Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bush Tries To Protect Telecoms?

More like protect his own sorry ass, but what else is new, eh?

Here's what blow this "patriotic corporation" thing for me.

The telecoms who said yes knew it was against the law. It matters not whether it's the president who is asking or the Chinese government. If they had said yes, with the qualification that the president would go to congress and ask them to change the law, which they probably would have done, I doubt there would be all this bruhaha. But that would have meant oversight by some committee or the other and that's what the Bushites did not want.

Quest said that they would go along but only with congressional action, and here is where the president's story breaks down. Ever since Quest said no to him, all kinds of horrible things have been happening to the CEO and the company; investigations and the like. So, Quest obeyed the existing law and are being punished for it, in the same ways that Nixon used government agencies to punish the people who were on his "enemies list."

Hey Junior, it's the thuggery, stupid!

After 9/11 and even more so, the anthrax attacks on the Hill, congress would have and did, as a matter of fact, give the administration anything they wanted. Just take a look at the patriot act and the fact that they did make changes to FISA without even being asked.

None of that matters to the White House because they wanted this done in secret. No one was to know except a few members of congress and they were sworn to absolute secrecy. They couldn't even speak with their staff or their attorneys.

One more thing that doesn't make much sense to me. Why not just announce it; we're monitoring all communications within the U.S. and all that moves through the U.S., period. That puts everyone on notice and it makes life damned near impossible for the 'turrist.' Besides, weren't the terrorist using throw away phones even back then?

Most people I know are careful about what they say on a cell phone even in jest, and have been, at least since 9/11. People who break laws, which they feel are stupid in the first place, certainly don't talk about it on their cell phones. Nevertheless, people say things to family and friends that would be embarrassing as hell if the call was transcribed in their hometown news paper.

I have developed quite a few international friendships since 9/11 and email and chat with these friends frequently. Several of them are Muslim and are from places like Syria, Egypt, the UAE and Pakistan. I am always careful about what I say and warn them to be so as well. Neither they nor I wanted the FBI or the Secret Service on my door step simply because someone expressed their outrage in a way that got official attention. These Muslims, without exception, said that the deepest recesses of hell were reserved for Osama and his crew for striking the towers and killing thousands of innocent people. It was against the Koran and the Sharia, they said. After an illegal, unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on lies, not to mention the heinous war crimes that followed, George Bush joined Osama, in their minds, as totally evil. My friends in Egypt, whom I visited in Feb in 2003 for a month gave me great understanding about Egyptian feeling and thought. The fact was, they didn't hate us. They may well hate us now. We keep electing people they don't trust, and with good reason. They will never trust any man named Bush. Mubarak may, but ordinary Egyptians? No way, baby. Mubarak is just an American backed tyrant. He lives like a king while the people starve and die from a poor health system. The poverty is heart-breaking.

I told them that we have great poverty in the U.S. as well and that the war with Iraq would only make it worse. The U.S. may be just a big third world country in the next decade; a country that will no longer be a union. States and regions will go their separate ways. The federal government will no longer be relevant.

I don't think my prediction is that far off. The only thing that holds this nation together is the constitution. The current government has used it for toilet paper.

Osama could have never taken our rights away. George and Dick could and have.

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 2, 2008; Page A07

President Bush said last week that telecommunications companies that helped government wiretapping efforts need protection from "class-action plaintiff attorneys" who see a "financial gravy train" ahead. Democrats and privacy groups responded by accusing the Bush administration of trying to shut down the lawsuits to hide evidence of illegal acts.

But in the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration's surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.

Nearly 40 lawsuits, consolidated into five groups, are pending before a San Francisco judge. The various plaintiffs, a mix of nonprofit civil liberties advocates and private attorneys, are seeking to prove that the Bush administration engaged in illegal massive surveillance of Americans' e-mails and phone calls after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to show that major phone companies illegally aided the surveillance, including the disclosure of customers' call records.

If the cases are allowed to proceed, plaintiffs' attorneys say, the courts could review, in secret if necessary, any government authorizations for the surveillance. The process might also force the disclosure of government memos, contracts and other documents to a judge, outlining the legal reasoning behind the warrantless wiretapping program.

Perhaps most important, disclosures in the lawsuits could clarify the scope of the government's surveillance and establish whether, as the plaintiffs allege, it involved the massive interception of purely domestic communications with the help of the nation's largest providers: AT&T, Cingular Wireless, BellSouth, Sprint and MCI/Verizon. (Verizon Communications bought MCI in 2006.)

"I think the administration would be very loath for folks to realize that ordinary people were being surveilled," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the lead lawsuit, against AT&T.

A prime goal in the litigation is to find out who the decision makers were, said Don Migliori, a partner with Motley Rice in Providence, R.I., a plaintiffs' attorney who is working on the lawsuit against Verizon. The plaintiffs intend to request not just government documents but also e-mails, including who contacted whom and when -- the very sort of "meta-data" that the administration is accused of mining as part of its surveillance program.

Peter Eliasberg, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney involved in cases against AT&T and Verizon, said that if the cases proceed, the plaintiffs could submit an interrogatory to the carriers seeking answers to the questions: Did you turn over customer phone records en masse to the government? Did you receive a warrant or a subpoena?

Answers to those questions, he said, might reveal that "everybody in the country" has had their phone calls "combed through, and lots of people will be outraged."

The uncertain, high-stakes nature of the litigation -- in which the plaintiffs are seeking not only disclosure to a judge of internal documents that might prove their allegations, but also a court ruling that the surveillance and collection of call records harmed millions of people -- helps explain why the administration is so adamant in supporting a Senate-passed bill aimed at strangling the lawsuits before they can proceed, according to government officials and privacy advocates.

"The whole point of [the] litigation is discovery of information," said a Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. "Obviously there is information here that could be damaging to national security if it was released, and of course that is a major concern."

Although the plaintiffs say that some of the documents at issue can be reviewed in secret by a judge, Bush raised concern about public disclosures at a Thursday news conference, when he said that "allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies" and "give al-Qaeda and others a road map as to how to avoid the surveillance."


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.) The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

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