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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Greenwald: Isn't it so interesting how the phrase "Patriot Act" was the symbol of everything Democrats claimed to find so heinous during the Bush years, but now that there's a Democratic President, Senate and Congress, it's absolutely certain that the Patriot Act will continue, and civil libertarians are reduced to hoping that there may be some tiny modifications to it, and even that's highly unlikely?
And he has more today.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yesterday without specificity a government report indicated that the Bush "Presidential Surveillance Program"
extended far beyond wiretapping without warrants
Perhaps the only truly damning indictments in the report are, as the New York Times puts it,
Most intelligence officials interviewed "had difficulty citing specific instances" when the National Security Agency's wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.
The initial authorization of the wiretapping program came after a senior C.I.A. official took a threat evaluation, prepared by analysts who knew nothing of the program, and inserted a paragraph provided by a senior White House official that spoke of the prospect of future attacks against the United States.
(Who might that be? Take the POLL at TMB)

The report points to confirmation of The Big Brother Machine, about which Mark Klein blew the whistle in Wired Magazine as early as April 2006, and in late 2007 on MSNBC Countdown and at a Congressional hearing.

But this report serves Obama's apparent purpose of making sure nothing ever is done about the illegality:
GREENWALD: Obama opposes all Congressional investigations into Bush-era crimes and, worse, is engaged in extraordinary efforts to block courts from adjudicating the legality of Bush's surveillance activities by claiming that even long-obsolete and clearly criminal programs are "state secrets"
The biggest joke of all in this story is the ?mind boggling? quote by Rep. Jane Harman (see the first link above). She mounted Bush on this Day 1 after the original NY Times story hit in Dec. 2005. Despite her posturing, she's never climbed down.

Obama? He was turned to favor telcom immunity last summer so that now his evident effort to sweep the illegality under the rug would be easier.

See also:

Consequences of telcomm immunity

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Maine PUC/Verizon case voided by Wednesday ruling

Judge Tosses Telecom Spy Suits
David Kravets | Wired | June 3, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO ? A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits targeting the nation?s telecommunication companies for their participation in President George W. Bush?s once-secret electronic eavesdropping program.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld summer legislation protecting the companies from the lawsuits. The legislation, which then-Sen. Barack Obama voted for, also granted the government the authority to monitor American's telecommunications without warrants if the subject was communicating with somebody overseas suspected of terrorism.
This case a couple of years ago had folded in the Maine PUC "truth-in-filing" demand concerning phone records snooping--resisted by both the subject of the request, Verizon, and the federal government. A lot of the details are in my WERU interviews with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows found HERE and HERE.

I'm noting that the MCLU does not yet have up a release on the ruling. (An informative March item on the subject is HERE.)

For even more information, there is a tremendous volume of local and national blog material available on the FISA revision/telcomm immunity struggle of 2007-2008. The current ruling shows why civil liberties bloggers were right, while Mr. Obama and a majority of Congress were wrong--save for heroes like Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd. Of course, Glenn Greenwald is the premiere national blogger on state secrets and telcomm immunity.

Despite how this issue is discussed by lawmakers, the administration, and the press, the snooping involved is not necessarily targeted upon foreign "terrorists," but rather upon the public as a whole. Here are a few questions we must continue to ask our politicians and fellow citizens about the Bush-era spying programs that appear to be protected and are continuing under President Obama: If you did understand that the surveillance involved "large net" capture of all domestic as well as international electronic communications would you still support it? Would you support creation of databases of peaceful people (of any persuasion)--based on their communications network and political beliefs--that could be employed for authoritarian purposes in creating a climate of fear and squelching free speech? If the courts now are enjoined from addressing this, what guarantees do we have that untrusted officials (maybe those in a political party we oppose) will not be able to create enemies profiles without proper warrants and without Constitutionally supportable evidence of actual illegal activity?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Former Maine drug warrior indicted in federal child porn case.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Democracy Now! host & producers arrested


Democracy Now! has been amazing throughout the conventions and now the hurricanes. Now the police in Minnesota, flush with homeland security money, staffed with heavily armed and indoctrinated functionaries, and supported by feds, are rolling over the constitution while attempting to stamp out the cameras and recorders documenting their outrageous behavior. I just gotta hope these police and their bosses are made to pay a heavy price. But the nonchalant climate of acceptance and basically cowered police-friendly non-reporting in mainstream corporate media does not bode well.

Glenn Greenwald is the best for COVERAGE.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Elizabeth Press describes a raid in St. Paul; cops had a bad warrant, crawled through attic

Lawyer in handcuffs had demanded warrant

There's more in Greenwald's updates, HERE.
Police state intimidation

Standard for suspicion: "political awareness"

Glenn Greenwald has an astonishing pre-Rebublican-convention story w/video (see above) from my home state of Minnesota:

Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis
GREEENWALD: Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with sub-machine guns drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. ...

There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with machine-gun-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.
My question is, At what point do American citizens who are slumbering through this stuff or even quietly approving it wake up and figure out just how un-American it is? I suppose there is plenty of history -- union busting, Palmer raids, COINTELPRO. But are not the proportions of what is going on here very extreme? The students harassed by gun-wielding functionaries with hilarious warrants (seeking "bottles," for example) is an expression of the worst kind of know-nothingism and wingnuttia-sourced hate.

By failing to oppose these assaults on civil liberties while engaging in intimidation tactics of their own, the Democrats have placed their stamp of approval on this. They evidently see the right of people to oppose the actions of their own government while being free of unlawful search and seizure to be "bad politics."

Furthermore, Democratic acquiescence to the Bush crimes and failure to conduct proper impeachment hearings reflects their dereliction of duty while the voices of principled dissent are crushed. It's goddamn shameful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Scary. A new "trade" treaty would subject all of your digital media to aggressive search and seizure.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Our state is biggest dissenter on national social control system

Cold warriors used to critique the Soviet Union for its internal passports. "Real ID" is the American security state answer to this. In my interview with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows last month, she describes the uses of the "swipe" card for tracking people's movements as we go "to the doctor's office, to Wal Mart, or for a variety of activities."

I don't know about you, but I don't want Feds to be to print out a history of my trips to the store or the doctor.

This week, there was a supposed deadline from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on states applying for extensions on compliance with Real ID. Maine more than any other state has been reluctant to cooperate with this very-poorly thought out federal boondoggle.

It's suggested in the article cited that DHS has punted. Good for now, but I'd prefer Governor Baldacci just tell DHS to go screw permanently.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I just don't understand this at all. They have plenty of tools for surveillance with a warrant. Why does the House even need to pass a bill? He can't veto them not doing anything.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

This has been the first edition of What Gerald said.

(Apologies to Atrios)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I got to know the blog "Once Upon a Time" about a year ago. Here's the link to it, which I'll keep in clear text because I like the subdomain name:

It's something of an anguished affair, but the writing is stellar. He's got up stuff on Democratic superdelegates, the scary privatization of FBI thought police known as the "Infraguard" program, and what I really appreciate about Silber, the absolute moral bankruptcy of war (including a lot about diversion of the peace movement by Democratic Party politics).

What he has that I want especially to note is a ton on FISA. You'll have to go there and read, it's way too much even to summarize. I'll say just this: what almost everyone seems to have lost track of (except the excellent MSNBC commentator Jonathan Turley) is that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) "itself [created] a secret court whose very purpose is to circumvent the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The FISA court is no protection against illegitimate government intrusion at all.... we [currently] are fighting over whether to grant the executive branch and FISA still more untrammeled authority to disregard constitutional rights."

There is powerful stuff at

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Maine Republican goes to bat for warrantless snooping

There is an interesting story in the Bangor Daily News this weekend titled "Snowe: Keep telecom immunity in updated bill." Because it does not look like this posted online anywhere, I'm going to go ahead and reproduce it in its entirety below the fold.

There is nothing Snowe says that is particularly new to one who closely has been following the debate on telecom immunity for acts of warrantless surveillance. Surprise, surprise, Snowe is an ultra-hawk on this. Basically, Snowe (an Intelligence Committee member) is in favor of broad warrantless surveillance powers because, as she puts it,
At a time when al-Qaida lurks in the shadows, making no distinction between combatants and noncombatants, between our battlefields and our backyards, we as lawmakers must act with firm resolve to ensure that the intelligence community possesses the tools and legal authority needed to prevent future terrorist attacks on our soil.
And what of the telecom. companies cooperating in these supposed terror-prevention efforts? On the reasonableness of granting the companies immunity for black-letter violations of law at the behest of the radical authoritarian-statist officials in the Bush government conducting unconstitutional spying, Snowe said in a hearing last Monday,
If a telecom company was approached by government officials asking for help in warding off another terrorist attack, and those government officials produced a document stating that the president had authorized the activity and that that activity was legal, could we really say that the company acted unreasonably in complying with this request?
Well, yes. Granting them immunity for cooperating with officials who's requests subsume Constitutional rights in such as obvious way would remove a major protection of those rights for ordinary citizens.

Damnit! Why can't someone probe the notion these officials always use, that this expanded surveillance somehow "protects" the public from terrorism? They are more about maintaining consent for egregious policy than confronting terrorism. Free countries always will have certain kinds of vulnerability. Ramping up authoritarianism, an essential component of which is broad-based surveillance, is nearly useless in stemming terrorism. My feeling is it leads to a siege mentality that may one day increase the risk of terrorism.

As you can see, I find Snowe's position (Collins's is identical) on this to be totally without merit. I think it is time she (actually both of them) were asked some questions that draw out the truth of these surveillance programs. (See THIS recent post for a strong presentation thereof.) We need to get them both on the record explaining themselves about the true nature of these programs separate from the false rhetoric that the surveillance chiefly is for the purpose of ferreting out terrorists.

Here goes:

Dear Senator __fill in senator's name_,

I am a concerned citizen, critic of the policies of the United States government, and an activist to prevent further military adventurism and bloodshed conducted in my name as a result of the policies of my government. There are millions of people like me. I feel that the FISA revisions you advocate, which would grant telecom companies guilty of committing violations of black-letter law immunity from legal action, to be a direct threat to my ability to exercise free speech, to organize the millions of us who oppose you, and to petition you for redress of these grievances.

I ask you the following questions concerning your position on these policies,
  1. If it is known that surveillance is being conducted on a "terrorist," why is it unreasonable that a traditional, lawful, warrant be issued in an immediate or timely manner for such surveillance? (I believe that talk of "modernizing" the law is a red herring. The traditions the founders established in the Bill of Rights are as pertinent today in the age of the Internet as they were in the late 18th century.)
  2. Your statements suggest that either you do not understand or do not wish to discuss in public the scope of the surveillance in question. I believe that enough information has been revealed in public, for example on the MSNBC Countdown program and in major newspapers to support my contention that the snooping involved is not targeted upon foreign "terrorists," but rather upon the public as a whole. Therefore, I ask you, If you did understand that the surveillance involved "large net" capture of all domestic as well as international electronic communications, would you still support immunity if in a court of law that fact could be proven?
  3. The more troubling version of the previous question that I would prefer not to have to ask is, Do you support creations of broad-scale databases of peaceful people based on their communications and political beliefs that could be employed for authoritarian purposes in creating a climate of fear and squelching free speech? If not, what guarantees will be left that untrusted officials (like those in your party who are running the government) will not be able to create such enemies profiles without proper warrants containing Constitutionally supportable suspicion of actual illegal activity?
I suppose this is enough for now. You could re-write your letter to be a bit less confrontational. In fact I recommend that, as from experience I know both Snowe and Collins feel powerful enough in Maine that they can ignore any sort of issue they don't want to discuss with you or have in public at all. They will ignore you. So, how can questions like these become part of the public discourse? It's going to take persistent media work....

Below the fold is the full BDN story.

Friday, February 01, 2008

"The primary job of any president is to protect us, not just those of us who own Internet and telephone companies, but all of us"

January 31, 2008: Special comment, "FISA and the telecoms"

It's so utterly false, I can't see how people in Congress who appear to shudder before Bush believe it. Why do they even take him seriously? If they spent less time shuddering and more time investigating what the Administration is really doing, then telling the public... My GOD, they (and we) should be OUTRAGED!

Here is the marching order on telcom immunity the President issued in the State of the Union message:
President Bush: Dedicated men and women in our government toil day and night to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans. These good citizens are saving American lives, and everyone in this chamber owes them our thanks. And one of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying and what they're planning. Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1st. That means, if you don't act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger.

Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We've had ample time for debate. The time to act is now.
Congress passed a fifteen-day extension of the particularly egregious and misnamed "Protect America Act" this week after Bush's statement. Now, the senate leadership along with the Republicans are trying to muzzle debate on the long-term bill. It's so wrong, and so obviously unrelated to terrorism what they're doing. Olbermann does the best job of pointing this out that I've ever heard:

Friday, January 25, 2008

MCLU's Shenna BellowsShenna Bellows: Tireless fighter for civil liberties
The full August 30, 2007 interview I did with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows for WERU Community Radio is downloadable from HERE. That link will provide a great deal of supporting information as well.

An interesting part of the federal snooping case (Hepting v. AT & T) that would be squelched if Congress grants immunity to the telecommunications companies is a complaint from Maine concerning Verizon phone records. A complete explanation of the Maine portion of the case from an interview I did with Shenna Bellows, along with a recent update from a good January 22 report on Maine Public Broadcasting, are in this 9-1/2-minute AUDIO FILE. LISTEN HERE:

The MPBN piece reports very interesting written statements from Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, along with a pleasantly contrasting one from Democratic First District Representative Tom Allen.

Collins, according to a statement read by MPBN's Barbara Cariddi, "supports the immunity provision." Cariddi quotes Collins:
"As a matter of fundamental fairness, companies that relied in good faith on the legal assurances of the Attorney General should not now be subjected to lawsuits based on the assistance they provide to our nation's intelligence efforts." The bill, "strikes the right balance of civil liberties and security."
The Portland Press Herald ran an article with approximately the same statement, adding that Collins feels that "right balance" includes "protecting Americans' civil liberties while not impeding the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the communications of foreign terrorists overseas."

Representative Allen, who is running a campaign to unseat Collins, has a very different view. Cariddi reported that Allen,
opposes the retroactive immunity provision, because in his words, "neither the government nor large telecommunications corporations are above the law."
Good, Tom. This is not about "striking balance." It's about officials and corporations violating black-letter law, then expecting absolution from Congress. They think they get to do anything they want to whoever they want just by uttering the magic words "national security." The arguments about why Collins (along with Democratic collaborators like Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller) is dishonest and Tom Allen is right fill Glenn Greenwald's blog nearly every day, like in his piece today.

Finally, I want to give Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe credit for asking Snowe and Collins in a letter to oppose immunity because it would hamper the Maine PUC's investigation into Verizon. Makes me glad I made the right decision back in 1992 to support Steve's first campaign for Legislature.

Here's why a state AG can be a lot worse. Consider Rhode Island. Below the fold is more on telco immunity from Rhode Island today.

ACLU: Lynch caves in to feds on phone privacy
Friday, January 25, 2008 - By Bruce Landis - Journal Staff Writer

Monday, January 07, 2008

Will the Democratic Congress give telcos, and Bush, immunity?

This issue will be back soon. Sen. Chris Dodd, now no longer a 2008 presidential candidate, will not be able to hold off Harry Reid and the immunity surge very much longer.

This is a great diary today at Daily Kos that explains everything:

Daily Kos: Telecom Immunity Gives Bush Immunity
If the telecoms do not actually need immunity at this time to address issues that presently do not exist, what is Bush's real motive for pushing retroactive immunity now? The answer lies in what may happen to Bush if the telecoms are not provided immunity now: The courts may review evidence showing that Bush acted illegally. Telecom immunity would provide grounds to dismiss the lawsuits to prevent the disclosure of this evidence. However, if the telecom immunity clause only provided immunity to telecoms, then Bush would not be protected from other forums --- like independent media, prosecutors and Congress --- that could investigate his domestic surveillance programs.

Coincidentally, the telecom immunity clause is structured to also provide retroactive immunity to Bush.
Click here for the Maine Owl thread on this topic:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Telcos, not voters, dear to U.S. Senate majority leader and most Democrats

This is just a follow-up to the FISA revision/telco immunity legislation delayed this week in the U.S. through action spearheaded by Connecticut senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd. Glenn Greenwald posts today concerning some statements given to Washington Post Congressional reporter Paul Kane revealing Democratic attitudes, especially those of Harry Reid, towards Senator Dodd and his little FISA revision show against Telco immunity:
Greenwald: Notice, too, who is smearing Dodd's motives here. It isn't Dick Cheney or Mitch McConnell. Instead, it's Harry Reid and anonymous, cowardly Democrats whispering in Paul Kane's ear about Dodd's manipulative "grandstanding" and proclaiming that Dodd will ultimately fail, dismissing the notion that he achieved anything other than delaying their well-laid plan to ensure that the President has everything he wants.

So here we have one of the very few acts of the last year by a Democrat in Congress which has actually engaged and energized people; made them feel as though someone was listening to them and taking a stand for what they believe; something that enables actual citizens to have some influence on the political process; and, most of all, an effort that at least disrupted the relentless Congressional march to capitulate to all of Bush's demands.

And in response, Harry Reid and his mewling anonymous Democratic allies immediately recruit the Washington Post's Congressional reporter to attack what Dodd has achieved, demean his motives with a ferocity that they never display in opposing George W. Bush, and assure everyone that their will to do the President's bidding will be realized despite Dodd's temporary interference.
I don't think this is too hard to understand. Telcos like AT&T and Verizon have a lot to lose here if by some crook the courts hold them responsible for flagrantly violating black letter law prohibiting warrantless surveillance. Harry Reid's personal campaign war chest and those of many other Democrats, not to mention the Republicans, are well stuffed by Telco contributions. Now, partly that's because the media/telco corporate policy and consolidation agenda requires big Congressional guns to do the shooting down of the public interest.

Take John Kerry, for example, who is massively funded by Telco interests and the network of law firms that push their agendas. You've gotta believe that none of these politician-employing folks are very happy with Dodd, and his helpers Feingold and Kennedy, keeping massive Telco liability on the table for one second longer, voters and public be damned.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Connecticut senator temporarily blocks illegal surveillance immunity for Telcos

In a previous post I decried the Congressional Democrats as a bunch of capitulators, citing the complex pending legislation revising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to grant immunity for past illegal acts to the major Telecommunications companies. Now Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has been forced by Chris Dodd's action to delay consideration of, what the New York Times calls, this "bad bill." It's at best a brief win. But it's a win thanks to Senator Dodd.

Maine Owl's sister site, has very significant posts featuring Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows in speeches and an August interview. Rolled up in the major case now before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a Maine case concerning Verizon's phone records snooping on behalf of warrantless Bush domestic intel gathering. Presumably the immunity that would be granted by the revision would end this case and make Verizon and the other telcos untouchable for illegal acts of spying.

Now I want to give MSNBC's Countdown program and guest host Alison Stewart huge kudos for they way they have reported this story the last couple of days. Stewart did an excellent, lengthy piece on Monday including an illuminating interview with Air America's Sam Seder, and then did a post-game interview with Senator Dodd on Tuesday.

I am embedding the YouTube video of both of these segments below. But first I want to appreciate the fine writing in Stewart's Monday setup that captures the essence and significance of the issue. I especially like the way Stewart sharply contrasts candidate Dodd with the other Democratic senators running for president. Why can't we have more of this on television??
Alison Stewart (Dec. 17): The next time anyone tells you no one can make a difference in Washington, that no one person can get anything done, tell them about what happened today. In our number three story tonight, the senate began debating a bill that would strip you of the right to sue phone companies for eavesdropping on you.

President Bush is pushing to give blanket immunity to any phone company that agreed to let the government listen in on phone and track e-mail traffic passing through its lines without going through the special top secret courts known as the FISA courts. It is far more than a legal battle for several reasons. One, the three dozen lawsuits against phone companies offer one of the only ways America can hope to find out exactly what Mr. Bush has done. Two, immunity for the phone companies could set a precedent for other companies assisting the government in certain activity, such as renditioning.

Democratic presidential candidates oppose immunity, but when the FISA debate began today, only one had left Iowa to fight the battle in Washington. Senator Chris Dodd vowed to filibuster as long as he could to block the immunity provision from the overall FISA bill which is intended to bring the government?s electronic eavesdropping within shouting distance of constitutionality. Despite the absence of other candidates, Dodd did get help on the floor today....
Here is the Monday video:

MSNBC Countdown December 17,2007

And here is Tuesday's interview with Senator Dodd:

MSNBC Countdown December 18,2007

I've not in the past been a great fan of Chris Dodd. He's very tight with banking and other financial interests. But in supporting civil liberties against the surveillance state and in opposing the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment virtually declaring war on Iran, he has earned a lot of respect from my point of view.