June 2008

It is so fucking on:

Senators [The] Dodd (D-CT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) released the following statement today in response to the announcement that the Senate this week will consider the compromise legislation that would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) this week.

“This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

“If the Senate does proceed to this legislation, our immediate response will be to offer an amendment that strips the retroactive immunity provision out of the bill. We hope our colleagues will join us in supporting Americans’ civil liberties by opposing retroactive immunity and rejecting this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation.”

And that means ‘filibuster’. Feingold for veep. Barbara Boxer and Ron Wyden (who I have never heard of, but who appears to be a Senator) will join them. Obama needs to recognize.

… See also dday:

Senator Reid just informed his colleagues on the Senate floor that, because of all the other bills in the queue (like the housing bill, and the Iraq supplemental), FISA may not get a vote until after the July 4 holiday recess.

This is honestly the best we can hope for right now. Sens. Dodd, Wyden and Feingold are ready to filibuster and gamely trying to get colleagues to do the same (Sen. Dodd’s speech tonight was a bravura performance), but realistically the numbers to stop cloture aren’t there. However, that could change if the delay continues. And getting this to the recess means being able to get in a lot of Senators’ faces on their trips back home. In addition, there’s going to be a very short window in August where a ton of must-pass bills have to get through Congress, and throwing FISA in with that mess means that anything can happen.

We’ve been on the brink with this a bunch of times, I can’t even remember how many, and we’ve always pulled back just in time. The stars might be lining up for this again.

Oh, and fuck Steny Hoyer, walking around with two dog names taped together. Loser.

This is nice, too:

A top adviser to Sen. John McCain said that a terrorist attack in the United States would be a political benefit to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a comment that was immediately disputed by the candidate and denounced by his Democratic rival.

Charles R. Black Jr., one of McCain’s most senior political advisers, said in an interview with Fortune magazine that a fresh terrorist attack “certainly would be a big advantage to him.” He also said that the December assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, while “unfortunate,” helped McCain win the Republican primary by focusing attention on national security.

It might also be of benefit to his, and George W. Bush’s, #1 foreign policy priority. Of course, Republicans would never play politics with terrorism.


Go back to Russia, hippie:

Privacy International:


* No right to privacy in constitution, though search and seizure protections exist in 4th Amendment; case law on government searches has considered new technology
* No comprehensive privacy law, many sectoral laws; though tort of privacy
* FTC continues to give inadequate attention to privacy issues, though issued self-regulating privacy guidelines on advertising in 2007
* State-level data breach legislation has proven to be useful in identifying faults in security
* REAL-ID and biometric identification programs continue to spread without adequate oversight, research, and funding structures
* Extensive data-sharing programs across federal government and with private sector
* Spreading use of CCTV
* Congress approved presidential program of spying on foreign communications over U.S. networks, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, etc.; and now considering immunity for telephone companies, while government claims secrecy, thus barring any legal action
* No data retention law as yet, but equally no data protection law
* World leading in border surveillance, mandating trans-border data flows
* Weak protections of financial and medical privacy; plans spread for ‘rings of steel’ around cities to monitor movements of individuals
* Democratic safeguards tend to be strong but new Congress and political dynamics show that immigration and terrorism continue to leave politicians scared and without principle
* Lack of action on data breach legislation on the federal level while REAL-ID is still compelled upon states has shown that states can make informed decisions
* Recent news regarding FBI biometric database raises particular concerns as this could lead to the largest database of biometrics around the world that is not protected by strong privacy law

Fucking wonderful. h/t Zed.

Thanks to one Roy Edroso, and a post titled:


It’s not knowing how something works that’s important. It’s being aware of it:

You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.


This is going to be so much fun:

With all that stacked against him, the only road that could take McCain to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the low road, one of the few pieces of infrastructure left in good repair by President Bush. His father paved it against Michael Dukakis, George W. Bush repaved it running against John Kerry, and the GOP repainted the dotted line in now-Senator Bob Corker’s 2006 contest with Harold Ford. The path to success for McCain is to make the election a referendum on his opponent, by working in silent concert with 527 groups and media outlets such as Fox News to pursue character assassination, guilt by association, and, most of all, the effort to paint Obama as different, foreign, unlike “us,” and dangerous (and did I mention that he’s black?). [...]

Under other circumstances, such simple turns of phrase might mean little. But these aren’t other circumstances. Barack Obama has been the target of a concerted smear campaign that tells a consistent story: that he is a Muslim, that he attended an anti-American madrassa as a child, that he refuses to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, that he took his oath of office to the Senate with his hand on the Koran, and that he hates Israel. Beginning in late 2006, conservative talk show hosts and commentators like Ann Coulter were calling him “B. Hussein Obama,” images on the Internet were morphing Obama into Osama, and commentators were raising questions about his patriotism.

These subterranean messages took a substantial toll. When I was doing focus groups with swing voters in the early winter, nearly half of every group we met with would either assert confidently or wonder aloud whether Obama was a Muslim or didn’t believe in the Pledge of Allegiance.


  • Phil Carter misunderstands objections to telecom immunity. The point of lawsuits against the telecommunications industry is not to punish them for the misdeeds of the government, it is to compel them to testify against the government, something which they are not otherwise going to be especially eager to do.
  • Legal analysis outsourced to Marty Lederman and David Kris, here, here, here, and here.
  • Barack Obama’s current stand on the bill is: he supports it, with the immunity provision removed. The word ‘filibuster’ does not appear in his statement, nor in the statements of any of the core anti-immunity bloc. However, Obama had previously vowed to filibuster any bill with such a provision. Unless he’s going to flip-flop on that promise, then, this bill as written will have to go through the filibuster of the Democratic nominee. I’m just telling you what he’s been telling me.
  • I’m not sure what Michael Cohen is going on about here:

    Seriously, Greenwald and others need to get a grip. You want to disagree with those Democrats who supported this bill, fine – I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong. But to suggest that progressives should then raise money to lessen the Democratic majority in Congress and subsequently ignore the fact that the only reason we are even having this debate is because of the lawless practices of George Bush; well if you think this is a good idea, you need to have your head examined.

    Tell Grover Norquist how this doesn’t work. Tell the Service Employees International Union. Greenwald et al are targeting 3 House Democrats – Steny Hoyer, who has spearheaded this and all previous attempts to get a Republican-friendly FISA bill through the House (and who also happens to suck generally); Chris Carney, who is sort of a mini-Steny (and who is, ironically enough, being heavily funded by the SEIU); and John Barrow, who is facing a serious primary challenge. Hoyer’s not going to lose ever, so this is mostly posturing; Carney might lose to a Republican; and Barrow might lose in solidly Democratic district to a much more solid Democrat. You could argue about the specifics here – my money is going to primary challenges exclusively – but, in a year where the Democrats seem certain to pick up 10-20 House seats, it seems like the perfect time to cut some dead weight. Comparing this to Ralph Nader’s continuing work on behalf of Republicans, as Cohen does, is ridiculous.

    That’s tactics. People who, like Cohen, object to this on grounds of partisan solidarity need to consider that party loyalty flows both ways. Forget pissing on the grassroots voting hoi polloi: this “compromise” FISA bill, like the earlier (and even more objectionable) Protect America Act, passed the House with essentially unanimous Republican support and over the objections of most House Democrats. Believe it or don’t believe it, the vote breakdowns don’t lie. The House Democratic leadership has repeatedly allowed votes on bills which are opposed by a substantial majority of their caucus, and are hugely popular with the same people who are otherwise trying to ensure that your party’s agenda fails. If you want to avoid primary challenges and other reprisals, don’t undercut your own party.

  • I know I sound like a broken record, but it would be nice if someone would at least acknowledge that the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is kaput, and so the whole national security justification for secret FISA courts and NSA wiretaps actually no longer exists. I’m open to arguments that current technologies, etc., means that the government needs expanded surveillance powers – it’s not my preference, but I don’t think I’m qualified to propose policy here. But it would be so nice if someone could relate it to the real world of the present day, rather than trying to make me believe that bearded religious nutters living in caves are more cunning and sophisticated than the Soviet Union. (Yes, the 9/11 hijackers did manage to escape the detection of the Bush administration. So did a class 5 hurricane.)
  • Has anybody done a comparison between US gov’t surveillance powers and those of other governments, especially Western Europe? It would provide some context for the non-immunity parts of the bill.
  • Tim Russert: still dead. We’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

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