Monday, March 03, 2008

More Bad Inky Spin On The FISA Follies

This editorial on the latest with the FISA law appeared yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, stating as follows…

If President Bush wants to assign blame for the lapse of the nation's antiterror surveillance law, then he must also point to himself.

Instead, the president wants to make House Democrats the villains. Not once but twice last week, Bush tried to cast the majority party as the bad guys for their refusal to renew the law exactly according to his terms.

Trouble is, the president has been downplaying his complicity in the legislative standoff because of his own refusal to entertain a key compromise.
Yes, the editorial gets off to a good start, but it will go downhill shortly…

Bush has been trumpeting the threat of terror attacks without the rules, contending al-Qaeda agents and their ilk will be able to talk to their co-conspirators without being detected by authorities.

Bush said Thursday that it's "dangerous, just dangerous" to go much longer without renewing the surveillance law.

But no ongoing investigation has been halted by the law's expiration, and agents can use other existing tools to launch new probes.
Close enough so far, but what was allowed to expire were the provisions of the Protect America Act which, as noted here, was an amendment to existing FISA law which (as the Inquirer notes) Congress offered to extend for a month while they tried to negotiate with Bushco on renewing the PAA (as futile an exercise as one can imagine, of course).

Though the cretins at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as well as other right-wing nut jobs, would have you believe that the U.S. House allowed FISA to expire, that most certainly is not true. The PAA expired, not FISA itself.

To continue…

The issue isn't whether the telecoms should be shielded in some way from massive damages. They should, inasmuch as the companies acted to cooperate with the government during a crisis.

They cooperated with the NSA in a time of great national fear.

So as a matter of fairness, Congress is right to look at workable measures such as having Washington assume the firms' liability in these cases.
No, no and no! I consider that to be a totally crappy “compromise”!

No one should be “shielded” for their behavior when it comes to illegal surveillance, and the excuse that it was “a time of great national fear” is ridiculous. Besides, who do you think assumes the responsibility if it is decided that the U.S. government should stand “in the docket” instead of the telcos?

That would be all of us, ladies and gentlemen; any taxpayer in this country who would have to pay out in the event of a guilty verdict against the government acting on behalf of AT&T, Verizon, or anybody else named in a suit over illegal surveillance.

Why on earth would I want to assume responsibility for these characters and their illegal spying?


Bush's claim - that unless telecoms are granted complete immunity, they won't cooperate in the future - is certainly a valid concern.
No it isn’t!

See, there’s this little concept that Bushco has a whole lot of trouble with, I know, and it’s called “the rule of law.” If a corporate entity or other player in this situation does not provide something you seek in the way of information on a suspected threat to this country after one or more requests, you compel them to do so by initiating an action against them.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of anyone who has sought immunity for anything unless they had something to hide.

As Kagro X says here…

Why not let the judges -- whose actual job it is to be fair to everyone who comes into their courtrooms -- worry about being fair to the telecom companies?

Why not let federal judges -- who don't and can't take $5,000 campaign checks from the telecom companies -- worry about being fair?
And as Kagro X also notes, the telcos only stopped spying when the FBI didn’t pay its bill on time.

Also, this Daily Kos post from diarist mcjoan tells us about Peter Sussman, a journalist and plaintiff in the ACLU’s pending case against AT&T, which would be automatically thrown out if telco immunity is written into law once and for all. His private records were shared with this administration.

Does it make you happy to know that George W. Milhous Bush, Dick Cheney, and Mike McConnell, among others, are seeking access to details about how many times you called a family member, how many times you called a pharmacy to have your subscriptions renewed, how many times you may have called a confidential number to seek some type of medical treatment, how many times you called your day care provider, or how many times you may have called a 900 number for one reason or another? Does it make you happy also to know that any telco who provided this information for them would be shielded from liability if the congressional Democrats cave and give it to them?

Don’t you think that information is nobody's damn business but yours?

Then contact your elected U.S. House representative from here and tell them (Patrick Murphy, as usual, is on the right side of this issue and stated the obvious; that allowing the PAA to lapse does not infringe on our ability to conduct legal surveillance of anyone who may be a legitimate threat to this country).

And under no circumstances should some type of phony-baloney FISA “compromise” be tolerated by any U.S. citizen.

Update: I haven't read all of this yet, but as far as I'm concerned, Froomkin nails it here so far; he's usually "on the beam" anyway.

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