Archive for Privacy
Go read Jane Mayer’s latest at the New Yorker about the warrantless wiretap program and Thomas Drake, enemy of the state(?). It seems they could have done their data mining with a modicum of protection for Americans’ privacy. They chose not to. A teaser:
She asked [General Michael] Hayden why the N.S.A. had chosen not to include privacy protections for Americans. She says that he “kept not answering. Finally, he mumbled, and looked down, and said, ‘We didn’t need them. We had the power.’ He didn’t even look me in the eye. I was flabbergasted.” She asked him directly if the government was getting warrants for domestic surveillance, and he admitted that it was not.
But wait, there’s more:
The Supreme Court rules that In an 8-to-1 decision, the high court sought to clarify an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that police obtain a court-authorized search warrant before entering a private home.
The justices said in certain emergency circumstances a warrant is not necessary, provided that law enforcement officials act reasonably in compliance with Fourth Amendment protections and do not threaten to violate them.
Their appearance at your door might even create the “emergency circumstance” that leads to busting in your door, which is what provoked the court case in the first place.
How many of the amendments out of the first ten do we have left?
And where are those vocal opponents of “big government”?
The successive waves of document dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed just how much goes on behind the scenes, some aimed at driving the public to where leaders want to go. I am old enough (barely) to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. Signal intelligence declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 reveals that Americans were the first to fire (warning shots unreported at the time) in the first incident and the second reported incident – as we already knew – never took place. The USS Maddox took a single bullet hole. No Americans were injured. But records doctored to support claims of a second attack gave the Johnson administration a blank check to escalate the Vietnam war. Nearly 60,000 Americans and countless numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lost their lives in the aftermath. Because of leaks, Americans did not have to wait forty years to find out about the lies behind nonexistent WMDs, prisoner abuse and government-sponsored torture. Lies and secrecy seem to have a pretty high potential for doing great harm. It’s hard to imagine what greater damage the truth can do.
And now some reaction to the reaction to the WikiLeaks document release.
Beyond the inadvisability of giving unlimited access to diplomatic cables to plainly unreliable employees, the leaks so far have done remarkably little harm to the reputation of the US internationally. But the apparent marshalling of corporate America, assorted showboating legislators and, quite possibly, techno-savvy “patriots” acting as guerrilla deniers of service in an attempt to harass WikiLeaks out of existence may be what, in the end, does the real harm. The country’s over-reaction is looking increasingly like that of a bully who, having had his nose put slightly out of joint, is determined to batter the upstart into a pulp. If America wanted to convince the entire online world that it has no sense of perspective, the past few days have been a triumph. Talk of boycotts is now in the air.
Your security apparatus at work:
These events took place roughly between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, November 13th in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. I’m writing this approximately 2 1/2 hours after the events transpired …
Essentially, it was please step out of line, sir, so we can pat you down. We know where the WMDs are. They’re in the area around your crotch and east, west, south and north somewhat. Go read/watch it. It’s too long and complicated to recount. The would-be flier observes:
Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem. Aside from securing the cockpit doors and the realization by passengers that they must fend for themselves because they’re more likely to be killed by a hijacker than flown safely to their destination where the hijacker’s demands can be met, security is largely the same as it was before 9/11.
The only thing changing is the amount of money being spent on the problem and the constant erosion of liberty, and all I did was draw attention to this. If you want to argue that the airlines are private, you’re preaching to the choir. I refused the x-ray machine, and then I refused a groping by a government official. I mildly protested, and when they told me that I could submit to the screening or leave the airport, I left peacefully. The only time I got angry during the entire encounter was when I was unlawfully detained and threatened with a lawsuit and a fine.
If you think the government is protecting you, ask yourself this: If the official at the end of the video thought I had an incendiary device, why would he want me to go *back* into a small area crowded with hundreds of people instead of leaving the airport as quickly as possible?
Security is everyone’s responsibility. To ensure you have a pleasant passage through our airport… [timestamp 55 sec]
I’ve gotten a lot of guff for my post last week handicapping the Republican congressional primary field here in the 11th…not for what I predicted so much as the fact that the prediction appeared here in this pinko e-rag and under my own shiny new byline. You see, for today’s Republicans, this is a betrayal of the first order: “Thou shalt not lie with liberals as with conservatives: it is an abomination!”
Of course, there are so many orders of betrayal among local Republicans these days it’s kind of hard to keep track anymore.
Having worked for Republican candidates all my life and professionally for the last three years here in Asheville — heck, above my screen hangs a picture of me and President Reagan at a White House Christmas Party and another of me and President George H.W. Bush at a private BBQ on the south lawn of the White House; I could go on, but you get the idea — I can honestly say that I can’t see this happening again anytime soon. The Republican Party I knew for so many years has gone off the rails — effectively destroyed here locally from within — by sanctimonious bigots, religious zealots, misanthropic doctrinaire Randians, and most importantly by piss-poor, unelectable candidates.
While you’re doing what you’re doing, click over to Where’s The Outrage? and listen to the podcast of the Errington Thompson Show. Errington’s always on Saturday mornings at 9am, and he’s been having some special editions as well. Stay tuned to his site for more. This show…
I chat with Glenn Greenwald about FISA and the Democrats inability to stand up and say no more. I then switch gears and talk with local author Cecil Bothwell who has been covering the Pak Square â€œillegalâ€ sale of land and the indictment and conviction of Sheriff Bobby Medford.
Check it out!
Our mixed bag Democrat has really been taking the schizoidal cake lately. Even his good votes have lately left me limp. Take the vote to override Bush’s veto on the the Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 2082 – Shuler said this in a press release:
I, like every other member of Congress, am committed to protecting our nation from terrorism. Our generals, including General Petraeus himself, however, have told us that torture is an ineffective tool in gaining useful and actionable information,â€ said Rep. Shuler
Shuler voted against torture, which, while hardly going out on a limb, is the right thing to do. However, Shuler leans on the St. Petraeus argument to make his case. Come on, Heath, you know torture is bad. Do you have to have General “I Heart Bush” Petraeus tell you that? If Petraeus said “Torture Rocks!”, would you support it?
Anyhoo. Shuler’s a superdelegate of course. He came out for John Edwards early and has been uncommitted since Edwards left the race. Hillary! had a dinner party and invited some of the Democratic Congressmen to come over and get shmoozed:
Trying to win over those who are undecided, Clinton wined and dined 17 superdelegates this week at her posh Washington home.
At the dinner was Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., who had once endorsed former Sen John Edwards’ presidential run, and represents a conservative district in western North Carolina.
He said he pointed out to Clinton that even with Edwards on the Democratic ticket in 2004, Bush-Cheney won his district with 60 percent of the vote.
How, Shuler asked Clinton, could she compete?
“I’ve been winning rural and swing districts all over the country,” Clinton told him, according to sources at the dinner. Shuler remains uncommitted.
Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., also attended the dinner at Clinton’s home, but he had a different question.
“If Sen. Obama finishes this process after all the states have participated and he’s still leading in the delegate count and he’s won more states and he has a higher popular vote, why would a superdelegate at that point choose to go the other way?” he asked Clinton.
Shuler’s going to keep on remaining undecided, leveraging his position for whatever he can get. I get it, but that hasn’t stopped me from wondering aloud to his staff whether it wouldn’t be a more principled position to simply agree to cast his “super” vote depending on how his constituents vote on May 6th.
So there’s your kinda-sorta good, your waffly-wavery maybe, and here’s your nakedly awful: Shuler was one of only five Democrats to support George W. Bush and his Republicans in protecting Big Telecom companies from obeying the law. I don’t know what kind of reach-around Shuler’s getting to ask his constituents to accept this blatant contempt for civil liberties, but I sure hope the ecstasy is worth the agony. Donna Edwards is a progressive Congresswoman and someone who recognizes that Democratic Party folks don’t like it when their representatives stupidly support President 20%. She says this about the Democratic victory in Bush and Shuler’s attempt to excuse Big Telecom from the law:
Heath Shuler has taken the very strange and inexplicable position of protecting Big Telecom companies from investigation. Protecting them protects George W. Bush, as evidenced by the Supreme Court being unwilling to hear a case about Bush’s domestic spying program because the plaintiff could produce no details of the program. There are no details because (1) Bush administration refuses to tell anyone what they’re doing; (2) The U.S. Justice Department is unwilling to investigate crimes by it’s boss; (3) Telecom companies are holding their cards close to their chest for fear of the Bushes.
“In his radio address today, President George W. Bush again called for retroactive legal immunity from class action lawsuits initiated against telecommunication companies that participated in the government’s wiretapping program without court-ordered warrants.
It follows many other recent statements by the Bush Administration and its supporters in Congress who are trying to push through a legislative measure that removes a citizen’s right to sue, as part of the law overseeing the government’s surveillance of citizens and foreigners.”
Giving Big Telecom companies immunity from investigation is ensuring that Bush’s program never receives any public scrutiny. If there was nothing illegal there, the Bush, the Telcoms, and Heath Shuler have nothing to worry about.
The Democratic Leadership is beginning to waffle on this as well, playing into those Republicans and Heath Shuler who would seek to rip the nascent spine out of the Democratic Party. But only recently, Heath’s mentor Steny Hoyer (D-MD) had this to say,
“We also swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to honor the values and principles that are contained therein for example, the Fourth Amendment right that Americans be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law.
Honoring the system of checks and balances carefully established by the Framers of our Constitution will make us more, not less, safe. This was the conclusion of those men in 1789 who had just fought a war, and who faced a very uncertain and dangerous future.”
Which gets me to thinking about the oath that Rep. Shuler took last year:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
Drop Heath an email today to tell him you’d like your Congressman to defend the Constitution instead of defending Bush’s spying. Or call this number: (828) 252-1651 to remind him that people will be very unhappy if he votes to protect George W. Bush instead of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
For more examples of the BLF’s work, check out Craig Baldwin’s excellent 1995 documentary Sonic Outlaws.
Kay Hagan and Jim Neal are fighting for the Democratic nomination to run against Senator Elizabeth Dole. I don’t know a lot about Kay Hagan, but I know where she stands on legal immunity for Big Telecom companies that helped George W. Bush break the law:
BlueNC: “She was asked if she would have voted for, or against, the FISA bill this week which would have granted retroactive immunity to Telcos for felony violations of the current FISA law.
Ms. Hagan explained that she was against Telcos spying on Americans, but that she would have voted FOR the bill, and granted them immunity, but that future law breaking would not be tolerated.”
Bush is trying to cover his tracks by keeping investigations of his spying program out of the telecoms. His Republicans are trying to help him. Heath Shuler is also trying to help him. Kay Hagan evidently wants to help as well.
Jim Neal “was completely opposed to immunity and would have voted NO on the bill.”
UPDATE: Jim Neal posted at Daily Kos:
“As a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Elizabeth Dole, the people of North Carolina and our nation deserve to know my values and where I stand on the FISA bill before Congress.
As a kid growing up in Greensboro, I was taught to believe in equality and fair play.
Thatâ€™s why I unequivocally oppose giving telephone companies amnesty for felony violations of the current FISA law.
NPR: Mr. McConnell, the Bush administration says that if the Protect America Act isn’t made permanent, it will tie your hands, intelligence hands, especially when it comes to new threats. But isn’t it true that any surveillance underway does not expire, even if this law isn’t renewed by tomorrow?
MCCONNELL: Well, Renee it’s a very complex issue. It’s true that some of the authorities would carry over to the period they were established for one year. That would put us into the August, September time-frame. However, that’s not the real issue. The issue is liability protection for the private sector.
Here’s what George W. Bush said:
“…the United States is in â€œmore danger of attackâ€ because Congress failed to extend legislation on domestic wiretapping laws allowing the government without a warrant to listen in on phone calls and intercept e-mails by foreign terrorist suspects that are transmitted through this country”
Heath Shuler is either intentionally perpetrating the lies of the Bush administration or gullibly buying them:
HT-N: â€œOur nationâ€™s safety is too important to use for partisan gain,â€ Shuler said in the letter. â€œWe must work together to ensure that our nationâ€™s intelligence agencies are able to fulfill their missions, while also ensuring the protection of the civil liberties on which our nation was founded.â€
One of the bespined Democrats who didn’t buckle to Bush said this about the type of rhetoric on display above:
“Several Democrats said yesterday that many in their party wish to take a more measured approach to terrorism issues, and they refused to be stampeded by Bush. “We have seen what happens when the president uses fearmongering to stampede Congress into making bad decisions,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “That’s why we went to war in Iraq.”
Here’s hoping Representative Shuler finds a way to the other side of this political chasm. He’s currently allied with Bush, his Republicans, and those who would spread lies about our nation’s safety in order to ramrod legal protection for Big Telecom companies down the throats of Americans.