Kodak memories,” the officer found child pornography.
The search was not unusual: the government contends that it is perfectly free to inspect every laptop that enters the country, whether or not there is anything suspicious about the computer or its owner. Rummaging through a computer’s hard drive, the government says, is no different than looking through a suitcase.
Dodd is filibustering spying.
Who will filibuster the occupation of Iraq?
Who will continue to pretend that it isn't possible?
By Will Easton, Activism Manager, CREDO Action
The FISA bill in the Senate continues to advance and has reached another critical juncture. The Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have passed different versions of the bill. One includes dangerous amnesty provisions for telcos and one does not. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will now decide which version will advance to the floor, and he needs to hear that any form of amnesty is unacceptable.
What's Really in the RESTORE Act [Or When Rep. Holt Noticed That Joe Klein Was a Lying Little Butthead]
By Rush Holt, Huffington Post
I was pleased to see Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein acknowledge that he "may have made a mistake" in his column attacking the House Majority ("The Tone Deaf Democrats") and misrepresenting the RESTORE Act. Unfortunately, Mr. Klein still professes confusion toward the bill's contents and continues to question whether the House should have passed it in the first place.
Justices Uphold Welfare Home Searches
By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
The ACLU had challenged a San Diego County policy, saying its warrantless inspections violated privacy rights. The Supreme Court refuses to hear it.
Washington - County welfare officers may conduct routine searches of the homes of welfare recipients to combat fraud under a ruling in a California case that the Supreme Court let stand Monday.
By Elliot D. Cohen, BuzzFlash
In 1972, Nixon's burglars, all members of the Committee to Reelect the President, had to risk breaking into Democratic National Headquarters to try to gain an unfair election advantage for the GOP over its Democratic opponent. Now, with Total Information Awareness in place, the Bush White House may not even have to flip a switch to have the Dems' private e-mails and phone conversations delivered to its doorstep. Unfortunately, this may only be the tip of the iceberg for the fate of free elections in America if Congress decides to grant legal status and retroactive immunity to this massive surveillance and data mining operation conducted by giant telecoms on behalf of the President.
Explain to Me Why They Should Reauthorize This Unconstitutional Bill, Even Without Retroactive Immunity
Under bill, companies could face privacy suits
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Congress appeared headed toward a confrontation with President Bush on Thursday over House and Senate plans to require that telecommunication firms that aided the administration's warrantless surveillance program be subject to lawsuits from American customers.
The House of Representatives approved Thursday night a Democrat-sponsored foreign surveillance bill that would block retroactive immunity from lawsuits for telecoms that facilitated wiretapping or shared customer information with the federal government from the Sept. 11 attacks until this past January. The bill passed 227-189.
Senate FISA Bill Does Not Include Retroactive Immunity for Telecoms, and That Makes it OK, According to Dodd
By Tim Tagaris, Chris Dodd for President
As they say ... Breaking News from the Senate.
Forgive me if some of this is in the weeds, I'll try and make the parliamentary process as painless as possible.
1. Within the last hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee just reported out a FISA bill that DOES NOT include retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that helped the Bush Administration spy on Americans.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Elliot D. Cohen
Amid public outcry, in 2003, Congress defunded the Bush Administration's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project, a massive Orwellian technology-driven surveillance and data mining initiative. Now, it is attempting to pass through the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248), a bill that would affectively give legal standing and retroactive legal immunity to a major component of this project.
By Chris Dodd for President
In spring of 2006 I started seeing people put special notes to government agents in their email signature. The thinking was that if a government official was going to read your email, you might as well put a line in at the end to remind them that they were doing so illegally.
Yesterday afternoon I sat down with AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein. He's the technician who revealed that the NSA has secret rooms for sweeping up massive amounts of electronic communications on the internet - the story that prompted these sardonic email signatures.
By Chris Dodd, www.huffingtonpost.com
Tuesday night's Democratic Presidential debate in Philadelphia included some of the most serious discussions of Iraq, Iran, and global warming that we've had thus far during the campaign season. I was happy to get the opportunity to speak clearly and directly to why I believe I've offered the boldest, most honest assessments on all three of these critical issues.