Category Archives: telecom immunity

Memory Hole

I really am sick and tired of conservatives calling for the fainting couches over stuff happening under Obama which they actively defended when Bush was in office.

Seriously, I’m super busy today, guys? So look, if you want to know what I think about all of this NSA spying crap everyone is acting like is some new thing? Just click on the little tags and categories thingies below? Because I’ve been talking about this since I started blogging, which was like six years ago. It was bad under Bush, it’s bad under Obama, but no one wanted to listen to any of us hippies on the left (and some on the right) who were crying “civil liberties! civil liberties!” back in the day. So stop your fucking whining and Obama blaming now.

Here’s a nice little trip into the memory hole for y’all:

U.S. President George Bush called on Congress Monday night to broaden protection for telecommunications carriers that helped the government monitor phone calls and e-mail.

The Protect America Act, which allows the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept phone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court warrant, is due to expire Friday and Bush called for its extension as part of his final State of the Union address.

“To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning,” he said in the televised address. “Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on Feb.1. This means that if you do not 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.”

Failure to extend the legislation won’t just hit the NSA. The telecommunications carriers that worked with the agency despite the lack of court warrants also face privacy lawsuits and an extension to the legislation would provide them legal protection. Bush touched on that point as well.

“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,” said Bush to applause from mostly Republican members of the audience. Vice President Dick Cheney, seated behind Bush, also applauded the call.

Cheney and the White House last week pushed Congress to extend the act and provide protection for telecom carriers. AT&T and other carriers are facing lawsuits in San Francisco by civil liberties groups and individuals who allege that the surveillance program is illegal.

Earlier Monday, efforts by Republicans to curtail debate in the U.S. Senate and force a vote on an extension to the act failed, and debate is due to resume Tuesday.

Got that? This isn’t some new thing under Obama, it’s something we’ve been talking about for about 10, 11, 12 years now. Since 9/11 at the least. And by the way, that article above is from January 29, 2008. Not only did they want the NSA wiretapping without warrants to continue, the Republicans in the Senate tried to ram it through and were thwarted thanks to the Democrats. As I wrote at the time:

I’m sure the Republicans will be up to their usual screetching about terrorists, but we all know this has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with protecting corporate cronies at Big Telecom. Liberals refer to it as telecom immunity, neocons as “liability protection,” but it all comes down to protecting AT&T and Verizon Wireless from scores of lawsuits because they knowingly broke the law.

Please. Y’all are getting on my last nerve with this IOKIYAR shit. Knock it off. We’re not that stupid.

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Filed under corporations, FISA, FISA. telecom immunity, NSA, telecom, telecom immunity, War On Terror, warrantless surveillance

>More FISA Fun

>Over at Hullabaloo, dday gets to the meat of this FISA madness:

That’s all this is about. The telecoms don’t want the amnesty. The overriding goal is to shut down these lawsuits and, most important, eliminate the discovery phase so that the full extent of Administration lawbreaking is permanently hidden. This is about burying the evidence, as every single action by the White House since the Democratic takeover of Congress has been. Bush may have a soft spot in his heart for his corporate buddies, but he’s really not interested in indemnifying them. He’s interested in immunity for himself.

I read that and instantly knew he’s right.

As dday notes, the telecoms aren’t showering the Republicans with campaign contributions, despite the GOPs Herculean efforts on their behalf. A lot of us assumed this FISA battle over telecom immunity was another case of the GOP sucking up to their corporate cronies, but if the telecoms aren’t showing them any love, why bother?

Meanwhile President Bush told some whoppers at his Thursday press conference:

[…]Bush said that, “Allowing these lawsuits (against telecom companies) to proceed could make it harder to track the terrorists because private companies besieged by and fearful of lawsuits would be less willing to help us quickly get the information we need.” This, from the administration that had a report titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” in it hands Aug. 6, 2001, and did either nothing or not enough. Regardless, according to the AP, telecoms would have to cooperate with the government if provided with a FISA court order.

Of course they would. Saying telecom immunity is needed to protect Americans from scary terrorists is just a bald-faced lie.

But did the President let a kernel of truth slip into his presser? Quoting Glenn Greenwald, dday thinks yes:

“Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance.

Ahh .. indeed. Not just how, but who.

Most of us on the left have long believed that these warrantless wiretaps on American citizens have had little to do with terrorism, and everything to do with politics, power and an abuse of presidential authority of Nixonian proportions.

Since our news media has gone from being intrepid investigators to neutered stenographers, we can’t count on any revelations from the Fourth Estate. Instead, we’ll have to count on the discovery phase of these lawsuits to shed some light on what this Administration has been doing. Granting the telecoms immunity for their wrongdoing will quash these lawsuits and elimninate any chance of learning about Administration malfeasance in a court of law.

If the Democratics blow this out of fear of “looking weak” or, even worse, a fear of blowing the November election, they will have blown a much bigger chance to cut out a cancer that took over our government in 2000.

You might drop Speaker Nancy Pelosi a line and let her know what you think.

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FISA Fun

Mr. Beale and I contracted some form of viral plague in New York, so blogging has been light. However, I know the Senate had a big FISA vote yesterday, and it looks like the Senate hung together to fillibuster the thing. Glenn Greenwald has the goods.

I’m sure the Republicans will be up to their usual screetching about terrorists, but we all know this has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with protecting corporate cronies at Big Telecom. Liberals refer to it as telecom immunity, neocons as “liability protection,” but it all comes down to protecting AT&T and Verizon Wireless from scores of lawsuits because they knowingly broke the law.

Last night President Bush said we have to protect these companies that helped “defend America,” but the irony is, these telecom companies stopped “defending America” when the FBI stopped paying the bills:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation “was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

“We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

Heh. Looks like Big Telecom doesn’t care about defending America so much, since they’re all too eager to pull the plug when the bills aren’t paid. That’s patriotism for you–the free market kind.

The War On Terror is and always has been a giant farce, and telecom immunity/”liability protrection” is just another piece of theater.

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