Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: More On The House Lock Down W/Kucinich Interview

Click for a full report.

Imbush Peach

An interview with Naomi Wolf about the 10 steps from democracy to dictatorship!

Stop The Spying Now

Stop the Spying!

Friday, March 14, 2008

More On The House Lock Down W/Kucinich Interview

Impeach, Bush, Cheney: We Have Been Warned On Issue Repeatedly…


After 5 years of senseless, endless war, torture, government deception and suppression . . .

YOU have a voice
YOU have a choice

You Can Close Your Mind And Eyes And Bounce A Ball In “March Madness”


You Can March and Fight

To End The Madness

In The White House.


House Holds Rare Secret Session on Spy Bill

The House of Representatives postponed a vote on a spy bill Thursday after Democrats agreed to a request from Republicans to hold a rare secret session to discuss what they termed classified security matters. It marked the first time a secret session was held in a quarter of a century and only the sixth time in the House’s history. We speak with Ohio Congress member Dennis Kucinich, who refused to attend the secret session. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Dennis Kucinich joins us right now, though. The Ohio congress member, former presidential candidate, has just come from Washington, where he refused last night to attend a secret session of Congress.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank you, Amy. I also, yesterday on the floor of the House, spoke in support of the winter soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, and what they’re doing, I think, is so important here in Silver Spring.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about what happened, only the sixth time in history did Congress, in a sense, go dark. C-SPAN went black, the screen.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Right. Well, the—one of the Republican leaders said that he had some secret information that he had to communicate with rest of Congress, and so he asked the Congress to go into secret session. I went to the floor of the House in that preliminary session and pointed out that this hasn’t happened but five times in 182 years, and I said that there should be a very high bar that has to be passed before we go into secret session. As soon as I said that, the member of Congress who asked for it started to backpedal a little bit. It will be interesting to see what kind of gravity came out of that meeting. My guess is that it had more to do with the desire of the administration to try to push for the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act than it had to do with any compelling new information about national security.

AMY GOODMAN: The President and the Republicans wanting to push through legislation that would grant immunity to the telecom companies for spying on Americans?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, that’s part of it, of course, but I’m thinking that yesterday there really was an attempt to try to basically use the procedure of a secret meeting to ratchet up the pressure to pass FISA and by—essentially, the Democrats called the bluff of the Republicans. And we’ll see if anything was produced in that meeting, because, actually, at any time Congress can vote to release the transcripts, make them public. And if that happens and it wasn’t a serious enough matter, there could be really extreme political repercussions, because we shouldn’t be going into secret session. I mean, there’s a reason why you don’t. You have a House of Representatives; it’s the people’s House. Transparency, it’s essential for a democracy. It’s very dangerous to have these things.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how it works. 7:30, they sweep the Congress, all the members, to make sure you have no wires on you?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Right. Well, everyone asked—you know, now, I haven’t been in one of these for years. I do not sign the pledge of, quote, “confidentiality,” unquote, because what you essentially do is you give up your conscience. And when you go into these meetings, if something is being told that’s a lie, you can’t go outside and say they lied to you.

But I will tell you this, Amy, that in the times that I went to these—when I was an early member of Congress, I’d go to these sessions, and, you know, they were lying to members. And they would—so then you would be told this information, they’d try to propagandize the members. You can’t go outside and talk about it, because you’d be violating the confidentiality. I just stopped going to them, because I realized that they were attempts to try to spin the members of Congress under the pretext of a national security secret. I think democracy functions much better in sunlight than in the dark.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Congressman Kucinich, I want to thank you very much for being with us today. We’re spending the hour with soldiers, with veterans, who have come here to the National Labor College to talk about their own experiences. Again, this against the backdrop, the surprise last night of the secret session of Congress.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, they’re telling their stories about a war that’s based on lies and the war that was concocted in secret. Here we are.

AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you a quick question? In this presidential year, you were a presidential candidate. Big debate over Michigan and Florida. Your name, together with Hillary Clinton’s name, was on the Michigan ballot. What is your take on what should happen there and why Barack Obama, John Edwards did not have their name on the ballots then and what should happen now?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I basically, you know, ignored the directive of the party leaders.

AMY GOODMAN: And so did Hillary Clinton.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, right. And so, I think, you know, this is something that’s going to have to be worked out. I mean, the Democratic Party is going through a very dangerous period right now. Keeping that party together so it can be competitive in November is going to be a great challenge. And so, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have a lot of work to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to endorse someone?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: You know, I reserve the right to do that. I haven’t made any decision yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, thanks very much for joining us, the congressman from Ohio. He’s just won his Democratic primary in Ohio. He’s here at the Winter Soldier hearings that are taking place in Silver Spring, Maryland.

But First: “In Their Own Words” Support The Truth!

President weakens espionage oversight Board created by Ford loses most of its power

Rep. Sestak On FISA: ‘We Should Have Stood Up And Said No’» (see Video Here)

Editorials On FISA: ‘Unnecessary And Dangerous Expansion of President Bush’s Powers’

Last week, under heavy political pressure from the White House, Congress approved the White House-backed version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which provided expansive spying authority to the Bush administration. The White House had earlier rejected a compromise bill that provided powers sought by the Director of National Intelligence, opting instead to play politics with the issue.

In the past two days, at least nine major newspapers have editorialized against the FISA legislation, with the New York Times today calling it an “unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers.” Some examples:

USA Today:

A skittish Congress allowed itself to be stampeded last week into granting the president unfettered surveillance power. When it returns to Washington, it should do what it can to make sure that the sun goes down on this flawed measure. [Link]

Washington Post:

To call this legislation ill-considered is to give it too much credit: It was scarcely considered at all. Instead, it was strong-armed through both chambers by an administration that seized the opportunity to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law — or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions. [Link]

The New York Times:

While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. Instead of explaining all this to American voters — the minimal benefits and the enormous risks — the Democrats have allowed Mr. Bush and his fear-mongering to dominate all discussions on terrorism and national security. [Link]

The Los Angeles Times:

You know something’s wrong with this Congress when a Democratic champion of privacy rights feels compelled to vote for Republican legislation that compromises those rights. That’s what California Sen. Dianne Feinstein did last week when she joined a stampede to approve a temporary “fix” sought by the Bush administration in a law governing electronic surveillance. [Link]

San Francisco Chronicle:

No-limits spying is on a roll. In rushed votes, both the House and Senate meekly accepted a White House plan to vastly expand phone and e-mail eavesdropping. The changes were sold as a key step in tracking foreign terrorists and their allies on American soil. But the shift guts any semblance of oversight, leaving the picking and choosing of targets to spy agencies. [Link]

The Boston Globe:

The administration maintains that technological changes have created problems with the 1978 law. But never has Bush demonstrated why the terms of that law, which permitted officials to get warrant approvals up to 72 hours after they started a wiretap, are no longer workable. This and other questions could have been answered if Congress had demanded an open debate on the administration’s bill. Its failure to do so is a shameful abdication of its own responsibility. It’s difficult to maintain a system of checks and balances when one branch simply checks out. [Link]

Rocky Mountain News:

Now the authority to approve wiretaps rests with the attorney general - hardly a reassuring prospect given Alberto Gonzales’ performance in that office - and the director of national intelligence. … Given the administration’s expansive view of its own powers, this FISA rewrite could allow much wider eavesdropping, with little outside oversight. [Link]

Sacramento Bee:

After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush did an end run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which prohibits eavesdropping on Americans without judicial oversight. Instead of going to Congress to change the law, Bush decided to simply monitor without warrants the international phone calls and e-mails of people inside the United States. Six years later, the Bush administration belatedly has gone to Congress. But instead of promoting modernization in the law, the administration has ginned up new fears about terrorist attacks and cowed Congress into passing hasty, ill-considered changes. [Link]

Seattle Post Intelligencer:

The redeeming aspect of the political theater involving Americans’ rights to privacy is that Congress wrote itself an option for a better ending in six months. [Link]

Igor Volsky

UPDATE: More anger from local papers: The Huntsville Times, the Albany Times Union, and OC Register.

Oklahoma Voices Listen Here! (One Nation Under Surveillance)

From The Speaker:

I participated in a Constitution Day forum sponsored by the ACLU at the University of Oklahoma school of law this evening. The theme of the forum was "One Nation Under Surveillance." Here is the text of my opening remarks:

Our Nation is under surveillance for fear of terrorists. Terrorists are people who have given up hope of finding justice in this world. Their aim is either to change the world or destroy it. In their eyes, they’ve got nothing to lose.

The fact that some people have nothing to lose, while the rest of us have a lot to lose, is probably what frightens us most. Nihilistic despair in a world with weapons of mass destruction threatens everyone with annihilation. But, rather than doing something to restore the spirit and dignity of those who have no hope, we keep ignoring their grievances, compounding the injustices that lead them to despair, and then we develop ever more sophisticated technology to save ourselves from their murderous wrath.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to technology. Some technology can help. But better technology is not going to solve the problem of terrorism and it will lull us into a false sense of security.

Technology cannot save us from ourselves. The computers we build to preserve our freedom threaten to enslave us. The information we store in databases, ostensibly to protect us -- threatens us with real harm.

Fallible human being will always be making the decisions about who poses a threat to society, and who has access to information, and how that information will be interpreted and used. After Hurricane Katrina, who needs to be reminded that blind faith in human institutions is always misplaced and the people leading them often prove incompetent, unreliable or simply overwhelmed? And worse, over the last six years we have seen politicians stretch the trust of a freedom-loving people to the breaking point by repeatedly arrogating powers that are devoid of constitutional checks and balances.

We must especially beware that the liberties we have suspended for fear of terrorists could easily be forfeited for generations to come. America will never be the same if we retreat from two and a quarter centuries of hard won civil liberties. Never before have we settled for being the land of the safe and the home of the secure. We’ve always had the courage to strive to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Instead of the frightful overreaction we have witnessed since September 11th, our nation would do better if it would respond to terrorism the way the people of Oklahoma responded to domestic terrorism when he Murrah Federal Building was bombed. That bomb did not prompt us to surrender our civil rights or to infringe upon the rights of others. Unlike our federal government:

We did not suspend the constitution.

We did not send the police out to round-up, lock-up or expel all the foreigners and immigrants in town.

We did not hold suspects indefinitely without access to the courts or to counsel.

We did not tape conversations between suspects and their lawyers.

We did not suspend the laws requiring probable cause for wiretaps or search warrants.

We did not expand the role of the military or private mercenary armies in domestic law enforcement.

We did not torture suspects to obtain information.

We did not create a military tribunal to try and execute suspects without applying the Constitution or state and federal laws.

We did not endorse assassination as an alternative to capture.

And, we did not create a massive computer system to keep tabs on every aspect of our citizen’s daily lives.

What we did was to rescue survivors, clean-up the wreckage, rebuild our city and bring the criminals to justice. The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building did not destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of the people of Oklahoma.

Neither should the criminal acts of a few terrorists destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of our nation.

Oklahoma Voices: More Highlights from the Ninth Annual First Amendment Congress
Monday, March 10, 2008 from 11am – noon

This week on Oklahoma Voices we broadcast two more panel discussions recorded last November at Freedom of Information Oklahoma's Ninth Annual First Amendment Congress. The first roundtable features representatives from the Oklahoma arts community talking about how they practice self censorship for fear that a controversy could translate into lost revenue – either fewer customer sales or the abandonment of private funding. Guests include Joy Reed Belt, the owner and Director of the JRB Art at the Elms gallery in Oklahoma City’s Paseo district; NONzine magazine Editor and Co-publisher Michael Tabor; Individual Artists of Oklahoma (IAO) gallery Executive Director Jeff Stokes and veteran entertainment industry attorney Jay Shanker. The moderator is Sherry Fair from City Arts Center.

Then, Oklahoma Press Association Executive Director Mark Thomas leads a discussion on the state of government transparency in Oklahoma. Panelists include Bryan Dean, staff writer for The Oklahoman; Oklahoma State University Documents Librarian and Professor Barbara Miller and Oklahoma State University Journalism Professor Joey Senat. MP3

Oklahoma Voices:

Highlights from the Ninth Annual First Amendment Congress
Monday, March 3, 2008 from 11am – noon

Next time on Oklahoma Voices we broadcast two panel discussions recorded last October at the Ninth Annual First Amendment Congress, sponsored by Freedom of Information Oklahoma. The first is titled "Censorship Stories, Then and Now," and is moderated by Connie Van Fleet, Professor at the OU School of Library and Information Studies. Panelists were former Muskogee High School teacher Tobi Thompson, retired Okmulgee High School librarian Karen Morris and Shirley and Wayne Weigand, authors of Books on Trial, Red Scare in the Heartland.


American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom

Oklahoma Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

In the second half of the program, we hear a discussion on "How to Be Free and Smart on the Internet," moderated by OSU Journalism Professor Joey Senat. Panelists were Center for Education Law attorney Teresa Rose, job placement professional Jim Farris and Amanda Wrede, Coordinator of the First Year Experience program at Oklahoma City University.


Balancing Students’ Rights: A Child’s Right to Free Speech and Another Child’s Right to a Harassment-Free Living Environment

Free Speech Rights of Students – When may administrators in public secondary schools and colleges restrict the speech of students?

Naomi Wolf

America is looking less and less like America. And more and more Americans are worried about it.

What country is this? The president is claiming the right to keep his aides from testifying for Congress about the U.S. attorneys scandal; hundreds of men -- according to a Seton Hall study, many of them innocent -- are in legal limbo in Guantanamo Bay; U.S. agents are kidnapping people off the streets in Italy and Macedonia and `rendering' them to be tortured; the president and his lawyers claim the executive has the right to call anyone -- U.S. citizen or not -- an `enemy combatant' -- and the person who should decide what that means is the President himself; civil rights organizations say peaceful citizens' groups are being infiltrated and put under surveillance; and a new bill just made it easier, as Senator Patrick Leahy warned, for the president -- any president of whatever party -- to declare martial law.

Americans across the political spectrum are increasingly uneasy. We have always had a sense of our own invincibility in relation to our democracy: the system, many of us believe, simply rights itself. But we have to face the fact that when checks and balances are being systematically dismantled -- when the Constitution is under such sustained assault -- our assumption that democracy will protect us without our active intervention is dangerously naive.

The time has come for a grassroots democracy movement in America. I am relieved to be able to say that today the American Freedom Campaign (AFC) -- a new organization prepared to engage hundreds of thousands of American citizens in restoring democracy and the rule of law -- is ready for action.

The initial partners in the American Freedom Campaign represent a dynamic partnership of legal experts, human rights advocates, and grassroots expertise. Participating in the launch are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and All Americans are welcome to join this campaign and it will undoubtedly grow larger and stronger over the coming months.

There is no time to waste. We have to get it -- in a hurry -- that the assaults we are witnessing are unprecedented and demand unprecedented responses from us. There have been times of state repression in our nation before now; as others such as Joe Conason, author of It Can Happen Here, and Bruce Fein, a founder of the American Freedom Agenda, have pointed out, `the pendulum' has swung to extremes before now: President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in some areas during the civil war -- but it was restored after the war came to an end. 120,000 Japanese American citizens were interned in detention camps (the fear was that they would engage in `espionage' and `sabotage') during World War Two -- and when that hysteria subsided, the camps were closed and these innocent Americans released. Both writers note that previous eras of repression had endpoints: the wars ended, the threat subsided -- but the War on Terror is defined as open-ended in time and in space: there will never be a day of victory, and the whole world is a battlefield. So we can't count on the pendulum to swing back as it always has -- that is, not without a citizen uprising in defense of liberty.

Other times and places are worth thinking about when we witness these events. History, which Americans never take to naturally, has a great deal to warn us about right now. The historical record -- and the contemporary record -- is incontrovertible on the fact -- a fact that flies in the face of the `democracy myth' we cherish, that we are somehow exempt from these pressures -- that while it is difficult to build and sustain a democracy, closing one down is actually quite easy. There is practically a blueprint for it, which would-be dictators and autocrats around the world have followed. All leaders who seek to close down an open society -- or push back a democracy movement -- do the same key things. Among other steps, they invoke an internal and external threat (it can certainly be real); create a surveillance apparatus aimed at ordinary citizens; establish military tribunals; infiltrate citizens' groups; make it easier to detain citizens; target key individuals with job loss or other penalties if they speak out; reframe criticism as `treason' or `espionage'; and pass laws that make it easier to circumvent or override a Constitution because of the threat that has been invoked or in the name of `restoring public order.' It is also clear from the record that the Founders were right to tell us to be vigilant in defense of liberty -- because democracy can become weakened and a point can be reached at which democracy cannot simply heal itself.

That is why everyone who is concerned about the abuses of power we are witnessing under the current administration should sign on to the American Freedom Campaign. As noted above, the AFC is backed by a dynamic coalition of some of the key organizations devoted to restoring the Constitution and defending freedom.

The mission of the AFC is to make the restoration of our democracy the paramount issue -- especially at the level of the presidential campaign, but also at the level of citizen education and citizen pressure on Congress. Its ten-point agenda will, among other things, restore the right to a fair trial; make sure journalists can't be intimidated with the Espionage Act; stop the president's -- any president's -- abuse of signing statements -- an abuse that can basically override the will of the people as expressed by their representatives; and keep the state from breaking into our homes, tapping our phones and reading our emails illegally.

These are not partisan issues. It is about power, not politics. While it is ideal from a citizen's point of view that leaders on both the left and the right are now pushing to restore our checks and balances, the issue transcends party affiliation. Without these horrific laws repealed, a President Hillary can be as dangerous to liberty -- and to American citizens -- as a President Giuliani.

It's a good time now for citizens, as they are signing up to lead this grassroots movement to restore the rule of law and to confront the excesses of the executive branch, to reread the Founders' debates. They would see how debased our discourse is right now. The excesses we are seeing in the power grab of the executive branch are presented to us in the name of patriotism; but if the Founders were around today, they would be outraged by the systematic dismantling of the checks and balances they put in place to protect us.

The framers and those who explained the new system to the public believed in their very souls that an American despot could easily arise -- in America; that the reason each branch should `check' the other is that leaders - even American leaders -- tend, as part of human nature, to abuse power if they are not checked. They knew from their own experience or their family's history how easy it is for an abusive leader to strip prisoners of their rights, send soldiers or agents of the Crown to break into people's homes and go through their personal papers without proper warrants, and punish those trying to assemble with their neighbors or speak up about government overreaching.

One reason we need a grassroots democracy movement in this time of constitutional crisis is that many Americans have only a hazy sense of what democracy is -- and what the Constitution really says. We are rarely reminded that the Founders enshrined our rights precisely because they or their parents had fled countries in which prisoners were detained without fair trial and turned into criminals and `traitors' for using the kind of language that makes up the Declaration of independence. It was because they understood repressive governments and abusive monarchs so well that they set up our Constitution and Bill of Rights to make sure those evils would never take root again on our soil.

Few of us are taught in detail how easy it is to repress democracy movements and close down open societies -- if you are willing to do a few key things. So that at just this moment of crisis, young people -- and many citizens in general -- are both disheartened and ill-equipped, lacking both the hope and the analytical tools they need to recognize the seriousness of these dangers and fight this fight.

But there has never been a more urgent time to change our minds and our behavior. The window can close -- yes, even in America -- if we fail as individuals to take up the patriot's task. Our country needs us active -- in the millions. The founders never intended for a professional caste to perform the patriot's task of defending liberty: they expected ordinary people -- farmers, small shopkeepers, schoolteachers -- to be on the front lines.

The Founders would have been appalled at the helplessness that most people feel today in the face of serious encroachments upon our freedom and liberty -- just as they would have been at the encroachments themselves. The system they set up -- if it is working properly -- is the most transformative and empowering of the individual on earth. They would have counted on each of us to rise up in defense of what they created and to directly challenge those who assert that they are not answerable to the American people -- and not bound by the American system and the rule of law.

So in the name of those men and women who had the courage to establish this nation, let us all rise up together. Join the American Freedom Campaign and help defend our democracy.

Naomi Wolf is the author of the forthcoming The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Chelsea Green Publishing, Sept 2007

American Civil Liberties Union : NSA Spying on Americans Is Illegal

Dec 24, 2005 ... (1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized ... Fourth Amendment in the view of the ACLU and many others. ...

Living Under Surveillance | The New American

Surveillance and Power. The Bush administration (like many U.S. administrations before it) is enamored with monitoring ordinary citizens, under the guise of ... -

USA TODAY ARCHIEVE …Much More Than Below….

washington |

2d 21h ago

House Dems refuse immunity for telecoms

Locked in a standoff with the White House, House Democrats on Tuesday maintained their refusal to shield from civil lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without a secret court's permission.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: United States | White House | Bush | Senate | D-Mich | D-Md | House Democrats | Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act | House Democratic | House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer | House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers

washington |

9d ago

FBI chief to speak on unsolved civil rights cases

The FBI is investigating 26 unsolved civil rights era cases out of nearly 100 referred to the bureau over the last year, Director Robert Mueller says in calling the protection of civil liberties one of his top priorities.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: United States | Internet | Democrats | Justice Department | Constitution | Senate Judiciary Committee | USA Patriot Act | Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act | Ku Klux Klansman | Director Robert Mueller

Bush urges House to pass intel law

By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer

President Bush lobbied the House again on Wednesday to pass an intelligence law making it easier for the government to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists. Failure to pass the new law is "inexcusable" and "indefensible," he said.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Congress | America | White House | Democrats | Bush | Republicans | Africa | Czech Republic | D-Mich | Oval Office | Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act | Senate Democratic | National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell | Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin

grey rule

House closes its doors for spying bill By PAMELA HESS Associated Press Writer

The Capitol in Washington is shown in this aerial view Oct. 24, 2001 file photo. The threat level was briefly raised from yellow to orange and personnel in the U.S. Capitol were ordered to prepare to evacuate Wednesday, March 12, 2008, after an aircraft flew too close to the restricted airspace around federal Washington. Tourists were turned away, but the Capitol was not evacuated.

The House held an unusual closed-door session to talk about classified intelligence gathering in anticipation of a vote Friday on a warrantless eavesdropping bill.

The Democratic bill would set rules for the government's surveillance of phone calls and e-mails. President Bush has vowed to veto it.

The president's main objection is that the bill does not protect from lawsuits telecommunications companies that allowed the government to eavesdrop on their customers without permission from a court after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

House Republicans succeeded Thursday in delaying the vote by one day by requesting a rare, late-night closed session of Congress to discuss the bill. It was the first secret session of the House in a quarter century.

The last such session was in 1983, on U.S. support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua. Only five closed sessions have taken place in the House since 1825.

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas said she didn't believe any minds were changed on the bill but that the session allowed views to be exchanged.

"We couldn't have gone more of an extra mile to make sure we're doing the best for national security," she told The Associated Press.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview that he read aloud the titles - but not details - of intelligence reports "that shows the nature of the global threat and how dynamic the situation is, and how fluid."

Bush and congressional Republicans want the House to adopt the Senate version of the legislation, which provides a legal shield for telecom companies.

About 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecommunications companies by people and organizations alleging the companies violated wiretapping and privacy laws. The lawsuits have been combined and are pending before a single federal judge in California.

The Democrats' measure would encourage the judge to review in private the secret government documents underpinning the program to decide whether the companies acted lawfully.

The administration has prevented those documents from being revealed, even to a judge, by invoking the state secrets privilege. That puts the companies in a bind because they are unable to defend themselves in suits that allege they violated wiretapping and privacy laws.

The surveillance law is intended to help the government pursue suspected terrorists by making it easier to eavesdrop on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States. A temporary law expired Feb. 16 before Congress was able to produce a replacement bill. Bush opposed an extension of the temporary law as a means to pressure Congress into accepting the Senate version of the surveillance legislation.

Bush and most Capitol Hill Republicans say the lawsuits are damaging national security and unfairly punish telecommunications companies for helping the government in a time of war.

Associated Press writers Kimberly Hefling and Terence Hunt contributed to this report.

White House Opposes Surveillance... Of Its Own Surveillance Policy

from the nobody's-watching dept

Since it was formed in 2004, on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has been blasted by civil libertarians as a tool of the administration, more interested in whitewashing War on Terror–related privacy violations than serving as a genuine check on government intrusion. One of the board's five members even resigned in protest, citing among other things "the vast array of alphabet soup agencies and bureaucracies in the national security apparatus" that sought "to control and modify the Board's public utterances." So last year, Congress sought to give the board greater autonomy by moving it out from under the aegis of the White House and reconstituting itself as an independent boad within the executive branch. The response of the White House, Wired reports, has been to drag its feet in appointing a new board -- meaning there is no one on the board as of January 30th -- prompting bipartisan criticism from top members of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee.

The board's second annual report (pdf), released late last month, does not exactly inspire confidence in its assiduousness as a privacy watchdog -- even when staffed. After touting its excellent working relationship with the White House, it moves to a "nothing to see here" review of the post-9/11 use of the material witness statute (MWS) as a detention tool. Aside from one "terrible mistake," the report asserts the board "was not made aware of specific problems with the use of the MWS in the anti-terrorism context" and cites a claim by the Justice Department that "on only nine occasions since the attacks of September 11, 2001 has the MWS been used in terrorist-related investigations." That is hard to square with the findings of a joint report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, which found some 70 instances of 9/11-related detention, though the discrepancy may be explained by the frequent use of immigration violations as a pretext for detentions that were actually related to terror investigations. The board's analysis of the Protect America Act, passed last August, similarly reads like a compilation of White House talking points.

This should not be all that surprising given the composition of the old board, which consisted of such Republican stalwarts as President Bush's former solicitor general, Ted Olson. With debate over reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act raging in the Senate, the White House appears less than eager to have a less-friendly set of eyes reviewing its surveillance policies.

FISA And The Unilateral Executive: Debating "A Dangerous Engine Of Arbitrary Government" To sustain individual liberties, we must consistently press elected officials to represent our rights in Congress. Please call your elected Representative -- and the Blue Dogs as well -- and let them know that you expect them to stand for liberty: no telecom immunity, stand for the rule of law and vote for the Amendment to H. R. 3773. The vote could come around 1 pm ET. CALL NOW!

FISA: FBI Overrides Constitutional Objections TWICE The FBI twice disregarded a secret court's constitutional objections and obtained private records for national-security probes, a U.S. inspector reported on Thursday. The Justice Department's Inspector General made the disclosure in reviews of the FBI's powers to obtain information such as phone records or credit-card data in terrorism probes or other security investigations.

Don’t Back Down…Act!

And Don’t Tolerate Torture:

new report on CIA disappearances and black sites:

Please don't hesitate to contact me any time concerning work to end torture and human rights abuses committed by the U.S. government in the name of fighting terrorism.

And Do Drop On On These Sites…

TCF Project Sites (The Century Foundation)

The Social Security Network

Homeland Security

Afghanistan Watch

Health Policy Watch

Equality & Education

The Century Foundation conducts public policy research and analyses of economic, social, and foreign policy issues, including inequality, retirement security, election reform, media studies, homeland security, and international affairs. The foundation produces books, reports, and other publications, convenes task forces, and working groups and operates eight informational Web sites. With offices in New York City and Washington, DC, The Century Foundation is nonprofit and nonpartisan and was founded in 1919 by Edward A. Filene

41 East 70th Street
New York, New York 10021
United States
* 212.535.4441 * 212.535.7534 (fax) *
DC Office: 1333 H Street, NW, 10th floor * Washington, DC 20005 * 202.387.0400 *

202.483.9430 (fax)

No comments: