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Compromise = Sellout

Congress votes to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, legalize warrantless eavesdropping
The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal, as the Senate approved a bill -- approved last week by the House -- to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. John McCain wasn't present for any of the votes, but shared Obama's support for the bill. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.

 

Comments

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I called Obama's office this morning and told them that I would not be supporting or voting for him if he did not do what he was sworn to do and defend the Constitution. Obviously he doesn't need or want the votes of people like me, so he won't be getting mine. Here's wishing him luck with his political calculus in November.

Brilliant move by Hillary Clinton. Well played, ma'am.

As far as Obama goes:

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. We've been fooled again.

Completely. I no longer support Obama. Of course I don't support McC@nt. There is no candidate. The Senate has just told the country we are not a nation of laws. I always thought t-shirts saying "Anarchy" on punk rockers were amusing in my youth. Never thought anarchy would be written into law by a governmental body responsible for making laws. If law doesn't apply to everyone, it applies to no one. And so it goes.

I urge folks to use B.O.'s "social networking" website against him, kind-of. The point being -- McCain needs to be defeated at all costs, but we need a viable third party with federal election matching funds. To that end, blogs should be started up on his site that promote a "Nader-Trader" concept. For example, progressives in contested areas should hold their noses and vote for B.O., knowing that they've traded their third-party vote with someone in an uncontested area.

Right now his site seems to be flooded with synthetic gas and callgirl trolls, looking to use this outrage to make progressives stay home. They need to be countered.

We need to game the system, folks. That's the only recourse we have anymore.

Brilliant move by Hillary Clinton. Well played, ma'am.

Indeed.

If Obama really made a similar flip or Flop on the War, I do believe he would be removed and Hillary made the Nominee.

I don't know that she would have made the same vote had she been the nominee, but if her intent was to make obama look like an ass and the left feel like one, mission accomplished.

I'd like to think that Hillary would have voted against it in any event, but there is simply no way to know. It certainly does make Obama look like an ass and leaves many of his supporters scratching their heads. I hope that it doesn't cost him too may votes. There are times when in spite of recent history I think there is a good argument to be made for voting for a third party candidate, one that reflects your values. Is compromise just a short term win but a long term disaster. I'm not sure, but I certainly won't criticize anyone who feels that way, even if we suffer four more or forty more years of idiots.

Have you heard the latest? The Republicans want a redo on Mount Rushmore. None of the current group ever wore a flag pin. I believe it was Nixon who was the first to wear one, and so the new Mount Rushmore would feature Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2 with a little statuette of Gerald Ford in the parking lot.

I said it before and I'll say it again. You don't need a new President, you need a new electoral system.

There are times when in spite of recent history I think there is a good argument to be made for voting for a third party candidate,

There are times, but as long as lost elections can be directly associated with lives lost in stupid wars and years with no action on Global Warming, Americans need to be pragmatic. Stop the bleeding first.

Right on, Norm. In another vein, it's high time that this country experienced a bit of civil disobedience, directed at all those Dems and Repugs that have aided and abetted the erosion of our liberties.

They condone warrantless spying on their constiutuents? They need to be spied upon w/o warrants. Rifle their garbage, the way private citizens get their garbage rifled. That one would be legal.

Hounding them like paparazzi is also legal.

Other ways to get the point across would be using eavsdropping/surveillance hardware and software on their private conversations, whether audible or electronic. Hang out in DC and suck in the contents of their wireless blackberries, etc. Use social engineering methods, e.g. planting USB drives infected with keyloggers where younger staffers will find them... e.g. smoking areas. Log the contents of their iPods and leak illegal pirate playlists to the RIAA and MPAA.

Legality not an issue, apparently? Working within the system doesn't work, apparently? Fine. It's a two-way street. They should've known that before they went to work this morning. Their bad.

This is not nearly as black-and-white as it sounds.

First, I will say again that civil cases against the telcos are a sucker-play, just like impeachment. MUCH too easy to get out of. Criminal prosecution by the next administration is a better bet, but the telcos can make an excellent case, as they would in a civil trial, that they were following the orders of the DOJ and so individuals at the DOJ must be held responsible. THOSE are the people the next administration must go after: The current White House and it's DOJ Renfields. It remains to be seen whether or not an Obama admin would. Certainly a McCain White House would not.

Second, in some ways the new bill actually provides for more oversight than did the original FISA system before 9/11.

http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2008/07/senate-rejects-bid-to-deny-immunity-for.php

"The bill also grants the FISA court [governing provisions] authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, would prohibit the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and orders the Department of Justice [official website] and other agencies to issue a report on the country's use of wiretapping orders."

From CNET:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9986716-38.html?hhTest=1

"Under Sec. 802 of the Senate bill, which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, no lawsuit may proceed against any "electronic communication service provider" if either one of two conditions is met.

The first is that the company provided assistance "in connection with an intelligence activity" authorized by the president between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007, when the wiretap program was altered to include more judicial oversight. The second condition involves a company that received a "written request" from the U.S. Justice Department saying the activity was lawful and authorized by the president. (AT&T has suggested once, and twice, that such a paper trail exists.)"

BOTH of these conditions indicate that Telcos are immune from civil suits if they can produce a Presidential Get Out of Jail Free Card. Which they would have produced, and would have won them their civil cases, in ANY event.

And in any event, the people we must bring to justice, the people responsible are not the Telcos, but our elected and appointed public servants.

fp

Further clarification from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/07/09/fisa.explainer/

"Question: What are the key provisions in the FISA bill?

Benson: The bill explicitly establishes FISA as the exclusive means for authorizing electronic surveillance; requires a court order for the surveillance of any targeted American, whether the person is in the United States or abroad; [and] requires a secret court set up to oversee FISA issues to sign off on provisions for removing the name of any American inadvertently captured in a communication with a foreign target.

[It] prohibits reverse targeting, which is when intelligence officials eavesdrop on a foreigner's communications overseas as a means to spy on someone in the United States, and sets up a procedure for federal judges to determine whether a telecommunications company can be sued for providing the intelligence community access to its networks without a court order.

Question: Under the proposed FISA bill, can Americans be spied on without a court warrant? Are their civil liberties protected?

Benson: Under the new revised law, a warrant is required to spy on an American, including, for the first time, Americans who are abroad.

If the intelligence community should unintentionally intercept a phone call or an e-mail involving an American, the agency involved must get a warrant if the person is of interest or take steps to erase that person's name from any report."

And:

"Question: Will telecommunications firms be prosecuted for helping the intelligence community conduct no-warrant surveillance of Americans?

Benson: Although the Bush administration had wanted the telephone providers who cooperated with the surveillance program to receive outright retroactive immunity, this bill sets up a process for judicial review.

A U.S. District Court judge hearing a pending case will determine whether the telecommunications provider received from the government letters which indicated the president had authorized the warrantless surveillance and that the program was considered lawful. If so, the lawsuit will be thrown out.

Opponents argue this is a sham and say that the telecommunications are essentially being granted retroactive immunity because Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence (DNI), testified at a congressional hearing that all of the telephone carriers did receive government certifications.

Some Republican supporters have called this process a "formality" and even Democratic proponents indicate it is likely that most, if not all, of the cases against the telephone companies will be dismissed."

So as it turns out, the bill goes a long way towards curtailing the more significant outrages committed by Bush and the DOJ and in fact offers Americans more protections from surveillance than existed before Bush took office.

Voting for the bill is not craven sell-out some are painting it to be.

fp

"A U.S. District Court judge hearing a pending case will determine whether the telecommunications provider received from the government letters which indicated the president had authorized the warrantless surveillance and that the program was considered lawful. If so, the lawsuit will be thrown out."

I call BS on that point. This is what legal departments inside corporations are for. Qwest determined the "orders" to be illegal, and correctly chose to "disobey" them. AT&T incorrectly chose to break the law. We do not (as corporations or private citizens) serve at the pleasure of our government. It's the other way around... they work for us.

To rule otherwise is quite simply, unabashedly and unashamedly unamerican.

It doesn't help that nearly half of all the Democratic campaign contributions come from media conglomerates and telecoms. But perhaps that's just a coincidence.

FDP:

After reviewing your posts/links, I think that perhaps this compromise achieved more than it will get credit for. Taken at face value, this actually sounds like a step in the right direction.

I think we have our first clear glimpse at an Obama Presidency- not a world of black-and-white, but a world of compromises.

Now, the relevant question: does Obama remain the best candidate of those still running?

I would also like to suggest that we need to take our fight where it belongs- to the telcos themselves.

Stop using AT&T Internet service. Don't use a Verizon cell phone. Boycott those who have directly profited from the loss of your rights.

We tried stopping this with politics. We failed. I say we take a page from MLK Jr. and boycott.

What is more important to you: an iPhone, or a 4th Amendment? Make your choice- and make it loudly.

"The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful role for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. "

I think that part of the article he links to on the ACLU's statement scares me the most.

http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/35928prs20080709.html

Zaphod, I agree with your position, but as someone who has tried to use the market to punish those involved in wiretapping I can tell you it is hard. All the telecoms were involved. Some even denied it and then later were found out. Given that in many markets the phone companies basically have a monopoly, you might be faced with the choice of either no phone or giving one of the telecoms money. I myself have switched to Skype in an attempt to avoid the telecoms, but it still involves having an ISP, and they have near monopolies in many markets. If you can only get ATT DSL you are out of luck.

If you are forced to not have a phone or an ISP, good luck to you - a phone number is required for many things, including getting a job.

Avoiding the telecoms these days is essentially impossible.

I hope this startles those automaton Obamabots now that their candidate has voted to strip their recourse against the telecommunication companies while the companies trounce on their privacy rights. How bad does it have to get? I feel even more and more vindicated in my planned vote for Nader as this election gets closer. I just hope others open their eyes as well.

Have you heard the latest? The Republicans want a redo on Mount Rushmore. None of the current group ever wore a flag pin. I believe it was Nixon who was the first to wear one, and so the new Mount Rushmore would feature Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2 with a little statuette of Gerald Ford in the parking lot.

Can we put a big golden cross on top?

I agree with your position, but as someone who has tried to use the market to punish those involved in wiretapping I can tell you it is hard. All the telecoms were involved. Some even denied it and then later were found out.

Hi Richard. A thoughtful post. Does this include QWest? (And if so, some evidence would be nice). Also, what, more concretely, do you mean by using the market? So far as I can see, when our voices are not being hear democratically, the onnly resource we have left is our purchasing power as consumers. (So, for instance, I've thought of organizing a boycott. That everyone, say, who has a cell phone service with the violating companies drop their service, and let them know they will not tolerate this kind of behavior. If we could cut into some 20% of their market share, it would send a loud and clear message. But it would have to be well organized, and massive, and would require perhaps more discipline and effort than could be expected, to to send the message. Also, obviously this would only work if there were companies, like QWest, who didn't violate the law)

Stop using AT&T Internet service. Don't use a Verizon cell phone. Boycott those who have directly profited from the loss of your rights.

We tried stopping this with politics. We failed. I say we take a page from MLK Jr. and boycott.

Exactly right (sorry I missed this my first time through). But--we would need to put careful thought into organizing it. Boycotting is an empty political gesture, of only personal significance, unless it is collective (although I'm not claiming a purely personal stand would be worthless, just not politically effective on its own). AT&T and Verizon will not give two shits about losing a couple hundred customers, since the law suits against them could total in the billions, and since we still don't and may never know exactly what they did, serious criminal charges could be involved as well. My only thought is to write to major liberal blogs with a well thought out proposal, getting all of them to work in concert, if possible.

And like all boycotts, there should be conditions that could be satisfied to make it cease--and at the moment, I don't know what those would be.

So I mean this seriously: Can we discuss how to organize a boycott? And how best to do that in a way that will be effective? The first step, it seems to me, would be getting a thorough list of every telecomm involved.

I really don't see how they 'profited from the loss of your rights'.

Seems like they were in a pretty bad spot. On the one hand, they've got the government demanding cooperation and now they're supposed to be punished for cooperating with the government. Not sure it fits exactly, but the term Catch 22 comes to mind here.

[quote]Now, the relevant question: does Obama remain the best candidate of those still running?[/quote]

Zaphod,

Better than McCain? Personally I don't think there's any doubt. We only get to choose between the lesser of two evils and by that criterion the choice is fairly easy.

In Obama's case I still think that he may be not only the "better" choice, but also a good one.

fp

[quote]Now, the relevant question: does Obama remain the best candidate of those still running?[/quote]

Zaphod,

Better than McCain? Personally I don't think there's any doubt. We only get to choose between the lesser of two evils and by that criterion the choice is fairly easy.

In Obama's case I still think that he may be not only the "better" choice, but also a good one.

fp

Now, the relevant question: does Obama remain the best candidate of those still running?

Zaphod,

Better than McCain? Personally I don't think there's any doubt. We only get to choose between the lesser of two evils and by that criterion the choice is fairly easy.

In Obama's case I still think that he may be not only the "better" choice, but also a good one.

fp

YIKES! Sorry about that all. I got an error message when I hit "post" and so I kept altering the text.

I'm fine with being verbose, but not redundant and repetitive.

[hangs head in shame]

Adam,
I have read about QWest's refusal to capitulate, but unfortunately QWest is not available in all areas. When I was renewing my cell phone service (we didn't have a landline) I looked for every provider in my area in lists of telecoms that cooperated. I don't have the list right now, but it might be useful to compile it again. Even if you go with a small local cell carrier, it is likely they are reselling a major telco's service.

At any rate, it is moot for me for a while, because I am moving to Europe. I'll have to redo all this research over there.

I said it before and I'll say it again. You don't need a new President, you need a more responsible citizenry.

Fixed.

I really don't see how they 'profited from the loss of your rights'.

There is an enormous amount of money to be made by entering into big contracts with the government. The spying program was just such a lucrative contract.

Seems like they were in a pretty bad spot. On the one hand, they'vand now they're supposed to be punished for cooperating with the government. Not sure it fits exactly, but the term Catch 22 comes to mind here.

The telecoms are legally required to comply with all legal government requests. But simply because the president tells you to do something does not make it law. There is no catch 22 or double standard. On the one hand, comply with all and every legal request. On the other, reject, like QWest, those that are not.

But even putting it this way is beside the point. Obviously the broke the law, otherwise they wouldn't need immunity. Whether they are in fact liable for doing so is an assessment that only a U.S. Court can decide, not Congress, and with a legal discovery process to find out exactly what they did, not immunity accorded automatically without investigation.

Norm:

I certainly won't criticize anyone who feels that way, even if we suffer four more or forty more years of idiots.

Precisely. Melissa McEwen made a similar argument at OpenLeft yesterday regarding feminists.

The best blog to read on FISA, and what today meant legally, is Glenn Greenwald's.

FDP:

Don't worry about it.

FDP:

Don't worry about it.

FDP:

Don't worry about it.

;-)

Avoiding the telecoms these days is essentially impossible.

For some people, in certain areas, this is unfortunately true. However, I would hope everyone would at least investigate their options before claiming it is impossible.

For example, I myself now use a VoIP phone, which is great and cheap for international calls (many clients in Europe these days), but it still requires I have wifi access. Luckily, this becomes easier to find with every passing year. After a year without a cell phone, I am confident I made the right choice.

However, my wife "needs" a cell phone. It is non-negotiable. And, only Verizon offer adequate coverage in our area.

So I understand that it is very hard, sometimes impossible, to tell the telcos to go shove it. But I figure, even though I still have to send money to those bastards at Verizon every month, at least I have reduced that "tribute" as much as I possibly could.

Obviously he doesn't need or want the votes of people like me, so he won't be getting mine.
There is no candidate.
I feel even more and more vindicated in my planned vote for Nader as this election gets closer.

Wow - no eyes on the prize here. I'm pretty amazed. Maybe they call this Pyrrhic voting. If McCain gets in and is able to change the swing vote on the Supreme Court - well, for example, habeas corpus would be a privilege not a right if they had their way. The tax cuts will continue to benefit corporations and those making upper six and seven figures while the government bleeds the middle class, torture - not so bad, Iran needs to be shown with force, etc. - and, best of all, the utter disregard for laws that has been carried out over the last eight years will be vindicated with another mandate but - you sure showed Obama on that FISA vote.

Regarding Obama: my position is simple- he is not going to solve this problem. We will have to look to other means; boycott, protest, and getting some new blood in Congress a.s.a.p.

Obama promised to fight telcom immunity. He lied. And now I'm not sure I believe him when he promises withdrawal from Iraq. That's the problem with liars who lie- I lose faith in them. See also: George W. Bush. I'm not interested in these partisan fan clubs anymore- I am interested in restoring sanity to my country.

And all of you who share that goal remain my allies, despite, not because of, Barack Obama.

To make one thing perfectly clear- I don't owe Obama a damn thing. It is HE who owes ME $100 of political representation.

So either grow a pair, or give me my donation back, Mr. President. But don't expect me to take you at your word again anytime soon.

jillbryant2003:

For clarity: do not confuse my disappointment in Obama with support for McCain.

However, the gross irony is this- when it comes to Iraq, I only believe one candidate is telling me the truth. A senile "maverick" by the name of John McCain.

So sure, I agree with you 100% that I DO NOT WANT. No argument here.

But riddle me this: what are we getting with Obama?

And: how do you know?

Final thought for the night:

Is there any point at which McCain becomes the lesser evil?

Is there anything Obama could do to make you vote McCain?

anything?

What if he promised to outlaw evolution?

What if he promised to declare war on cats?

What if he snorted a line of coke off of Rush Limbaugh's enormous ass?

This is a rhetorical question, but one worth pondering.

Sweet dreams, y'all.

no. i'm voting for obama, lesser of two etc blah blah same old. and he knows this, it's strategy in a filthy game.

Zaphod, I probably never will vote for a Republican. Give credit to Obama though, he is trying his hardest.

Is there anything Obama could do to make you vote McCain? anything?

Nope. If obama did any of the things you list, then I WOULD vote nader, except perhaps the war on cats. That's totally a moderate position that is understandable.. Unless he says he wants to "obliterate them" with nuclear weapons :P.

Here's why FISA isn't a compromise.

1) Any information captured by the new FISA "sweeping" warrants can be shared with the FBI. They accidentally catch you downloading a torrent of your favorite TV show on an offshore server, and you are a known "environmental terrorist" (otherwise known as a member of greenpeace or the like), and voila, they can share that info with the FBI.

2) Immunity wasn't a null point. It basically said that the President can break any law he wants in times of "crisis", whatever the hell that means. The FISA courts already allowed the president to get warrants, which is why Qwest said NO to the government request, it was illegal.

3) AFAIK, this also allows wider nets for internet communications. So if a server is located overseas, the government can suck up all information coming from that server.

For an in depth analysis (aimed towards tech heads) go to ArsTechnica

a few choice parts..

FISA has never limited spying on purely foreign communications, but under current law, the government must obtain court approval to tap a phone line or fiber optic cable in the United States, even if the other end of the communication is abroad.
This goes away under the new bill
The specific eavesdropping targets will be at the NSA's discretion and unreviewed by a judge. Moreover, the judge's review of the government's "certification" is much more limited than the scrutiny now given to FISA applications. The judge is permitted only to confirm that the certification "contains all the required elements," that the targeting procedures are "reasonably designed" to target foreigners, and that minimization procedures have been established.
Crucially, there appears to be no limit to the breadth of "authorizations" the government might issue. So, for example, a single "authorization" might cover the interception of all international traffic passing through AT&T's San Francisco facility

In Obama's words: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/rospars/gGxsZF/commentary

This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

As a non-Obama supporter who thinks Obama might possibly be the lesser of all the evil that is politics, I've gots to say:

"If we don't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in.

Got any gin?"

lesser of two etc. blah blah sigh beer television death.

Is there any point at which McCain becomes the lesser evil? Is there anything Obama could do to make you vote McCain? anything? What if he promised to outlaw evolution? What if he promised to declare war on cats? What if he snorted a line of coke off of Rush Limbaugh's enormous ass?

Of course there is SOMETHING Obama could do but that would have to be so huge, it's really not feasible in a sane person.

After the two terms the Republicans have dragged this country through, they deserve a full and complete ouster. From Day 10 (literally) of Bush's reign, this administration has been a plague, a blight - whatever - and they need to be kicked OUT. I understand why people were tarred and feathered now. And, a man like McCain who has embraced the President and his policies should be laughed at for the power-hungry fool he is.

And FISA - yeah - bad. But, a blip compared to the havoc Bushco has done.

I do not understand anyone even waffling over the "lesser of two evils." There are so many examples of what this administration has done - how they have brought in an unmatched level of incompetence - and the arrogance and dismissal of the American people. I think the problem is you have a couple of things to focus on with Obama where the travesty that has been Bushco is almost incomprehensible. Migawd - there is too much even to talk about. Starting off when Bush had an approval rating in high 50's/low 60's - you can look at Molly Ivins review of Bush's first 100 days http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0502-03.htm Or, remember Cheney's Energy Task Force in 2001 and his refusal to tell anyone about it. If I remember right, the papers they finally turned over were blank or crossed out (or maybe those were some other papers that were requested.) And things got WORSE. What is even the question here? Okay - let's say that the Republicans won't take a Republican elected as president as a "mandate"--- an affirmation that Bush's policies are what America wants. Looking at just McCain, he has already made it clear, he agrees with the war, the tax cuts, the conservative direction this country is going - hey, even torture - not that bad.

What is the question here?

What is the question here?

The question is, after winning the 2006 elections handily. after watching Bush's popularity sink even further to historic lows, and after witnessing Bush exhibit an absolutely incredible number of abuses of power, corruption, and dizzying incompetence and stupidity - WHY did the democratic party roll over for the execrable little cockroach?

Tim, you said it. That's the question and no half decent answer has been offered.

btw, jillbryant, don't get me wrong, i agree with your assessment: i'll vote for obama, and the dem's. they will probably win, and they will then probably display all the courage and resolve of a sea of jellyfish. it will be a great improvement nonetheless.

Okay - Tim - great question :) but, I'm not talking about a question to the Democratic party - I should have been more specific in ranting...just the waffling about the vote...

And, yes amorphousblob, I'm with you, when the bar is set in the negatives, you would have to work hard not to be a huge improvement. Migawd, Bush dismissed the report his own EPA put out on global warming back in 2002...and they've been monkeying with the reports and scientists ever since. Who do they think they are hiding this from? We're all on the same planet........

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