The Blue America Pac is rocking our way toward 350,000 dollars and if there is one thing that catches a Blue Dog's eye, it's raising money at a record rate. Please contribute so we can fight back on FISA.
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- Barack Obama
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- Bush Administration
- Civil Liberties
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- Countdown with Keith Olbermann
- Democratic Party
- Duke Cunningham
- Election 2006
- Freedom of Information
- George W. Bush
- Glenn Greenwald
- Government Policy
- Hillary Clinton
- Hurricane Katrina
- Intelligence Gathering
- John Hall
- John McCain
- McCain's Media
- NSA Wiretapping
- NY Times
- Peter Welch
- President Bush
- Rule Of law
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- Steny Hoyer
- Terrorist Attacks
- The House
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- White House
- telecom immunity
Yesterday we had an explosion of reactions from members of Congress and from our Blue America-endorsed candidates regarding what many people feel is a betrayal by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. I know that John would never brag about it but when Hoyer was fighting for the Majority Leader job, John was the loudest voice on the Internet in opposition, predicting... well, just the kind of thing that happened yesterday. Hit that link and read why respected congressional legal minds like Jerrold Nadler, Tom Allen Russ Feingold, and Chris Dodd are saying no to Hoyer's
compromise capitulation. When I was in DC recently I ran into Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and I congratulated him on finding a very nasty little loophole the Bush Regime had somehow inserted in some legislation when no one was looking. He beamed and was happy that someone knew about his efforts... and then told me his re-election was in jeopardy and asked for help from our PAC. "Congressman Welch," I said politely, you can't be in jeopardy when the Republicans can't even find a third-tier candidate to run against you." He laughed. He wasn't laughing today, though, when he explained why he would vote against the Hoyer-Bush plan to do grave violence to the Constitution:
“I simply do not believe any president, especially this president, should have unilateral or unchecked authority to conduct surveillance without judicial oversight. Congress has an obligation to protect our national security without sacrificing basic rights provided in our Constitution. “While this compromise reflects improvements over previous flawed proposals, it is a compromise I will not support. I have consistently opposed any legislation that grants retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that cooperated with the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping. Regrettably, this latest proposal fails to hold the administration and the companies accountable for their actions. The American people deserve to know exactly what happened and they deserve to know who is accountable. This bill fails that test."
Very polite but very much to the point. Peter Welch stands with the people of Vermont and the people of the United States, not with Bush, Hoyer and their big criminal campaign donors. Another member, who has asked to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons, just said this: "Steny Hoyer is the best friend money can buy." We'll see all the competition for the best friends money can buy during the vote today.
UPDATE: Blue America's John Hall speaks out against FISA:
John mentioned our new coalition, Strange Bedfellows, earlier and I can't reiterate more strongly the need to fight Blue Dogs like Steny Hoyer, so if you can donate, please do so. Think of the message it sends to Congress that we are willing to fight our own if they don't represent us and our Democratic values the way they should.
Steny Hoyer's "compromise" on FISA is odd, to put it mildly--infuriating to put it accurately. With a majority in the Senate, why the need for a compromise? Is it that Hoyer is just afraid not to be invited to any more cocktail parties by his Republican brethren? Even the NY Times calls it ridiculous. Booman:
Glenn Greenwald has been leading the charge against Steny Hoyer's FISA capitulation plan. It's very comforting to see that the New York Times' editorial board agrees with us that Hoyer's plan is an outrage:
[..]The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.
Bingo. The editorial goes on to detail the sham more thoroughly. The big 'concession' in this deal is that the matter of retroactive immunity for telecom corporations will be decided in a federal district court rather than in the ultra-secret FISA court.[..]
Here's the meat of this issue. All electronic surveillance involving U.S. citizens must be carried out in accordance with the FISA law. And, provided that the law is followed there can be no liability for telecom corporations or anyone else that provides assistance. That's laid out here(emphasis mine):
(i) Bar to legal action
No cause of action shall lie in any court against any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, landlord, custodian, or other person (including any officer, employee, agent, or other specified person thereof) that furnishes any information, facilities, or technical assistance in accordance with a court order or request for emergency assistance under this chapter for electronic surveillance or physical search.
Good God, is this why we elected a Democratic majority in 2006? So they can continue to enable the Bush administration as more and more independent sources have verified the criminality that we've claimed correctly all along?
In his eternal quest for the Republican presidential nomination, the supposed maverick John McCain has repeatedly reversed long-held positions and compromised purportedly core principles. From the Bush tax cuts, the religious right and immigration reform to overturning Roe v. Wade, proclaiming Samuel Alito a model Supreme Court Justice and bashing France (just to name a few), McCain changed sides as changing political conditions dictated.
But over the past two weeks, McCain's rapid fire, acrobatic flip-flops have produced whiplash, at least for voters. 10 times since the beginning of June, McCain has retreated from, upended or just forgotten positions he once claimed as his own. On Social Security, balancing the budget, defense spending, domestic surveillance and a host of other issues so far this month, McCain's "Straight Talk Express" did a U-turn on the road to the White House.
National Journal (subscription req'd.):
The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat disclosed late Tuesday that he is ready to accept a Republican-brokered deal to rewrite the nation's electronic surveillance laws, signaling that a long-running congressional impasse could soon be coming to an end.
House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes told CongressDaily that he is "fine" with language offered by Senate Intelligence ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond and other Republicans to overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Notably, the GOP language, which was offered a day before the recent congressional recess, would leave it up to the secret FISA court to grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have helped the Bush administration conduct electronic surveillance on the communications of U.S. citizens without warrants.
About 40 civil lawsuits already have been filed against the companies. The administration, Bond and other Republicans had backed a Senate-passed FISA bill that would have shielded the telecom firms from the lawsuits upon enactment.
"It's about finding middle ground and we have middle ground," Reyes said of the compromise offered by Republicans. "It's not going to please everyone but let's get on with it."
Reyes said he believes enough Democrats will support the proposal to pass it in the House.
But he said House Majority Leader Hoyer told him that House Democratic leaders want to have the liability of the telecoms reviewed in federal district court as opposed to the FISA court.
A senior Reyes aide clarified his boss' positions by saying that while Reyes thinks Bond's proposal is a positive one, he remains supportive of Hoyer's efforts to improve on it.
Why on earth would Reyes do this? As Digby says:
There just isn't enough money at stake to explain this. Nobody's suing for the money, they are suing for the discovery. Something bad happened here and the Democrats are helping the Republicans cover it up.
Telecom companies have presented congressional Democrats with a set of proposals on how to provide immunity to the businesses that participated in a controversial government electronic surveillance program, a House Democratic aide said Wednesday.
Congress has been wrestling for months with an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the immunity issue the primary sticking point.
Many Democrats want the companies held accountable for participating in the program, which was initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The White House, however, has insisted that the participation of the telecoms is crucial to monitoring conversations between potential terrorists. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that does not contain immunity. Read on...
Hmm...I think I'll try this approach should I ever find myself in legal trouble. Any member of Congress who thinks the American people are going to allow the telecom companies to write their own get out of jail free card, they are sadly mistaken. Let Rep Steny Hoyer know how you feel, and/or contact your representatives in the House and Senate and tell them you don't want want companies who betrayed the country and its Constitution to get a free pass.
The Bush administration has repeatedly invoked the state secrets privilege, a doctrine that was adopted in the McCarthy era, that was originally meant to be used only in exceptional circumstances. Since 2001, however, the Bush Administration has repeatedly abused the privilege in attempts to cover up potentially embarrassing or illegal activities in cases involving warrantless wiretapping and other aspects of the NSA's domestic spy program, kidnapping, aka 'extraordinary rendition', and torture, just to name a few. They have relied on it not only to silence critics and whistleblowers, but also to use it as a shield to go after them like they have to James Risen, Sibel Edmonds and many others. Just this week it's come out that they once again have invoked it in an attempt to keep the details hidden in the case against Thomas Kontogiannis, one of the convicted bribers of Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, where the executive branch has asserted that once they deem something classified, the "courts are virtually powerless to review or disagree."
It's way past time Congress steps in to put a stop to it.
Now, Congress may finally be ready to act to rein in these abuses. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider S.2533, the State Secrets Protection Act, which would bring much needed judicial supervision that could help eliminate bogus state secrets claims, while carefully protecting legitimate interests in national security.
If one of your Senators is on the Judiciary Committee (see below), then you're uniquely positioned to encourage the Committee to approve this legislation and make a real difference in fighting government secrecy! Contact them now and tell them to support the State Secrets Protection Act.
We brought you Attorney General, Michael Mukasey's tearful remarks about 9/11 and the ongoing FISA battle in Congress last week and on Tuesday's Countdown, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow dig deeper into what was either a series of lies from the AG or an admission of gross negligence on the part of the Bush Administration leading up to that tragic day.
Mukasey claimed that the U.S. received a phone call from a terrorist safe house in Afghanistan prior to 9/11, but couldn't trace the call because the FISA laws were too restrictive -- which is, of course, a lie. Mukasey was a Federal Judge, he knows that. Olbermann says that someone in the House or Senate needs to haul the Attorney General in and question him and find out whether he was lying to make a political point, or if the Bush administration really did receive such a call and chose not to act on it, leaving the country vulnerable to attack.
Maddow:"...Oh please, just let him have just been lying, because if he was telling the truth here, if there really was a call from a known al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan to the United States before 9/11 which the Bush Administration did not tap and trace? That is huge news and we ought to get some answers about why we were left so unprotected and surprised on 9/11. Let's hope that he was just making that up."
*On a side note, we would like to wish Rachel Maddow a very Happy Birthday!
President Bush has been doing his best to remind the American people that he's still around, and what better way to do that than to throw a few hissy fits? As Keith Olbermann says on today's Countdown, from the tone of Bush's voice, it sounds like he's just given up. The president is once again chiding House Democrats for drafting new FISA legislation that does not include amnesty for telecommunications companies who illegally spied on Americans, calling those companies - "patriotic." Right.
Rachel Maddow joined Keith and as always, her analysis is spot on. She points out that President Bush was willing to veto the safety of the American people all in the name of protecting corporations and himself from prosecution. They also touch on the "resignation" of Admiral Fallon and how it was obviously a shot across the bow of anyone in the Pentagon who wants to be a real patriot and save the country from launching another unprovoked war against a sovereign nation.
Maddow:"The other part of this strategy is that they're using a biplane to fly a picture of Eric Shinseki around the Pentagon to remind everybody what happens when people don't toe the line and do something that's right instead of what the President wants."
You can stream video at C-Span
There is a vote likely today on the House re-draft of FISA legislation -- labelled at the moment "AMENDMENT TO H.R. 3773." I am hearing rumors of GOP maneuvers -- Blunt trying to call the House into "secret session" and/or adjourn before voting anyone? Lots of rumors swirling around the Hill, and there has been a GOP procedural motion to force a vote on the Senate bill before considering the House Dem amendment (obviously, we are encouraging a "no" vote on that one).
The votes won't likely be until later this afternoon, maybe 3-ish -- but calls to Representatives need to be made now to emphasize standing up for the rule of law and the Fourth amendment, and against Presidential/telecom immunity.
These are not partisan issues -- they are American ones. They raise questions about priorities, about legitimate limitations on governmental power versus allowance of substantial overreach. As the CATO Institute (a conservative/libertarian think tank) puts the ultimate question:
...civil liberties won’t be preserved through compromise. The partisans of ever-increasing executive power aren’t likely to go away any time soon. If Congress compromises and agrees to further expand executive wiretapping powers, a future president will come back to Congress and argue that the law is still too restrictive and still more compromises are needed....At some point, Congress just has to say no.
Former Reagan Administration DOJ official Bruce Fein agrees. As does Bob Barr. None of whom can remotely be called liberal partisans, as President Bush tried to cast all opposition in his petulant Cartman-channelling presser this morning.
Now is the time to contact your Representative and say that they must stand up for rule of law and say no to Presidential/telecom immunity. At some point, they really do have to stand up and say "no."
McJoan at DailyKos has a list of numbers if you want to call your Representatives to remind them who they are supposed to be representing.
UPDATE: Per Christy: And CongressNow has a bit on the potential for a "secret session" (subs. req.) that some GOP folks are pushing -- but I haven't been able to confirm anything with any leadership or other House Members or staffers on this. Also, there is a rumor that the vote may not happen now until tomorrow, but I'm also hearing much later this evening, too -- so keep those phones ringing, gang.