January 26, 2006
How blog activism is supposed to work
From an anonymous comment on a blog post to hooking up a person in need of assistance with an expert in the field, all in under 24 hours. That's blog activism in its idealized state. Read how it happened at Grits for Breakfast.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 26, 2006 to Blog stuff
Thursday, January 26, 2006
MCM on "Majority Report," Air America, tonight!
Mary Landrieu DOESN'T GET IT!
CALL SENATOR LANDRIEU - ONE OF THE CRUCIAL 8!
Here's one of the CRUCIAL EIGHT.
I'm asking Texans, especially, but really anyone, to FOCUS ON MARY LANDRIEU to defeat Alito.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is speaking publicly against a filibuster of the Alito nomination for Supreme Court.
She says there is more important business the Senate needs to get on with. !!!!!
Ted Kennedy said yesterday during Alito Senate debate: "The stakes could not be higher. This is the vote of a generation."
Rainbow Push writes re Alito: "50 years of civil, human and women's rights advances are at stake - from Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "
If confirmed, Alito at age 55 could serve out his life expectancy on the court -- 28 years -- in other words, the next SEVEN CONSECUTIVE PRESIDENTIAL TERMS.
Vote is in the next few days.
Landrieu is one of eight Democratic Senators needed to stop Alito.
PLEASE CALL OR FAX HER OFFICES.
PLEASE -- EVERYONE CONTACT HER. IF YOU KNOW LOUISIANA RESIDENTS, INCLUDING EVACUEES LIVING ELSEWHERE -- SPREAD THIS TO THEM TOO. HELP THE NATION!!!
Senator Mary Landrieu (D)
Phone: (202) 224-5824
Fax: (202) 224-9735
You can just say YOU MUST FILIBUSTER. Or, if you want to try to be persuasive, ask to speak to Kevin Avery at (202) 224-5824. He is her DC staff person who is in charge of judiciary issues.
A Petition from John Kerry at:
The Petition Reads:
Support a Filibuster Against Judge Alito
I fully support a filibuster against Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Judge Alito's nomination does not serve the best interests of our nation; it serves to appease extreme right wing elements of the Republican Party. His nomination is an incredible mistake for America, and only the United States Senate can put a stop to it.
I think it's time that the United States Senate confirmed once and for all that extreme ideology has no place on the highest court in the land. This is a critical fight for the future of our country. That's why I've taken the time to sign this petition. And I hope that's why the Senate will step up to the plate and do the right thing for America: support a filibuster against Samuel Alito.
Yesterday, Senator Ted Kennedy and I told our colleagues that we supported a filibuster of Judge Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court. And we weren't alone. But the bottom line is that it takes more than two or three people to filibuster successfully. It's not "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." If you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, use your own email list and organize. We can't just preach to our own choir. We need to prove to everyone - from our friends and neighbors to our fellow Senators - that the American people know Judge Alito will take our country in the wrong direction, and they expect something to be done about it.
So I'm asking you to join Senator Kennedy, me, and concerned citizens across America who are signing this petition to support a filibuster. If there was ever a time to forward an email on to friends and family, this is it. One way or another, we're going to find out in the next few days if Judge Alito is going to become Justice Alito. You know where I stand. The time to make your voice heard is now. So please sign this filibuster petition and get as many friends as you can to do the same.
Sign the filibuster petition
If Judge Alito gets on the Supreme Court, it will be an incredible mistake for America. And remember, this is one mistake that we can never take back.
I voted against Justice Roberts, but I feel even more strongly about Judge Alito. Why? Rather than live up to the promise of "equal justice under the law," he has consistently made it harder for the most disadvantaged Americans to have their day in court. He routinely defers to excessive government power no matter how much government abuses that power. And, to this date, his only statement on record regarding a woman's right to privacy is that she doesn't have one.
There isn't a shred of doubt in my opposition to Judge Alito's nomination. I spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about what kind of person deserves to sit on the highest court in the land, so I don't hesitate a minute in saying that Judge Alito is not that person. His entire legal career shows that, if confirmed, he will take America backward. People can say all they want that "elections have consequences." Trust me, I understand. But that doesn't mean we have to stay silent about Judge Alito's nomination.
Sign the filibuster petition
President Bush had the opportunity to nominate someone who would unite the country in a time of extreme division. He chose not to do this, and that is his right. But we have every right -- in fact, we have a responsibility -- to fight against a radical ideological shift on the Supreme Court. This nomination was a sellout to the demands of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. The president gave no thought to what the American people really wanted - or needed. So now that the president and Judge Alito have proven they won't stand up for the majority of Americans, we have to stand up. We have to speak out. That's the true meaning of "advice and consent."
Media Ignored DeLay's $25 million RICO Case in 2000
Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 09:43:21 AM CST
Here's something about Tom DeLay I was completely unaware of until Josh Micah Marshall brought it up in his Blog the other day. The DCCC sued DeLay under the RICO statute five years ago, alleging many of the same illegal GOP fund-raising practices for which Tom and his associates -- particularly Jack Abramoff -- have been recently indicted, and DeLay settled! The funds were set-aside.
Betya never heard about this either, and that says a lot about how incredibly complicit the American corporate media has been with the Republican campaign crime machine, and why Dubya became President to begin with, and then kept his hold on power for a second term.
In settling the suit, Tom agreed to not contribute $25 million in improperly raised funds to the Republicans in the 2000 election cycle. The response of the major media is perhaps the most astonishing thing about this -- the Washington Post scolded the Democrats for suing, the NYT was luke-warm, and the rest simply ignored the whole thing. Of course, the story just went away, right down the memory hole. Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff's dirty money machine then went on to be the deciding factor in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections.
Amazing. Still think we have a free press and honest elections in this country?
Here's a first-hand account by Bob Bauer, a lawyer for the DNC:
DeLay in the Time of RICO
Reflections on a Lawsuit
A few days ago, Joshua Micah Marshall at http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/... reminisced about the RICO suit filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee against Mr. DeLay, some of his closest associates and various organizations operating under his effective control. Marshall is interested in how the suit was received at the time. He recalls that it was "laughed off the political stage," a stinging assessment but not far from the truth. The following, one account of the party and press reaction to the suit, is prompted by the questions Marshall asked: " had the nub of what the operation was about. What happened to the case? And what was the reaction at the time from the established press worthies?"
First: what happened to the suit? After DeLay and his co-defendants attempted but failed to obtain a quick dismissal, the case was settled, with DeLay offering a representation that organizations within his network would not raise and spend $25 million in undisclosed, improperly raised funds on the 2000 Congressional elections. In filing the suit, DCCC had made clear its intent to prevent DeLay's use of extortionate fund-raising and sham tax-exempts to establish a shadow political operation able to function outside existing rules and law. Once that purpose was fulfilled, the further prosecution of the suit was unnecessary. And the organizations in question did not figure prominently in the 2000 elections.
Second: what was the political response to the suit, from press and members of the party? Much of it was the expression of horror at the purported ugliness of the suit, which was denounced as little more than a naked example of the politics of personal destruction. Some Members of Congress--Democratic Members of both the House and the Senate--called to complain to the DCCC and to Chairman Kennedy, and a number of them, questioning the legal basis for the suit, were referred to counsel. Explanations of both the goal and substance of the suit did not seem to put the troubled, reproachful questions to rest. One Democratic Member demanded a meeting, in person, and interrogated the undersigned for well over an hour, demanding to know the process by which counsel had secured authorization for the suit. Spread before him were xeroxed copies of the statutes and cases on which we had relied, apparently provided by a member of the staff who attended the meeting and glared disapprovingly throughout the inquisition.
There were gratifying shows of support for the action. DCCC Chairman Kennedy and House Democratic Leader Gephardt did not waver. Senate Democratic Leader Daschle, aware of the adverse reactions, requested a briefing so that he would be prepared to answer questions from colleagues, and then, fully satisfied with what he learned, he assured the DCCC of his support. Press response, including commentariat response, was largely unfriendly. The Washington Post issued an editorial scolding. A member of the New York Times editorial board called to ask for some background questions: we were told that the Times would treat the DCCC with compassion, but that it should not expect a full embrace. The DCCC Communications Director Erik Smith reported a cold skepticism encountered throughout the media.
Nothing better illustrated the "mainstream" response than an op-ed published in the Times by well-known Democratic consultant and cable talk show host Paul Begala. "Democrats Play the Vengeance Game," The New York Times (May 10, 2000) at 31. Begala administered a high-minded rebuke of the DCCC, opening his piece with the categorical conclusion that the suit was "wrong, ethically, legally and politically." For him, this was merely a replay of the insidious partisanship displayed by Republicans during the Clinton era, and he called upon "those who decried the abuse of the legal system for partisan ends" to recognize their "moral obligation" and to "condemn the legal pursuit of Mr. DeLay." He offered that he had no use for DeLay's tactics, but that he knew them not to be criminal, which was rather beside the point in a piece about a civil suit. Begala insisted all the same that the remedy for DeLay's conduct was properly left to a vigilant press and to the voters.
When someone else brings a follow-on RICO suit against DeLay and Abramoff, as undoubtedly will happen, they should include the editorial boards of these papers and the rest of the corporate news media as co-defendants. I'm not kidding.
State of the Union
Abilene: Everyman Park North 1st St.
Drown Out Bush's Lies
7:30 PM - Rally during the State of the Union
Contact Roger @, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 325-691-9141 to confirm
Austin: Austin City Hall (downtown, wher S. 1st St. Bridge meets Cesar Chavez)
7:00 pm, Rally with speakers:
8:00 pm Drown Out Event - (Real time-State of the Union Address)
Bring Tha Noise! Pots and Pans * Drums * Music
Performing along side Austin Musicians, to drown out the lies are Eliza Gilkyson, Alejandro Escovedo & Funk Shui, a jazz band.
CALLING ON ALL AUSTIN BANDS - Be a part of these historic national events-Contribute your talents to Drowning Out Bush's Lies!
*Get your tickets for the buses to D.C. Saturday, Feb 4, we will Demand that Bush Step Down! and Take your Program With You!
**Contact Us at: email@example.com
Houston: Corner of Clay & Taft
Bringin' The Noise In Houston!
Join us as we attempt to wake the South up and Drown Out Bush's Lies.
6:15 pm - The rock band, Sense of Reason, will play.
7:00 pm - We have spoken word artist, Jerome Washington, of Starving Poets perform.
Great speakers that will indict this administration are as follows:
Randall Kallinen, attorney;
George Reiter, physics professor; and
7:30 pm - We march to our local CBS affiliate, channel 11, (1945 Allen Parkway) and when Bush speaks, We Drown Him Out. Bring any musical instruments, noisemakers, boomboxes, pots & pans, kazoos-whatever! Come on Texas, Let's Get R Done!
San Antonio: 7pm Corner of S. Alamo and Commerce
NSA Spying Questions
Questioning the Attorney General
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled the first day of hearings for its investigation into the NSA eavesdropping scandal for Monday, February 6 (a week from today). The first (and only) witness for that day will be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The focus of the questioning will be the legal justifications for the Administration’s decision to eavesdrop on Americans without the judicial oversight and approval required by FISA. The operational aspects of the eavesdropping program -- i.e., what type of eavesdropping was engaged in, the reasons why it was necessary to eavesdrop outside of FISA, etc. -- will be investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee, in as-yet-unscheduled hearings to take place in both opened and closed session.
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not exactly display great skill and acumen in questioning witnesses during the Alito hearings. As a result, there is substantial concern about whether its members will ask the necessary and relevant questions of the Attorney General, and more importantly, whether they will do so in a way (including with follow-ups and documentation) which will elicit and reveal the Administration’s real theories of its own power, and highlight the contradictions underlying those theories, as opposed to simply allowing the Attorney General to breezily recite pre-prepared talking points without really being challenged.
I believe we should not leave it up to the members of the Judiciary Committee -- again -- to decide for themselves which questions will be asked. We should try to play an active role in demanding that the Attorney General be held accountable and that the real questions raised by this scandal be meaningfully explored.
Towards that end, I have created a preliminary list of what I believe are the ten most significant and pressing questions (although I admittedly cheated with the number of questions by employing a standard lawyer trick of packing in sub-parts to the questions, but at least I openly acknowledge my treachery). I hope anyone who has additions, revisions, changes or other ideas will add them over the next couple of days so that we can have a comprehensive list of the questions that ought to be asked and how those issues ought to be pursued, and then urge the Judiciary Committee to pursue them.
For the sake of manageability, I have divided the 10 questions into the following two posts -- first, questions 1-5, then questions 6-10. Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter last week sent a list of fifteen questions to Attorney General Gonzales. Many of those are obvious questions and I constructed my list so as to not overlap with Specter’s list. Please leave any comments on this post, not the other two.
I believe the paramount objective with these hearings is to force out into the open the theories of Presidential power which the Administration has embraced in order to justify its transgressions of FISA -- not just as applied to eavesdropping but with respect to all decisions broadly relating to the question of how this country will respond to the threat of terrorism. Thus, the questions posed to Attorney General Gonzales should absolutely not be confined strictly to the question of the NSA eavesdropping program, but must explore how the Administration’s theories of its own power apply generally.
The Committee, with its questioning, must make clear to the public that this scandal is not about whether we should be eavesdropping on Al Qaeda, because everyone agrees that we should and must do that. That is why we have a law -- FISA -- which specifically authorizes eavesdropping on terrorists. Nobody opposes eavesdropping. The scandal is about -- and these hearings must therefore emphasize -- the scope of the President’s claimed powers, and specifically his claimed power to act without what the Administration calls "interference" from the Congress or the courts, even including -- literally -- engaging in actions which are expressly prohibited by the criminal law.
In a September 25, 2001 Memorandum Opinion addressed to the Deputy Counsel to the President, John C. Yoo, then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote (emphasis added):
In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.
(a) Does this paragraph reflect, or did it ever reflect, the position of the Bush Administration with regard to the President’s powers to respond to "any terrorist threat."
(b) If not, in what way does the Administration’s positions on this issue differ from that paragraph?
(c) What powers does Congress possess, if any, to regulate or limit "the method, timing, and nature" of the President’s response to the threat of terrorism?
(d) What powers does the judiciary possess, if any, to regulate or limit "the method, timing, and nature" of the President’s response to the threat of terrorism?
(e) Are there any limits at all on the President’s power to order actions as a response to threats of terrorism and, if so, what are those limits?
(f) In his Memorandum, Mr. Yoo wrote, quoting the Supreme Court opinion in Youngstown: "As Lincoln aptly said, '[is] it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution?'" Does the Administration believe that, as Mr. Yoo suggested, that the threat of terrorism means that we must choose between preserving the Nation or preserving the Constitution?
Does Congress have any power whatsoever to regulate or limit the President’s ability to order eavesdropping on either the international or domestic communications of American citizens? If so, what are those limits?
Congress has been debating whether to renew all of the provisions of the Patriot Act. Some of the original Patriot Act provisions which are in dispute include those provisions that gave the Administration new surveillance and investigation powers, including those provisions:
(a) allowing the government to obtain secret court orders in domestic intelligence investigations to get all kinds of business records about people, including library records, medical records and various other types of business records whenever the Government certified that the records were "sought for" a terrorism investigation (section 215); and,
(b) expanding the National Security Letter (or "NSL") authority that was contained in Section 505 to enable the FBI to obtain certain types of records using NSLs, with no judicial review.
If Congress decides not to extend these provisions, and the Patriot Act is renewed and signed into law only once these provisions are eliminated, can the President nonetheless exercise those very powers on the ground that he has the authority to unilaterally decide our nation’s response to the terrorism threat regardless of what Congress allows or prohibits?
In December of last year, Congress, over the administration’s objections, overwhelmingly passed a Defense Appropriations bill that included the McCain Amendment, which "prohibit[s] cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees by all U.S. personnel, anywhere in the world":
(a) Does Congress have the legal authority to regulate and limit the treatment of detainees by the United States?
(b) Does the President have the power to order treatment of detainees which is prohibited by the McCain Amendment?
(c) After President Bush signed the McCain Amendment into law, the White House issued a "signing statement" in which the President stated:
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.
With regard to this paragraph in the signing statement:
(i) What are the "Constitutional limitations on the judicial power" with regard to the McCain Amendment?
(ii) What is "the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief" with regard to the McCain Amendment?
(iii) Does this mean, or is it the Administration’s position, that the question of how detainees will be treated is for the President alone to decide, and neither Congress nor the courts can limit the President’s power?
(d) Once the signing statement was issued with regard to the McCain Amendment, an article in The Boston Globe reported that a senior administration official made clear that the position of the Administration is that it has the power to violate the McCain Amendment if the President believes it is in the national interest to do so:
A senior administration official, who spoke to a Globe reporter about the statement on condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman, said the president intended to reserve the right to use harsher methods in special situations involving national security. . . .
But, the official said, a situation could arise in which Bush may have to waive the law's restrictions to carry out his responsibilities to protect national security. He cited as an example a ''ticking time bomb" scenario, in which a detainee is believed to have information that could prevent a planned terrorist attack.
''Of course the president has the obligation to follow this law, [but] he also has the obligation to defend and protect the country as the commander in chief, and he will have to square those two responsibilities in each case," the official added. ''We are not expecting that those two responsibilities will come into conflict, but it's possible that they will."
With regard to the McCain Amendment, is it the Administration’s position that the President has the power to "waive the law’s restrictions" if the President deems it in the national interest to do so?
The Department of Justice ("DoJ") issued a Press Release on January 27 summarizing its legal position with regard to the NSA eavesdropping matter. In support of its position that "[t]he NSA activities described by the President are consistent with FISA," the DoJ identified two arguments:
(i) the AUMF authorized the Administration to eavesdrop without the warrants required by FISA, and
(ii) if FISA is found to restrict the Administration’s power to eavesdrop without warrants, then it is quite likely unconstitutional.
The DoJ issued a lengthier document on January 19, 2006 setting forth its legal defenses of the NSA program, and these same two arguments were the ones invoked in that document to explain why its NSA eavesdropping program did not violate FISA.
(a) Leaving aside any exemption provided by the AUMF, does the Administration acknowledge that the NSA eavesdropping authorized by the President’s Executive Order was the type of eavesdropping which is prohibited by FISA in the absence of judicial oversight and approval?
(b) The DoJ has issued numerous documents, and made multiple statements, setting forth its legal position with regard to this matter. In any of those documents or statements, has the DoJ ever claimed that the type of NSA eavesdropping ordered by the President is not within the scope of FISA?
On January 16, you were interviewed on CNN by Larry King, and you were asked: "Are you assuring that American citizens with nothing to hide have nothing to worry about?" In response, you said:
"Well, again, as the president indicated, and I'm only talking about what the president described to the American people in his radio address, we're talking about communication where one end of the communication is outside the United States and where we have reason to believe that a party on that communication is a member of al Qaeda or is a member of an affiliate group with al Qaeda."
In your answer, you limited your assurances by making clear that you were "only talking about what the president described to the American people in his radio address."
The January 27 DoJ Press Release, in several different places, contains this same limitation on the Administration’s assurances that innocent Americans are not being eavesdropped on without warrants.
Without disclosing any operational details, are there other warrantless eavesdropping programs beyond what the President described which entail or permit warrantless eavesdropping on the communications of Americans?
In June, 2002, Senator DeWine introduced legislation to lower the evidentiary showing required for obtaining FISA warrants targeted at non-U.S. persons from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion," and in response, the DoJ attorney who supervises the process for obtaining of FISA warrants, James A. Baker, submitted a Statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he indicated that the Administration was not prepared to support those changes because they were unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional.
(a) As of June, 2002, was Mr. Baker’s statement accurate that the "probable cause" standard in FISA had not created any barriers or problems which impeded the Administration from engaging in all of the anti-terrorism eavesdropping it wanted to engage in?
(b) As of the time the President ordered the NSA to eavesdrop outside of FISA, how many requests for eavesdropping warrants had the FISA court rejected in its history?
(c) In his Statement, Mr. Baker specifically thanked the Congress for creating a 72-hour window as part of the Patriot Act which allows eavesdropping during that time period without obtaining a FISA warrant. In praising that provision, Mr. Baker said that this window has "enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going ‘up’ on those suspected terrorists in the United States," and "has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats."
Was Mr. Baker’s statements praising this 72-hour window as giving the Administration the speed and flexibility it needed an accurate reflection of the Administration’s view of FISA at the time?
(d) In the January 27 Press Release issued by the DoJ, the point was made several times that the 72-hour window is inadequate to enable the eavesdropping which the Administration claims it needs to engage in. Prior to the public disclosure of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, did the DoJ ever advise Congress that, contrary to Mr. Baker’s statement, the 72-hour warrantless window was actually insufficient and needed to be changed?
(e) If, as the DoJ now claims, the 72-hour window was insufficient and too cumbersome, why did it send Mr. Baker to specifically advise the Intelligence Committee that the 72-hour window in FISA was working well, rather than advise the Committee that this provision should be loosened or changed to fix any problems?
(f) Did the DoJ or the Administration generally ever ask Congress to amend FISA to redress what it now claims are inadequacies in the 72-hour window?
In the Summer of 2002, not only Sen. DeWine, but also Senators Schumer and Kyl, sponsored legislation to amend FISA in order to expand the scope of the Administration’s eavesdropping powers. The statements by the Senators who spoke at the Hearings in favor of those proposed amendments, including Committee Chairman Bob Graham, leave no doubt that the Senators were operating on the assumption that FISA continued to govern and restrict the eavesdropping activities of the Bush Administration.
Senator Graham, for instance, opened the hearings by stating that the amendments were offered "for the purpose of reducing both the nature and scope of the showing the government must make to obtain a surveillance order against suspected terrorists inside the United States who are neither citizens nor legal resident aliens." Senator Schumer said that the U.S "can't do the surveillance we need to do" if it can’t meet the requirements of FISA. Senator Kyl said the amendments were necessary to "put this important tool into the hands of law enforcement and intelligence agencies here in this country so that we can add one more element to the protection of the American people."
Again and again, the Senators at this hearing said that in order to increase the Administration's eavesdropping powers, it was necessary to amend FISA -- clearly showing that they were operating with the belief that the Administration was eavesdropping only in compliance with the statute:
(a) Why didn’t the Justice Department simply tell the Senate that it was not necessary to amend FISA in order to increase the Administration’s eavesdropping powers because the Administration already had unlimited eavesdropping authority under the AUMF?
(b) According to the remarks of both Senator Schumer and Senator Kyl, the Attorney General specifically indicated his approval for these FISA amendments. Why did the Justice Department encourage the Senate to spend its time and energies expanding the scope of FISA if the Administration already believed it had all the authority it needed to engage in limitless eavesdropping under the AUMF?
(c) In his testimony before the Committee, the DoJ’s James Baker sought to assure the Committee that expanded eavesdropping would not pose any threats to civil liberties by stating the following:
So you would be, you know, connecting electronic surveillance and potentially physical search of those targets and that raises all the same kinds of civil liberties questions that FISA does to begin with. But nevertheless, you would have had--before you get to that point, you would have had a finding by a neutral and detached magistrate, and indeed in this case a sitting federal judge, district court judge, that all of the requirements of the statute are met and that there's probable cause to believe that this individual is engaged in international terrorism activities, or activities in preparation therefor.
At the time, wasn’t Mr. Baker’s statement to the Committee false because he assured them that eavesdropping could only occur when you have "a sitting federal judge, district court judge" certify "that all of the requirements of the statute are met?"
(d) Isn’t it true that these Senators – Schumer, Kyl, DeWine, Graham – who thought in 2002 that FISA needed to be amended in order to expand the Administration’s eavesdropping powers, were operating on the false assumption that the Administration was only eavesdropping in compliance with FISA?
(e) Is it accurate to say that the FISA amendments which these Senators had introduced and were publicly debating were actually entirely unnecessary in order to expand the Administration’s eavesdropping power, because the Administration had already decided that had authority to eavesdrop beyond the parameters of FISA?
Various members of Congress, including then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle, have stated that the Administration specifically requested that Congress insert a provision into the AUMF authorizing the Administration to use war powers within the United States, but Congress refused to include such a phrase, and the AUMF does not include such an authorization.
(a) Is that an accurate rendition of events – that the Administration requested, but Congress refused, the inclusion in the AUMF of a clause authorizing the Administration to use its war powers within the U.S.?
(b) What is the legal meaning or significance of that refusal by Congress, if any? Would it have made a difference one way or the other if Congress had agreed to include that provision rather than refused to include it?
(c) Despite that refusal, is it the Administration’s position that it has the authority to exercise its war powers within the U.S.?
In its January 27 Press Release, the DoJ argued that:
In its Hamdi decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the AUMF also authorizes the "fundamental incident(s) of waging war." The history of warfare makes clear that electronic surveillance of the enemy is a fundamental incident to the use of military force.
(a) Is it the position of the Administration that, by virtue of the AUMF, the Administration is authorized to employ all of the "fundamental incidents of waging war?"
(b) Is it the position of the Administration that it is authorized to employ all of the "fundamental incidents of waging war" not only abroad, but also here within the United States?
(c) It is the position of the Administration that it is authorized to employ all of the "fundamental incidents of waging war" not only against foreign nationals, but against U.S. citizens as well?
(d) Is it the position of the Administration that the President would have these powers – namely to employ all of the "fundamental incidents of waging war" both abroad and here in the United States – even if the AUMF did not give that authority to the President?
(e) Is it the position of the Administration that the "fundamental incidents of waging war" include:
(ii) detention of individuals it believes are enemy combatants; (iii) interrogation; and
(iv) indefinite incarceration, even without counsel, charges being brought, or a trial?
(f) Is the following a fair summary of the Administration’s view of the President’s power:
In responding to threats of terrorism, the President has the power:
(i) to eavesdrop on American citizens both outside of and within the U.S.,
(ii) to detain them,
(iii) to use any methods he wants to interrogate them, and
(iv) to incarcerate them indefinitely without counsel or a trial -- and the President can do all of this, including to U.S. citizens and inside the U.S., without any ability on the part of Congress or the courts to interfere with or limit those activities in any way?
(g) Is it the Administration’s position that the President has the power to order any of those activities described in the previous question even if Congress passes a law making it a crime to engage in or order those activities against American citizens?
(h) Leave aside the question of what the Administration intends to do or not do -- Is it the Administration’s position that it has the power, legally, to eavesdrop on a U.S. citizen inside the U.S. with no warrant, detain that citizen with no trial or charges being brought, interrogate that citizen using even those methods outlawed by the McCain Amendment, and incarcerate that citizen indefinitely – and that it can do all of those things even if Congress enacts laws prohibiting those activities?
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Attacks on the blogosphere
I am still working on several matters in connection with the media's very encouraging reporting of the Administration's flatly inconsistent behavior and statements regarding the NSA scandal, as reflected by its reaction to Sen. DeWine's proposed FISA amendments in June, 2002. As a result, though, I am unable to blog a lot today again, which is a little irritating because there is a lot I want to post about regarding the NSA matter.
For the moment, though, I want to note this one point:
It is not unusual or extraordinary for the blogosphere to find critical facts or important connections between facts well before the establishment media finds them. For whatever reasons, in the case of the DeWine legislation, the path from the blogosphere into the establishment media was too clear and glaring for it not to be credited, but this really does happen all the time in the blogosphere.
I read blogs for a couple of years before I started this blog last October, and the reason I started blogging was precisely because the conversation and reporting that takes place among blogs is so frequently at a higher and more informed level of both analysis and thoroughness than what I was hearing from the establishment media, and for that reason, I wanted to participate in it. I can't count the times when some establishment media reported a point or fact as though it was some sort of new scoop when the blogosphere had been discussing and analyzing it days earlier or even longer.
This is all notable not to engage in some sort of pro-blogosphere celebratory dance, but rather, because there is a considered effort underway to marginalize the blogosphere and to depict it as some sort of crazed, extremist cesspool that not only does need to be listened to but ought to be actively scorned and rejected by all good and decent people.
Digby recently made the point that bloggers are clearly the next target for being depicted as nothing more than foul-mouthed, irresponsible lunatics whose opinions and statements must be disregarded simply by virtue of the fact that they emanate from the blogosphere. Scott McClellan was recently asked at a White House Press Briefing about various reports regarding rendering of suspects to Syria for interrogation-by-torture -- a question which is well-grounded in fact -- and when told that the reports were well-publicized, McClellan snidely asked, in order to cast aspersions on the credibility of those reports: "By what, bloggers"?
Efforts to marginalize the blogosphere aren't coming only from political officials but from status-threatened journalists as well. Time's Joe Klein -- who hasn't uttered a single thought outside of the listless belly of trite, conventional wisdom for many years now -- recently shared what he called his "disdain for bloggers," whom he smeared as being "all opinions and very little information." And the reason the recent controversy over The Washington Post's comments section had such resonance, especially among other establishment media outlets, is precisely because it fed the stereotypes of the blogosphere as nothing more than vulgar, substance-free personal assaults when, in reality, it was bloggers who, as is so often the case, first noticed the factual reporting errors from the Post's Ombudsman and demanded their correction (and became frustrated only when the Ombudsman ignored the requests for days and refused to correct her error).
There are all sorts of motivations which account for this effort, coming from several different circles, to attack the credibility of the blogosphere and to try to marginalize it. To cite just a few of these motives: the blogosphere threatens the prior monopoly which the establishment media maintained on both news and opinions; the White House and other political power centers can and do manipulate and control (large parts of) the establishment media in a way that they cannot control the blogosphere; and there is just a general and natural distrust of unstructured, free-wheeling and uncontrollable areans on the part of institutionalized authorities, which include establishment media figures as sadly represented by the likes of Joe Klein.
There are, of course, imperfections and flaws in the blogosphere, and bloggers are wrong about things not infrequently. But the establishment media is hardly free of errors or embarrassments of its own, and just as the Janet Cookes and Stephen Glasses and Judy Millers and Jason Blairs and Bob Woodwards do not constitute evidence that establishment journalists generally should be presumed to be corrupt or untrustworthy, nor can the occasional vulgarity or blogospheric error be fairly used as evidence of the lack of credibility of the blogosphere itself.
In story after story, bloggers (on both ideological sides) have uncovered facts or exposed errors and falsehoods from political officials and journalists which the establishment media failed to uncover. That's not to say that the blogosphere can or should replace the establishment media or that the establishment media has no use. We need the establishment media, with its vast resources and reach, to serve as an aggressive and meaningful check on government statements and actions. But in many instances, it is undeniably true that the blogosphere has supplemented the media's function in this regard, and other times has performed this function when the media failed to.
Jane Hamsher has made the point several times that bloggers can be an excellent resource for those enterprising reporters who are able to overcome the baseless perception that the blogosphere is some sort of wild, irresponsible jungle which competes with establishment journalism and therefore must be scorned. The work done in the blogosphere with great regularity is among the most reliable, well-researched, knowledgeable and analytical work being done anywhere on most stories of political significance, and the sooner the establishment media stops viewing the blogosphere as some sort of bug to be shooed away or squashed, the more effectively it can begin to work with the blogosphere to promote what is supposed to be the central function of our media -- to serve as an adversarial and aggressive check on the statements and actions of the Government.
NSA Surveillance: How It Puts You in Danger
Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 01:19:24 PM CST
Polls are all over the place on Americans' views on the NSA program, depending on the precise wording of the question, but for the sake of argument, I'll grab the recent CNN poll that claims roughly half of the population thinks it's okay for the feds to conduct surveillance and collect data without a warrant. Based on this, I assume most of us have friends, family members or co-workers who've uttered the words: I have nothing to hide, so why should I care about NSA surveillance?
Here's a primer on why they should care.
It puts you at risk for IDENTITY THEFT ... and IT'S ILLEGAL
From all reports we've heard about the secretive NSA program, it's a vast vacuum operation that collects data, stores it and shares that information with other agencies, all without a warrant. Anything that's done with electronic transmission is trackable in practical terms - meaning online credit card purchases and bill paying, ATM transactions, paying for groceries with a debit/credit card. PINS, passwords, Social Security numbers, driver's license identifier information, bank account numbers, all are available ... all in the hands of federal agencies and their employees.
Even if the government has the noblest intention of protecting you from terrorists in mind, do Americans really trust that every employee in every agency that has access to this personal information will not sell it, abuse it or steal it? We could be talking dozens or hundreds or thousands of people. We don't know. We don't know who has access to this information and what they're doing with it now or what they will be doing with it in the future.
Think this is a loser approach to appealing to Americans? Think again. From an October 2005 CBS poll:
Nearly nine in ten Americans say they are concerned about identify theft, including more than half who are very concerned. Concern about the theft of personal numbers such as Social Security, phone card or bank account numbers has been high since March 1998.
When you've got 90 percent of Americans expressing concern about any issue, you've got potential for a major unifying message. Forget calling this an abridgement of civil liberties. Call it what it is: an invasion of privacy that puts your personal information in the hands of total strangers. Trust us, we're from the government and we're here to help. Right.
It's ineffective ... and IT"S ILLEGAL
Common sense should tell you that looking for clues to potential criminal activity at the local dump is going to yield less pertinent information far less efficiently than searching the office of a reasonably targeted suspect. That's where a warrant comes in. Prove to a court that a specific person has a possible connection with terrorist activity, then go for it. Sifting through the electronic and telephonic detritus of the lives of thousands of Americans whom you don't have enough verifiable leads on to justify a warrant is a recipe for failure. Instead of looking at the warrant process as a hindrance - and it's really hard to look at it that way with the 72-hour warrantless grace period offered under FISA - Americans need to understand that the court process helps as a sifting mechanism; it narrows the haystack down when looking for the needle.
Yes, I repeat: IT'S ILLEGAL
Sadly, this is probably the least concern for Americans who've been scared out of their gourds by the president. The mindset of "protect me at all costs" - even if the cost is illegal - is going to be tough to alter. Some have offered the "will you be comfortable with Hillary having these powers?" argument. If that works with your acquaintances, go for it. I'll offer up another: If the president can suspend the Fourth Amendment, what's to prevent him from suspending the Second Amendment? Are you comfortable with the thought that if you ... say ... gripe about the president's handling of the budget deficit while you're in line at the post office, you could get a knock on your door a couple hours later from the feds asking you to turn over your guns?
Can't happen here? Maybe not. But do we really want to set a precedent that not just this executive, but any future executive we may elect, can decide on his or her own what portions of the law and the Constitution need to be followed?
Our founders had a great and wise distrust of government and its inherent tendency to overreach. Most Americans, when not being jerked around by terror alerts and propaganda, share that distrust. Perhaps the upcoming NSA hearings will give us an opportunity to have a national conversation in an official setting about the values and protections afforded us by the Bill of Rights. One step in a more rational direction seems to me to be framing this discussion around the identity theft issue - which obviously concerns many Americans - and the inefficiency/incompetence angle of this administration, reminding citizens that even with very specific warnings ahead of time, Bush failed them with Katrina. God only knows how clueless this administration could be when inundated with too much information, most of it useless.
And oh, yeah. By the way, it's illegal. And in 2002 the administration fought the chance to make it "easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard."
Yesterday, 25 Democratic Senators joined our effort to filibuster the Alito nomination -- that's more votes to filibuster the Alito nomination than there were votes against Justice Roberts' nomination itself just a few months ago.
This morning, 42 Senators voted against Alito's nomination. That's the highest number of votes against any Supreme Court nominee since Clarence Thomas in 1991.
It's hard to lose -- but it's important to fight for what we believe in. I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of you who signed our petitions, called your senators, wrote letters to the editor and, most important, refused to stand silent while President Bush worked to pack the highest court in the land with far right ideologues. We fought a fight that needed fighting.
We made sure the nation knew the truth about the Alito nomination. We made sure America heard how a right wing ideological coup sandbagged Harriet Miers' nomination and replaced her with Judge Alito. No one will be able to say, in five to ten years, that he or she is surprised by the decisions Judge Alito makes from the bench. People who believe in privacy rights, who fight for the rights of the most disadvantaged, who believe in balancing the power between the President and Congress had to take a stand.
We also made it clear to the Bush administration that no matter what they throw at us in 2006 -- whether it's extreme nominees, special interest giveaways, shortsighted policy or Swift Boat-style attacks against Democratic candidates -- we will never surrender. We will always fight back.
Now, we must be clear about something else. Winning the 2006 congressional elections is the only way to change the dangerous path George W. Bush has put us on. We need to defeat those Republicans who have overlooked this administration's incompetence, turned a blind eye to its failures, and lent a helping hand to its dangerous ideology.
Together, we have to act to make sure 2006 is the year Americans, led by Democrats, stand up to incompetence, cronyism and corruption, take back Congress, and get our nation moving in the right direction again.
I look forward to fighting alongside you.
FIVE MINUTES A DAY FOR DEMOCRACY
All it takes for us to have a healthy democracy is 5 minutes a day. Just like brushing your teeth, only easier.
Today’s Five Minutes for Democracy is: ACTIVATE AND COMMUNICATE
Topics: TAKING IT TO THE PHONES AND STREETS
...A second story has been building and evolving underneath this story, however. Yesterday we told you that the World Can't Wait organization was being jerked around by the various security entities in DC. While planning a peaceful, musical protest to be held during the SOTU on Tuesday, they were told they could not be on the newly reseeded grass, nor could they be within a certain distance from where the President will be speaking. The offer made was for a gravel pathway, almost a mile away from the Capitol.
Well, yesterday, as they were filing a lawsuit in which they were going to, literally, make a case for dissenting voices to be heard even IF the President is nearby, they received a call. Travis Morales (above photo) and his staff were called to the reflecting pool area and told they would be given a permitfor that area. The photo op will be beautiful, folks. The music will be soaring, and the statement one of searing opposition to lies. It is a fully participatory event. Come on down, or over, if you are in the area. Or find one near you; they are in major cities and districts everywhere.
FEBRUARY 4 -- COME TO WASHINGTON!!!!!!!!!!
State of Emergency - Bush Step Down Rally Program
February 4, 2006
17th and Constitution
11:00am - 12:00 pm Music; DJ and sound system
12:00pm - 1:45 pm Speakers and performers will include:
General Janis Karpinsky
Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights
David Swanson, After Downing Street
Ann Wright, Veterans for Peace
Other speakers pending schedule confirmations
2 pm - March around White House to deliver the people's demand Bush Step Down
The World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Both Al Gore and John Kerry have made the point that WE, THE PEOPLE must get off our butts and act. Call, march, dissent. ..We can't just cheer them on; we need to get out there and ACT WITH THEM IN OUR OWN NAMES.
There are a number of young activists who have come to Washington for a few weeks to help organize for the SOTU events and what will follow; many of them were at the Supreme Court last week, standing up for women against a sea of anti-abortionists who screamed their slogans right into their faces.
The youth who were speaking up on behalf of choice stood their ground and stood together while the vilest stuff was spewed at them. We cannot even repeat it here.
One way to say thank you to these brave folks is to donate to our campaign to feed them.
The DCP is launching a Feed the Activists fundraising campaign. If you click on our DONATE button to the left, you can go to our paypal account and contribute a small or a large amount. Our goal is $3000.
Every dollar will go to feed wonderful kids for the next two-plus weeks. We will even do the shopping.
CODE PINK is launching a two-month series of events that they hope will culminate in 100,000 signatures on a petition by March 8, 2006 (International Women's Day). We at the DCP do not endorse campaigns per se, but we like to demonstrate the power of blogs and online communities to promote open discussion and create communities for action and change.
We think that Code Pink can do better than 100,000 signatures, and get them sooner. IF you agree with the Call and would like to participate in this action, all you have to do is go HERE and sign the call and then get the word out on blogs, email lists, and forums.
Here is the call itself:
Women's Call for Peace: An Urgent Appeal
We, the women of the United States, Iraq and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and the cruel attacks on civilians around the world. We've buried too many of our loved ones. We've seen too many lives crippled forever by physical and mental wounds. We've watched in horror as our precious resources are poured into war while our families' basic needs of food, shelter, education and healthcare go unmet. We've had enough of living in constant fear of violence and seeing the growing cancer of hatred and intolerance seep into our homes and communities.
This is not the world we want for ourselves or our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up - across borders - to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction.
We have seen how the foreign occupation of Iraq has fueled an armed movement against it, perpetuating an endless cycle of violence. We are convinced that it is time to shift from a military model to a conflict-resolution model that includes the following elements:
- The withdrawal of all foreign troops and foreign fighters from Iraq;
- Negotiations to reincorporate disenfranchised Iraqis into all aspects of Iraqi society;
- The full representation of women in the peacemaking process and a commitment to women's full equality in the post-war Iraq;
- A commitment to discard plans for any foreign bases in Iraq;
- Iraqi control of its oil and other resources;
- The nullification of privatization and deregulation laws imposed under occupation, allowing Iraqis to shape the trajectory of the post-war economy;
- A massive reconstruction effort that prioritizes Iraqi contractors, and draws upon financial resources of the countries responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq;
- Consideration of a temporary international peacekeeping force that is truly multilateral and is not composed of any troops from countries that participated in the occupation.
To move this peace process forward, we are creating a massive movement of women - crossing generations, races, ethnicities, religions, borders and political persuasions. Together, we will pressure our governments, the United Nations, the Arab League, Nobel Peace Prize winners, religious leaders and others in the international community to step forward to help negotiate a political settlement. And in this era of divisive fundamentalisms, we call upon world leaders to join us in spreading the fundamental values of love for the human family and for our precious planet.
The DCP began as a learning and teaching community--we are all focused on using the internet to bring democracy back to this country, especially in the realms of voting reform and media reform.
We ARE the media now. And we need to utilize our not inconsiderable skills to inform, train, and motivate concerned citizens to ACT.
Over the next month, this country needs a massive effort to speak truth to power. It must be the largest and most coordinated effort ever seen.
The pernicious acts that have been perpetrated in our name must end.
We do not believe a single action or event will make the difference; we believe that a series of well-constructed and coordinated actions will provide the backdrop for the natural evolution of political change, and that Congress will have to act to catch up with the people.
We need every single person in the progressive blogosphere to help with these efforts. This means much will be asked of each of us in terms of researching, informing, training, encouraging, writing, blogswarming, emailing, and ultimately, possibly traveling once again to Washington D.C. February 4 for the largest pushback yet.
There are many organizations coming together for this massive effort, including United for Peace and Justice, The World Can't Wait, Progressive Dems, the BackBone Campaign, Cities for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and us. We have a role to play, as educators, as writers, and as activists.
Who is in? What role will you take on?
SIGN UP HERE.
AND FOR THE CURIOUS AMONG US, IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY DONE SO, you can find out what the CIA is collecting on you. Go HERE
and follow the directions for both a FOIA request and a Privacy Act request.
Let's find out where our tax dollars are going!
Domestic Spying: Next Step
Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 11:42:41 AM CST
Now that the Alito filibuster rally is over, Democrats are ready to turn their attention to another critical issue: domestic spying. Gonzales is set to appear before the Judiciary Committee in a week. Liberal bloggers everywhere are wondering how to avoid a repeat of the Alito hearings, and how to ensure this scandal doesn't fade away like too many others.
Like so many other issues, the Democrats seem to be woefully unprepared. Gonzales's questioning is a week away, yet top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have barely made a peep about the event. Are they stealthy planning a winning strategy on this? Is that a rhetorical question dripping with sarcasm?
Once again, we are hardly getting any leadership on this issue from national Democrats (and yes, before there are 100 Gore comments, he's currently not an office holder and thus cannot effectuate his action items like elected Democrats can).
Glenn Greenwald has drafted 10 questions. They're quite good. But ultimately, the questions to be asked of Gonzales are left up to the committee. Truth be told, I was going to write out a list as well, but that is the Committee's job. The last thing we need is the blogosphere getting pissy because Biden didn't ask one of our perfectly framed questions.
Chris Bowers has an interesting post up at MyDD about what he thinks were blogosphere failures in the Alito response. I tend to agree with some of his points, especially this one: we were reactive, rather than proactive in our response. We waited for Kerry to come ask for a filibuster before we launched our stop alito campaign. Let us not make the same failure with domestic spying. Let's not wait for the Democratic leadership to take notice of this issue--let's make them take notice.
What is our role, as bloggers, in all of this? We cannot do the Committee's job. We cannot be the ones on cable news propelling the story forward. But as the Alito filibuster push proved, we do have the ability to mobilize a massive amount of people in a short amount of time to flood D.C. with a specific message. So let's be proactive about this. Instead of waiting for Conyers or Kerry to call for a special prosecutor, let's demand one. Instead of waiting for talking points, let's draft some and flood radio shows and newspapers with this issue. And most importantly, let's define what are our immediate goals in this, as members of the liberal blogosphere.
GOAL #1: KEEP THE STORY ALIVE
My fear is that, once Gonzales testifies, the story will fade away. Remember Phase II of the Intelligence Committee investigation. We can keep the story alive. How? By creating news. (See "special prosecutor" below). We can keep it alive by vowing that not a day goes by without the words "domestic spying" appearing in a LTE or a phone call to a radio station. Remember, the Patriot Act debate will once again take center stage soon. How do we incorporate domestic spying into it?
GOAL #2: CREATE AN EFFICIENT COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
If we're to accomplish goal #1 of keeping this story alive in the public discourse, we need to have the proper tools. The Alito filibuster push was EXTREMELY frustrating in that we were left to our own devices to scour the internet for contact information, fax numbers, and communications services. Instead of linking to some main site where we could take action in an efficient manner, blogs linked to various threads which may or may not have had accurate information.
Let's take a smarter approach to the domestic spying scandal. Look at how the Republican National Committee succeeds in injecting their talking points into EVERY level of discourse. Here is an entire page dedicated to talking points and contact info for talk radio. (and you wonder how those crazy CSPAN callers are all parroting the same thing). Here is another page dedicated to writing letters to the editor. It even writes the letter for you. The RNC even lets you call or write to your elected reps, effortlessly, through their main site. EVERY page, every single page has on it a list of talking points. They may be corrupt, but damn, those Republicans sure are coordinated and effective.
The DNC has yet to provide us with such a resource. Is it possible to build such a resource on our own? If we are to keep up a sustained campaign on domestic spying, we're going to need one. At the very least, shouldn't we set up page with all the contact information, so it's centralized rather than spread out across half a dozen blogs?
GOAL #3: SPECIAL PROSECUTOR
Let's put every member of Congress, Republican and Democratic alike, on the record. Coordinate a call-in campaign and have constituents ask "Do you support the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the NSA domestic spying scandal?"
If Alito proved anything, it is that our elected Democrats fail to appreciate the gravity of circumstances presented to them. Let us remind them that domestic spying isn't a political matter, but a constitutional one. Let's keep hounding them, day after day, from DAY ONE, and force them to take a principled stand on this early.
I'd like to hear your ideas about how the blogosphere can properly address the domestic spying scandal.
EFF's Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.
In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.
In the largest "fishing expedition" ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be "linked" to "suspicious activities," suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.
But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.
AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.
The lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.
The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.
The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.
• Complaint [PDF, 351KB]
Related Pages on eff.org
• About the domestic spying program generally
• About FISA generally
• In re Sealed Case, Foreign Intelligence Court of Review, 2002 [PDF]
• EFF's 2001 FISA FAQ
About AT&T's Daytona Database (External)
• AT&T's Daytona Page
• Another AT&T Daytona page
• "Survey: Biggest Databases Approach 30
• "Bigger & Better" InformationWeek.com
Other NSA Domestic Spying Lawsuits
• American Civil Liberties Union
• Center for Constitutional Rights
• Electronic Privacy Information Center
Media Finally Reports That Gonzales Misled Congress
This morning, prompted by a letter from Sen. Russ Feingold, the Washington Post reports that Alberto Gonzales misled the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January 2005 confirmation hearing:
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.
Think Progress reported this story on December 18. Gonzales said “it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.” In fact, he personally approved Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program, in contravention of a criminal statute.
We have the full transcript of the Feingold/Gonzales exchange posted.
In addition to Gonzales, former NSA director Michael Hayden and President Bush also made false statements relating to warrantless domestic surveillance.
UPDATE: An important aspect to this story is that Gonzales’ testimony was under oath. From the transcript:
SEN. SPECTER: Judge Gonzales, would you now stand for the administration of the oath? Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give before the Senate Judiciary Committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
MR. GONZALES: I do.
UPDATE II: Americablog has the photo.