Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘FISA

President Constitutional Law Professor

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The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. But don’t worry!

An expert in this aspect of the law said Wednesday night that the order appears to be a routine renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006. The expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said that the order is reissued routinely every 90 days and that it is not related to any particular investigation by the FBI or any other agency.

More at MetaFilter.

Transition Politics!

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Sorry about the slow blogging yesterday—the end of the semester can catch up on you. A few transition links:

* Change! Obama likely to keep Gates at Secretary of Defense, at least for a while, and unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies.

* Change! What we need is a liberal shock doctrine, says Rick Perlstein.

* Good has a visual accounting of the first 100 days of various presidents.

* How to get tickets to the inauguration.

* 59% of Americans look forward to one-party rule.

* And marriage equality destroys marriage in Connecticut today.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 12, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Understanding Bush

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Slate has a helpful Venn diagram tracing the network of major Bush administration illegality, and surprisingly it’s Alberto Gonzales and not Dick Cheney who emerges as the Worst of a Very Bad Bunch.

Meanwhile, via MeFi, Salon asks whether or not Congress might pursue a Church-Committee-style truth commission in the wake of the criminality of the last eight years.

That question was answered in the seven-page memo. “The rise of the ‘surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this Administration,” the author wrote. Even though he acknowledged in interviews with Salon that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents, he recommended in the memo that any new investigation follow the precedent of the Church Committee and investigate the origins of Bush’s programs, going as far back as the Reagan administration.

The proposal has emerged in a political climate reminiscent of the Watergate era. The Church Committee was formed in 1975 in the wake of media reports about illegal spying against American antiwar activists and civil rights leaders, CIA assassination squads, and other dubious activities under Nixon and his predecessors. Chaired by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, the committee interviewed more than 800 officials and held 21 public hearings. As a result of its work, Congress in 1978 passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required warrants and court supervision for domestic wiretaps, and created intelligence oversight committees in the House and Senate.

…Some see a brighter prospect in Barack Obama, should he be elected. The plus with Obama, says the former Church Committee staffer, is that as a proponent of open government, he could order the executive branch to be more cooperative with Congress, rolling back the obsessive secrecy and stonewalling of the Bush White House. That could open the door to greater congressional scrutiny and oversight of the intelligence community, since the legislative branch lacked any real teeth under Bush. (Obama’s spokesman on national security, Ben Rhodes, did not reply to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.)

But even that may be a lofty hope. “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do,” said a participant in the ongoing discussions. Unfortunately, he said, “some people see the Church Committee ideas as a substitute for prosecutions that should already have happened.”

Chicken Littles

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Elsewhere in politics, Al Giordiano has words for FISA Chicken Littles.

So, the FISA bill passed. And today began just as any other day. The sun came up. We drank a cup of coffee. Some of us lit a cigarette – or did any number of things that others do not approve of – and we were not locked up for it. To note the obvious, that the sky did not fall, is not akin to saying that a bill inoculating telecommunications companies against civil lawsuits (and retroactively so) for following invasive government orders, was a good thing. It’s just to say that it is what it is, and life goes on, and so does the daily struggle to defend our personal and collective freedom on so many fronts.

Only in America do a significant number of people equate expressions of outrage and indignation du jour as somehow being akin to the hard work of political activism or participation. And I hate to say it, but this delusion is worse, much worse, on the left side of the dial where reaction is the standard operating procedure in place of authentic action. I speak, therefore I act is the great American illusion of politics. Sorry, but no. Only when our speech effectively causes others to act does it rise to the level of poetry (which, as Vaneigem wrote, “seldom exists in poems”). Have you ever had to sit through a poetry reading by a particularly bad poet? That’s what I feel like when I find myself to trying to listen to what too many people consider activism. They’re blathering on and my eyes are drooping as I’m eyeing the wall clock and the exit sign, twirling my cigarette lighter as if a rosary bead necklace.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 11, 2008 at 5:02 pm

FISA Crisis 2008

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The New York Times has dueling op-eds on the FISA issue: the editorial board is unhappy with Obama, while Morton Halprin (who was spied on by Nixon) believes the FISA compromise is the best legislation we can hope for at this time.

I’ve already written about this (in both blogspot and Daily Kos flavors), but I have one or two things to add. First, on the merits of the FISA compromise, I think the bill itself is pretty awful, but telecom immunity isn’t the awful part. I can’t imagine the government making any other policy choice if it ever wants a private company to comply with its requests ever again. The problem here was and always has been Bush administration illegality, not telecom compliance—so the netroots are directing their fire in entirely the wrong direction. This TPM reader gets it right:

Before we all torpedo the best candidate we have had in 30+ years over this FISA thing, be aware of the two facts: (1) there is a long-established government contractor immunity doctrine in American law & what the telecoms did after 9-11 in obeying government demands for compliance is right in stride with that doctrine, and (2) in any event, the federal government is likely required to indemnify the telcos for any judgment or settlement they’d have to pay. Is this really the make-or-break litmus-test the netroots is clamoring for? No way. Is this just another example of liberals eating their own? You betcha.

As I was writing at the tail end of an Yglesias comment thread last night, the grandstanding you’re seeing on the lefty blogs over telecom immunity seems to me to be misdirected anger over the dawning recognition that Bush and his cronies really are going to get away with everything scot free. Well, they are. Pelosi took impeachment off the table—wrongly, I think, though I understand the political calculus involved—and it’s extremely unlikely there will be any substantive investigation of Bush following Obama’s election. There never has been. We’ll “turn the page.” “For the good of the country,” a criminal Republican administration will once again walk, and the really sad fact is the exact same bunch of thugs will probably pop back up yet another decade down the line to do it all again.

We lost the fight to hold Bush accountable when Pelosi took impeachment off the table. I’m sorry that’s true, but that’s reality, no matter what happens with FISA and telecom immunity or what anybody says on the Internet.

What’s actually at stake now is the character of the *next* eight years, eight absolutely crucial years in a very precarious moment not only for this nation but for the entire world—and with regard to that struggle Obama is doing the right thing by taking the FISA issue off the table. He’s being pragmatic. We need to be pragmatic too.